Photo by Lola M. Chavez

While most ballot guides give you the details on each proposition – and we recommend the Public Press voter guide for those details – we instead give you a look at the money, examining who is spending big to get an initiative passed or defeated.

This year, Airbnb, realty firms, and local tech moguls are the  big spenders. The list is not comprehensive, and only includes campaigns with significant spending.

We’ve divided the measures into the following categories: Housing & Affordability, Homelessness & City Services, Crime & Police, Education, and Taxes. In some contests, opposition funding breakdowns are omitted because the opposition is either not significantly funded or nonexistent.

Hover your mouse over the charts to see full names and amounts contributed.

Housing & Affordability

Prop. C would give $250 million in bonds to the city for affordable housing. Details here.

Kilroy Realty is by far the biggest spender in support of Proposition C.  It’s put $50,000 into the Coalition to Save Affordable Housing, Yes on C – twice as much as the next largest donor, PG&E. There is no significant spending against C.

Prop. P would require more bids for affordable housing projects. Details here.

Supporters of Proposition P are clearly outspending their rivals. Since July, Yes on P has received large donations from both the National Association of Realtors ($369,000) and the California Association of Realtors Mobilization PAC ($246,764).

 Yes on P has also received $125,000 from San Franciscans Against Wasteful Spending, No on D, H, L & M.

Meanwhile, the opposition to P is being funded by two committees – Housing Forward SF and Stop Developer Giveaway.  Both of these committees also oppose Proposition U, which would double the limits on affordable housing applicants.

Housing Forward SF has received a majority of its funding – $49,500 – from the Yerba Buena Consortium, LLC. That LLC is run by John Eberling, executive director of the affordable housing developer TODCO. In October, the group also took donations of $18,250 from the Chinatown Community Development Center.

The Stop Developer Giveaway committee opposing P has had slightly more income.  It received substantial sums from Affordable San Francisco for All, which formed to support another Proposition C in the June election, which mandated that developers set aside 25 percent of any project for affordable and inclusionary housing. The Stop Developer Giveaway committee also received funding from Surplus Lands for Public Use, a committee formed to support 2015’s Proposition K, allowing the construction of affordable housing on surplus or public land.

Non-profit housing developers like Mercy Housing, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and the Chinatown Community Development Center also chipped in.

Prop. U would raise income limits on affordable housing. Details here.

As with P, realtors have thrown sizable contributions into supporting Proposition U. The contributions from the California Association or Realtors Issues Mobilization Committee and the San Francisco Association of Realtors dwarf the funds raised by their opposition – Housing Forward and Stop Developer Giveaway – as the opposition is dividing its money between two battles.

Prop. X would preserve space for arts, community services and small business. Details here.

Protect the Best of San Francisco, Yes on Prop X is being funded entirely by the Yerba Buena Consortium, LLC. Again, this is run by John Elberling, executive director of the affordable housing developer TODCO.

It has contributed $210,500 to see the measure pass. That amount dwarfs the $20,484 pooled by the measure’s opposition, which consists of notables like SPUR, San Francisco Forward, and the Nick Podell Company — Podell is the developer of the 2000 Bryant Street project.

Homelessness & City Services

Props J & K would lock in funding from the General Fund to go to Homelessness and Transportation. Details on J here. Details on K here.  

These measures are linked because Proposition K increases the city’s sales tax to 9.25 percent and thereby offers a new revenue stream to support the funding that Proposition J would lock in.

The biggest spenders to see Propositions J and K succeed – the Committee to Expand the Middle Class (largely backed by Airbnb) and Dignity Health – are funneling their cash through two independent expenditure committees: San Franciscans for Housing & Transit Now and the Mayor Ed Lee for San Francisco Committee.

Other notable donors on the list: SPUR, Recology, the Building Owners and Management Association of SF, known as BOMASF, and Progress San Francisco, a PAC funded by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Y-Combinator CEO Paul Graham, and Ron Conway, among other big tech names.

Prop. I would create a fund dedicated to mandatory spending on services for seniors and adults with disabilities. Details here.

Meals On Wheels was the biggest single donor to the committee supporting Proposition I, Dignity Fund Coalition, but this measure also had around 80 smaller individual donations. The committee raised almost $30,000 from donors contributing $1,000 or less. There were some usual suspects as well, including Airbnb’s Committee to Expand the Middle Class, PG&E, and Swords for Plowshares. Dagmar Dolby, the billionaire widow of sound pioneer Ray Dolby also contributed $13,000.

Prop. S would reallocate some of the hotel tax to Homelessness and the Arts. Details here

The Fisher family, whose fortune was made through the Gap clothing stores and who throw around some serious weight in San Francisco’s fine art scene, have spent by far the most to see Proposition S pass.

In October alone, the family – Doris, William, Sakurako (William’s spouse and president of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra), Robert, and Elizabeth – gave a combined $104,999.

In addition to other spending geared toward artist displacement and homelessness, the measure would direct 50 percent of revenue from the city’s base hotel tax to building housing for the homeless, giving grants to local artists, maintaining facilities such as Herbst Theatre and Davies Symphony Hall.

Prop. Q would outlaw tent encampments on sidewalks. Details here.

Proposition Q made national headlines after we first revealed that local billionaires were throwing tens of thousands of dollars apiece behind the measure.

Since then, however, the Committee on Jobs and Government Reform Fund has had a surge of funding, collecting some $215,000 in late October alone from donors wanting to see the measure pass. The fund is sponsored by the San Francisco Committee on Jobs, a lobbying group that represents big business interests.

Matching the amount contributed by the individual billionaire donors, such as William Oberndorf and Ron Conway, was San Francisco Forward, a PAC sponsored by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Another familiar PAC – Progress San Francisco – provided major funding to San Francisco Forward.

Progress San Francisco has been receiving large donations from individual tech and real estate elites such as Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman and Maximus Real Estate’s Robert Rosania, as well as tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Salesforce. The PAC also donated $6,179 to Joshua Arce’s campaign for the Democratic County Central Committee. Arce is running for District 9 supervisor.

Crime & Police

Prop. G would rename the Office of Citizen Complaints the Department of Police Accountability. Details here.

Airbnb’s Committee to Expand the Middle Class again tops a list of donors giving to a single measure’s campaign, and close behind, again, is Recology, Inc. It is unclear what Airbnb stands to gain from supporting this.

Prop. R would create a neighborhood crime unit within the Police Department. Details here.

The battle over Prop R is not the biggest battle, but a battle nonetheless. The San Francisco Travel Association is the biggest backer of a measure that would create “neighborhood crime units” aimed at reducing homelessness and petty crimes in the city. 

Bevan Duffy for BART Board 2016 and Stop Developer Giveaway, No on P & U, each gave the most – $1,000 – to defeat this measure. This means that contributors to Bevan Duffy’s campaign and the No on P & U campaign have inadvertently opposed Q and R.

Surplus Lands for Public Use, a Committee in Support of Prop K, an independent expenditure committee created in support of last November’s Proposition K (to make it easier to build affordable projects on public land) kicked in a $500 donation. This committee, however, has been much more active in other campaigns, like No on P & U.


Prop. A would issue a $744 million bond for public school infrastructure improvements. Details here.

Proposition A is seeing major support from big business, especially tech. The Chan Zuckerberg Foundation donated $100,000, double that of other titans such as Phil Halparin and Goldman Sachs. Other notable big spenders include, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, conservative donor Will Oberndorf, and Medium founder Evan Williams.

Prop. B would extend and increase the parcel tax for the City College of San Francisco. Details here.

Airbnb’s Committee to Expand the Middle Class and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the union who represents service workers at City College, have put the most behind this measure, each donating $45,000 to see the measure pass. As with props J, K, and G, you can find spending by the Recology, Inc. PAC not far down the list from Airbnb.

Prop. N would allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections. Details here.

Much of the funding for Proposition N’s passage has come in the late innings of this election cycle, and they’ve mostly been from the Mission Economic Development Agency, an organization that regularly works with immigrants.

In late October, the non-profit donated just over $11,000 to see the measure pass. Measure N would allow non-citizen parents to vote in school board elections.   


Prop. V would impose a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages. Details here.

In terms of funding, Proposition V has been the headline measure of San Francisco’s local elections this year. The main backers behind Yes on V are former New York mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg and the Action Now Committee, an advocacy organization founded by former Enron executive and billionaire John Arnold.   

However, the No on V campaign is outspending the measure’s proponents by a wide margin. No on V, bankrolled primarily by the American Beverage Association California PAC, has spent a $23.1 million to defeat the measure — the most in city history.

Although the graphic only represents contributions to the PAC made since September of this year (the California Secretary of State has not reported contributions to the PAC after that date), it is a good representation of which soda companies are spending the most to see Proposition V fail.

Prop. W would raise transfer taxes paid to the city when properties worth at least $5 million change hands. Details here.

Proposition W would raise taxes on sales of properties worth $5 million or more and use the revenue to pay City College tuition. Unsurprisingly, support for the measure comes mostly from teachers unions.

However, Proposition W has also seen support from Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer, who has been funding anti-Trump ads and who some believe will make a bid for California governor in 2018.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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