Now Playing

Today's Primary Is a Big Deal for San Francisco. Here's Why.

Even if you've written off the presidential primary, the local races count for a lot.


Yeah, the AP went and called the race for Hillary Clinton (a call the Clinton camp brushed off) last night, and yeah, the primary race might even be over before we all leave work today (thanks, New Jersey). But there's still lots to decide today, from affordable housing policy to the potentially game-changing question of whether all nine Bay Area counties will adopt a region-wide measure to address sea-level rise. Here's a rundown of the ballot's bigger battlegrounds, starting with one you've probably been tuning out.

The DCCC, aka the "D Triple C," aka the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee 

Whoever claims the 24 open seats in the DCCC race will assume control of the Democratic Party at the county level. It sounds boring, but the DCCC's support is a sought-after commodity for everyone and everything on the ballot in November. After all, in a majority Democratic city, you've got to have some way of deciding which Democrats out-democratize the other Democrats, and the DCCC are the ones a lot of voters and influencers rely on to make that call.

The ballot is split pretty evenly between a so-called Progress Slate (oddly enough, that's code for the more moderate Democrats, such as Supervisors London Breed, Malia Cohen, and Scott Wiener) and the so-called Reform Slate (that'd be the progressives, including Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, and Aaron Peskin, plus former supervisor Tom Ammiano).  

Expenditures in the DCCC race have topped a record-busting $1.6 million. For seats that are unpaid and purely advisory, that's a serious chunk of change.

A decisive victory for either slate could tip the scales in November's supervisorial race, where six seats are up for grabs—one reason why Airbnb, for instance, may have felt moved to spend more than $32,000 on a piddly-seeming county race (out of the roughly $230,000 they've plunked down on the whole election).

Measure AA: San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program

This Bay Area–wide measure is a first: It's on all nine county ballots and, if passed, would score a meaningful victory for regional cooperation. Measure AA would impose a $12-per-year parcel tax for 20 years in the nine Bay Area counties to pay for restoration of marshes and wetlands along the bay. That means $25 million per year can go to shoring up the coast against sea-level rise. "People are watching this, because if it passes and it works, people will see it as a way to get regional cooperation on other issues, like transit and housing," says San Francisco State political science professor Jason McDaniel. 

To pass, the measure needs a two-thirds majority of all Bay Area voters. But it doesn't need a supermajority in each county—only an overall majority in all counties together. "That's a big deal," says McDaniel. "This is one of those things where when we look back on it, it could be historic."

Proposition B: Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund

This measure would allot an additional $3 million a year (for 10 years) to Rec and Park, whose budget as a percentage of the General Fund has fallen in recent years. (For the subsequent 20 years, Rec and Park's budget would grow in step with the General Fund.)

Proponents want to see parks get more love; opponents, among them the Chronicle's editorial board, warn against funding mandates that don't come with a way to pay for them. And then there's the scrappy band of Rec and Park detractors who see the measure as throwing good money after bad for a department long flagged for dysfunction. Throw in the recent fracas over picnic reservations at Dolores Park and you get more "no" votes than you'd expect for something as uncontroversial as open space. "I think it will pass, but it will be closer than A," McDaniel says, referring to the widely supported bond measure that's expected to pass by a wide margin.

Proposition C: Affordable Housing Requirements

Prop C would change the city's affordable housing requirements. Right now, they're set by the charter, which requires developers of projects with 10 or more units to reserve 12 percent of them for renters or buyers at a below-market rate (or 20 percent if the affordable units are built in a separate development). If Prop C passes, the Board of Supervisors would have the power to adjust the affordable housing requirements up or down at any time. The measure, coauthored by Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim, starts by boosting the below-market percentage to 25 percent, for buildings of 25 or more units. (The supes will set different rules for projects under 25 units if the prop passes.)

Developers tend not to be fans of the math, but everyone with projects already in the pipeline is getting grandfathered in—with only small increases above the current requirements—in exchange for their cooperation. 

Prop C backers and opponents spar over whether boosting requirements will lead to more affordable housing or less. The city controller's office is currently studying the question of how much affordable housing the city can require without crimping development, but that report won't come out until after today's election.

"I'm hearing Prop C will pass pretty easily," says McDaniel.

Proposition D: Office of Citizen Complaints Investigations

This one's a shoo-in: Prop D would require the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian agency that investigates police misconduct, to investigate every officer-involved shooting. Right now, shootings are only investigated if someone files a complaint. It's widely expected to pass—not even the often-aggressive Police Officers Association is opposing it.

The U.S. Senate 

Whoever wins Barbara Boxer's Senate seat, it's almost certainly going to be a woman of color: California attorney general Kamala Harris is the favorite over Representative Loretta Sanchez, leading 28 percent to 20 percent in a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. No one else comes close. (The nearest Republicans, George “Duf” Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro, each carry 6 percent.) Bringing up the rear: another 30 unlikely candidates, including one guy who thought it was a good idea to give his voter-guide statement in binary code.

Right now it looks like it's Harris's seat for the taking, but November's still months away.

The State Senate

The battle between sitting supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim got more interesting with Bernie Sanders's recent endorsement of Kim. Wiener has out-fudraised Kim and stockpiled endorsements from Senator Dianne Feinstein to Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, but Kim is betting on closing that gap with a Bernie bump of her own. "San Francisco's going to be one of his best-performing counties in terms of the whole state," says McDaniel, and that could help Kim, provided the Berners look further down the ballot.

Come November, Kim and Wiener are all but certain to face off as the city's top two primary choices. By then, the Bernie bump may have faded—or inspired progressives moved to come out for the primary to return for the general. It's too soon to call this one.


Have feedback? Email us at
Email Lamar Anderson at
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Lamar Anderson at