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Wealthy San Franciscans battle it out on these November ballot issues

Mary Jung holds a sign that reads “Affordable homes now, Yes on D” at the opening campaign event at the Yes on D Headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, September 10, 2022. Prop. D would accelerate affordable housing projects, and has garnered support from Mayor London Breed, DA Brooke Jenkins, and Supervisor Matt Dorsey. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard

Two sets of competing ballot measures have become battlegrounds for wealthy San Franciscans: housing and JFK Drive.

Ballot measures for both issues have raised the most money of all 14 local measures that will be on November’s ballot. 

A slate of big donors have provided much of the funding for these issues, with overlap between donors who backed the YIMBY-sponsored Prop D and Prop J, to keep JFK Drive open.

The Affordable Homes Now ballot measure (on the ballot as Prop D), put together by a coalition of YIMBY groups, has raised the most: over $1.5 million in cash, according to forms filed Thursday. 

The vast majority of the funds are coming from about 20 high net-worth individuals—including Twitch boss Emmett Shear and Instagram founder Mike Krieger—who have contributed between $10,000 and $200,000. 

Prop D expedites certain types of new apartment building projects if they include affordable housing.

The Prop D ballot measure is in competition with Prop E, which has raised $286,100 in cash, primarily from the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, the local construction workers’ union. Prop E, also known as the Affordable Housing Production Act, aims to do many things that Prop D does, but adds many more restrictions. Prop D proponents claim that Prop E makes projects financially infeasible. 

Zack Rosen, a local tech executive who according to the SF Ethics dashboard has contributed $101,000 to Proposition D, said that he contributed because he feels the local tech industry has a civic role in alleviating San Francisco’s housing crisis.

“I’ve been working on housing policy on nights and weekends the last four to five years,” he said. “While the tech industry didn't create the policies that have led to these disastrous outcomes, the success of the industry in the Bay Area has collided with housing policies and that's what's created the highest rate of poverty in the country in California and highest rates of homelessness. I do feel that tech industry leaders have a special responsibility to help.”

JFK Drive Ballot Measures

The other area that the city’s wealthy are exerting political influence over is whether to keep JFK Drive open.

The “Access for All Ordinance” or Proposition I, seeks to restore car access to pre-pandemic levels on JFK Drive, as well as the Great Highway, Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive and Bernice Rogers Way. JFK Drive would still have temporary closures on weekends, holidays and special events.

It’s raised nearly $600,000 in cash, almost entirely from the Corporation of Fine Arts Museums (COFAM), the nonprofit that handles day-to-day operations at the de Young, and Dede Wilsey, a socialite, philanthropist and longtime de Young Museum benefactor.

On the other side is a ballot measure to keep JFK Drive closed to cars—Prop J—which has raised about $300,000. Similar to Measure D, most of the contributors seem to work in the tech industry, with titles like ‘software engineer’ or ‘product manager,’ according to filings. Four of the top donors also contributed to Measure D: Rosen, Twitch CEO Shear, retired Airbnb engineering manager Laura Skelton Yakovenko and machine learning entrepreneur Lukas Biewald.