While many businesses in the Mission District are only now taking a look at Prop. C, a corporate tax measure to fund homeless services, most we spoke with were generally supportive of the measure. Some weren’t surprised that Mayor London Breed opposed it, and were pleased to see major support coming from Mark Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.
Leef Smith, owner of Mission: Comics and Art, had yet to take a close look at the measure. He wondered if it would pass, but added that if it did, “It would be a much-needed benefit.”
Smith, like other business owners in the Mission, worries about how homelessness impacts the neighborhood. “I got this one-star Google review saying the neighborhood is scary,” said Smith, who sees Prop. C as potentially beneficial to his business if it succeeds in reducing homelessness.
“I have never heard of it, but I like what I’m hearing,” said Kendon Anderson, a barber at The Refinery on Mission Street, when told about the highlights of the measure. “I feel like I am for it. Eat the rich.”
The measure seeks to apply a half percent tax on gross receipts that exceed $50 million dollars a year in San Francisco. The proponents of the measure say it would raise $300 million, half of which would go exclusively to provide housing for the homeless. The other half would be evenly divided between mental health resources and shelters.
Some 300 to 400 local businesses — out of more than 13,000 businesses throughout the city — would be affected by the measure, according to a study conducted by the city’s economist, Ted Egan. The measure would increase business tax revenues by 28 to 33 percent.
On Oct. 5, Breed released a statement opposing the measure, and on the following Monday, Oct. 8, Benioff expressed his support.
“I’m not surprised,” said Scott Hewicker of Stranded Records on Valencia Street, referring to the mayor’s opposition. “The city has terrible leadership that favors money interests.”
Smith added, “I don’t think it’s the right call. I think it’s putting special-interest groups above the interests of the city.” Benioff’s support, he said, “goes beyond the endorsement. It reframes the argument that says all businesses are opposed to this.”
Tracy, who declined to use her full name, from Bonampak on Valencia Street, was surprised when she learned that Benioff supports the measure. “That is very surprising. I like him more than I did five minutes ago.”
But Vic Pizarro, an employee of Mission Jewelry and Loans who wears a long gray beard that reflects his four decades of working in the neighborhood, said money won’t solve homelessness. “There has to be a give and take for that. If they build housing for them, they shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the street,” he said.
Pizarro added, “We have a responsibility to our own, not to the entire nation’s homeless,” echoing a concern also voiced by Breed and opponents who say the measure would attract homeless people from outside San Francisco.
That fear is dismissed in the city economist’s study: “We have identified no research that found that expanded homelessness services or facilities increases homelessness.”
“There’s a myth that people come to San Francisco to be homeless,” added Smith, from Mission: Comics and Art. “It’s not true. The reality is that the last residence for most of them was in San Francisco. They’re San Franciscans.”
Hewicker from Stranded Records agreed. “I think there’s a lot of bad information that the homeless come here. For me, it’s hard to believe. Most of them are from San Francisco.”
In her statement, Breed said the measure would result in job losses and — quoting Ted Egan’s report — would cost the city’s gross domestic product $240 million dollars per year.
What the mayor failed to say is that city’s report states this loss is small and only represents a 0.1 percent impact on the city’s labor market and economy over a 20-year period.
The report also acknowledges that a decline in homelessness is likely to increase the attractiveness of the city to tourists, residents and commuters. Despite these findings, the mayor is mainly concerned with what she called “the inevitable flight of headquarter companies.”
“Even if they decide to leave, if they’re not contributing shit to the city, then go away,” was Pizarro’s response.
“It’s also important to remember that most of these businesses likely got a tax reduction as a result of federal tax reform,” said Norma Paz Garcia from the Mission Economic Development Agency, which is in support of Prop. C.
Benioff has pledged some $2.5 million to support the initiative. In a tweet expressing his support for Prop. C, he wrote, “As SF’s largest employer, we recognize we are part of the solution.”
Some in the Mission agreed.
“I think they definitely can be making a bigger impact because all those companies created the problem and they should alleviate the problem,” said Hewicker.