Letters to the Editor – April 2019

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Editor,

Your March article (“Other Neighborhoods Less Enthusiastic About Adopting Green Benefit District Model”), which stated that the San Francisco Department of Public Works provided $60,000 in funding for Inner Sunset Green Benefit District formation, is incorrect.  An October 31, 2017 internal DPW memorandum and contract addendum shows that funding was raised to $120,000.  The document was obtained through a Sunshine Ordinance request.  No doubt your reporter was misinformed as to the amount by DPW itself.

This is an illustrative problem. Misinformation and deception are endemic in San Francisco’s GBD program.

GBD elections don’t permit registered voters to vote, aren’t by secret ballot, aren’t one-person-one-vote, but allow out-of-area corporations, trusts, and even government itself to vote.  The rationale for this approach is that the elections only impact its voters – property owners – because GBD property assessments are used solely for their benefit.

California benefit district law was intended for commercial districts.  The original goal was to improve shoppers’ perception of a commercial area. San Francisco’s GBD law mutated state law to include residential properties, schools, and parks.  Goals aren’t just about commerce; governance of all public space is fair game.  Yet by state law, GBDs must maintain the fiction that their public space services and improvements only benefit property owners.  Without this fiction they’re exposed for what they really are: an illegal tax on property owners that disenfranchises the electorate.

It gets worse.  Mission High School is in the proposed Mission Dolores GBD.  Assessing its property means redirecting educational funding to a privately controlled GBD corporation.  Adding a new assessment to residential property makes housing in San Francisco even more expensive.  Commercial property owners can pass the assessment to their tenants, who don’t have the right to vote.

Who is responsible if DPW and a GBD provide similar services?  At minimum, DPW accountability is diminished, which is DPW’s aspiration in funding GBD formations.

Roger Hofmann
Inner Sunset