SF seeks to address affordability crisis with minimum wage hike, housing balance ballot measures 

click to enlarge Amid ongoing concerns about affordability in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors is slated to place a measure on the November ballot in the coming weeks that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.
  • Amid ongoing concerns about affordability in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors is slated to place a measure on the November ballot in the coming weeks that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.

Support is widening across San Francisco for a $15 minimum-wage proposal that, by 2019, could raise an average restaurant worker's salary by $125 per week and a retail worker's by $185.

The proposed pay boost was at the forefront Thursday when labor union representatives, community advocates and residents expressed concerns about San Francisco's growing income inequality, rent hikes and overall prices before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee.

The measure would raise The City's minimum wage to $15 by 2018 and then annually by the consumer price index. It is expected to be placed on the November ballot by the full board in the coming weeks and prevail. Last year, 11 percent of San Francisco workers, about 60,000 people, earned the minimum wage, according to a report by City Controller's Office economist Ted Egan. Since 2005, median rents have increased twice the rate of the minimum wage in The City, he noted.

The committee hearing highlighted how San Francisco's affordability remains a top concern among The City's voters. And for some, the targeted wage increase isn't aggressive enough.

"Even though $15 is a very good amount, that's not for another four years," retired Tenderloin resident Stephen Tennis said. "What about between now and then. The divide between the haves and haves not in San Francisco is getting larger every day."

Supervisor Jane Kim, who helped craft the compromise minimum-wage measure with Mayor Ed Lee, acknowledged the widening income gap and said that "there is so much that we need to do for equity here in San Francisco."

In addition to supporting the boost to the minimum wage and trying to curb evictions with the anti-speculation tax on the November ballot, Kim is also behind the housing balance ballot measure for the upcoming election. The measure would require that 30 percent of new housing construction results in below-market-rate units and if it dips below that level, the development would require special approval.

The housing would be in reach for a range of incomes levels of up to $81,500 for individuals and up to $116,000 for families of four, a range that comprises 60 percent of The City's residents.

"Every day, I hear from residents ... that say they can't afford all the new development they see popping up," Kim said. "Who does affordable housing include? It includes individuals that make up to $81,000 a year. That is how expensive San Francisco is."

During the committee's informational hearing on Kim's measure, Supervisor Norman Yee lamented how his daughter, who is getting married and lives in Los Angeles, cannot move to San Francisco because of the housing crisis.

The housing balance measure has become embroiled in heated politics with a competing measure being proposed by the mayor and calls from Board of Supervisors President David Chiu to abandon both competing measures and instead support some compromises, such as a housing revenue bond in 2015. It remains unclear if a compromise will be reached.

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