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Wanting more from tax dollars, voters poised to add oversight to homelessness department

Sunbear Jackson participates in a march with the Coalition on Homelessness march outside of San Francisco City Hall on Oct. 11, 2022. | Juliana Yamada for The Standard | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

In a bid for accountability in homelessness spending, San Franciscans voted to create a commission that will oversee the department in charge of the city’s homelessness response, according to the first round of ballots counted Monday night.

As of the evening’s third batch of election results, Prop. C looked on track to pass/looked very likely to pass, with 64% of voters voting yes. However, that lead could change, as this first results report only represents about 27% of total registered voters in San Francisco. The bulk of the votes will be tallied in the coming weeks.

The likely passage of Prop. C will create a commission of seven people to commission audits and set goals for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. 

The department has a $676 million budget in the current fiscal year and has drawn scrutiny for a seeming lack of oversight into its spending; the number of unhoused people in the city has grown since the department was formed in 2016.

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí authored the ballot measure in response to news stories about ramshackle supportive housing buildings that sometimes trap residents in unsanitary and dangerous circumstances. 

“The residents of San Francisco spoke loud and clear and are demanding new direction and change to address our homeless crisis,” Safaí said to The Standard over text after the first batch of votes were released.

At present, the department oversees nearly 12,000 units of permanent supportive housing and over 3,000 shelter beds while contracting with numerous nonprofits that provide outreach and case management services.   

The proposition garnered unanimous support from city supervisors and had raised $427,502 as of Oct. 19.

Mayor London Breed joined the San Francisco Republican Party in opposing the measure, arguing that the commission creates more bureaucracy and will impede progress. 

The homelessness department already reports to two citizen-led oversight committees—the Local Homeless Coordinating Board and the Shelter Monitoring Committee—which provide guidance on policy and allocating funds. 

The new commission, however, will have power to order audits of the department and investigate the city’s shortcomings in addressing the homelessness crisis. 

The mayor will appoint four members to the commission, while the Board of Supervisors will choose three. 

Homeless advocates initially opposed the new commission, arguing that it increases the mayor’s influence on the city’s homeless response. 

In September, reporting by The Standard revealed that Breed had required at least 48 commission members citywide to sign undated resignation letters as a condition of their appointment—a practice she has since ended. 

David Sjostedt can be reached at