November 2016: Local Propositions

Here are my current thoughts on the Berkeley, Alameda County, AC Transit, and BART propositions on the November 2016 ballot.

You can also read my thoughts on state-wide propositions and on candidates, or see a cheat sheet summary.

BART (Alameda, Contra Costa, and SF counties)


After 44 years, BART is aging. It needs major infrastructure work to just keep working at its current capacity, let alone keep up with the population growth and move away from car-reliance in the region. This bond is necessary to keep it from falling apart. My life (and choice of house purchase) is made possible by BART. I am pretty scared that this (2/3-required) bond will fail.

Honestly, the arguments against depress me. Most of them are people who are upset that BART employees are moderately well paid. Frankly — BART enables the economy of the Bay Area to work, and certainly enables my entire current lifestyle. I am proud that the employees who make the system work are paid well. They deserve it.

AC Transit (Alameda and Contra Costa counties)


This renews the current AC Transit flat property tax for 20 more years. If this fails, buses will lose a major source of funding. Please vote yes: like many other taxes, it needs 2/3 support.

Alameda County

Yes on A1

County affordable housing bond. Seems reasonable enough; haven’t heard much about it but haven’t heard any reason why not to vote yes. There is no official argument against.

Berkeley Unified School District


This renews (sort of) a property tax that provides 20% of school district funding. (I say “sort of” because it is adjusted for inflation, and also responds to a recent court ruling preventing school districts from taxing residential and commercial properties differently by raising the rate on residential and reducing on commercial, which is a shame but necessary.) Without this, BUSD loses a huge amount of funding. Please vote YES ON E1.

City of Berkeley


Infrastructure bond. Unanimously supported by City Council; no arguments against.

Yes on U1, no on DD

U1 is a rental tax that is unanimously supported by City Council. It’s opposed by big landlords, who put DD on the ballot instead, and confusingly claim that U1 is the one that’s good for big landlords. U1 is a higher tax rate than DD. U1 exempts landlords with fewer than 5 units and all units in their first 12 years after construction. The big landlords are focusing on that exemption. It seems like a reasonable way to encourage construction to me, and the landlords are being disingenuous by conflating “owners of lots of property” with “owners of new constructions”. Everything I read other than the propaganda in my mailbox says yes on U1, no on DD.


Because the California constitution has been mangled by greedy anti-tax anti-civilization assholes, every city needs to pass this ballot measure every 4 years in order to actually use tax money that has already been voted on. All it does is say “Those taxes you’re paying? We’re allowed to spend that money even though it’s more than our budget was in 1986”. If this fails, we’ll still be paying the same taxes but the city will be forced to sit on part of the money for no good reason.

Yes on W1?

This would change City Council redistricting to be done by an independent redistricting committee instead of the council itself, kind of like has been done at the state level. The jury’s still out for me as to whether it was a good idea at the state level, but this seems reasonable to me. Specifically, the old method apparently always led to conflict, as council members ensured their home stayed in their district. This seems reasonable enough, and there’s no argument against it.


This seems like a well-designed public financing system for Mayor and City Council elections. There are already strict limits on campaign donations in Berkeley, but this would say that if you limit yourself to $50 per donor (and meet a minimum), you can get public funding of 6 times the amount you got from Berkeley residents, up to a limit. The claim is that this would not severely affect the budget. This septupling makes it seem pretty likely that many candidates would actually use it. Sounds good to me.


Allow people age 16 and 17 to vote on the school board. Yes, allowing people to vote (on the most relevant topic!) young will help people get in the habit of voting.


This is a relatively technical ballot measure that’s required by yet another stupid clause in the CA constitution to raise a cap on the amount of affordable housing the City can work on. It doesn’t commit any funds. No real downside or argument against.


This limits the ability of owner-move-in evictions to force families with school-age kids to move in the middle of the year and requires landlords to pay a $15,000 relocation fee. As a homeowner who considered buying houses with tenants (or moving into a unit owned by my mother-in-law) and a friend of people who have done owner-move-in, I do think that owner-move-in is a reasonable thing for people buying homes they want to personally live in (or close family members) to do. But I don’t think it needs to be cheap. $15K does sound like a lot, and I personally don’t have that amount sitting around in my bank account today. But if you’re buying a house and planning to move in immediately, you can work this amount into your decision-making strategy. And if you’ve owned the house for a long time, then you likely can get a home equity loan for that amount (something your tenants have no access to).

(Note: San Francisco already has a similarly-sized fee.)

The school kids clause seems pretty unequivocably good to me as well.

There are no arguments submitted against this proposition.


Oh Berkeley. So two dueling versions of a $15 minimum wage increase got on the ballot. Then like a day after it was too late to change the ballot, the two sides came to a compromise and passed a compromise version directly into law. Both proponents now say to vote no on both. If you say so!