Voters in San Francisco will decide Tuesday whether to nearly double the city’s spending on services for the homeless, but some of the city’s richest companies are spending to oppose it.

Proposition C proposes that companies making more than $50 million in annual revenue would be taxed 0.5 percent more on average, raising about $300 million a year for about 5,000 affordable housing units, 1,075 new beds in shelters and a budget of about $75 million for mental health services.

Rideshare company Lyft spent $100,000 and Square donated $50,000 against the measure, respectively. Visa spent $225,000 in opposition, while Stripe contributed roughly $420,000. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, donated $125,000 to the campaign against the measure, according to contribution reports from the San Francisco Ethics Commission. His spats on Twitter deriding the measure have been widely covered.

Marc Benioff, the CEO of the city’s largest employer, Salesforce, has largely been the face of the campaign in support of Proposition C by donating more than $2 million of his own money and $5.9 million of the company’s money.


“It would be interesting to see them having to tell a person that they are not being prioritized to come indoors, over the tax benefits that a massive corporation receives,” said Anakh Sul Rama, a community organizer with Community Housing Partnership who works with the Proposition C campaign.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city needs to audit the money it currently spends on homelessness first. She wrote in a statement against the proposition that San Francisco’s “homelessness spending has increased dramatically in recent years with no discernible improvement in conditions,” while perhaps contradicting herself by also touting her administration’s recent homelessness initiatives.

“I smell enough. I see enough. Clean it up!” Breed said during a visit to a homeless encampment this summer.

“The Mayor doesn’t support Prop C, and we should listen to her. I support the Mayor, and I’m committed to helping her execute her plan,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter.

Benioff, who debated Dorsey’s tweets, told The Guardian that Breed had recently asked him for $8 million. “She wants me to fund personally a homeless shelter in the city, because she’s out of cash,” he said. “That’s evidence we need more money now.”

In her statement on the measure, Breed expressed concern over “the inevitable flight of headquarter companies — and jobs— from San Francisco to other cities in the Bay Area or other states,” citing the city controller’s economic analysis.

The report, however, was much more optimistic, and found that economic “impacts are small in the context of the city’s job market and economy, equal to a 0.1% difference, on average, over 20 years.”

The city’s report also determined:

Additional positive factors, not quantified in this analysis, include an expected improvement in health outcomes, a reduction in acute service costs, and an attractiveness of the City, because of the likely decline in the homeless population. To the extent that these policy objectives are achieved, the economic impact could be better than we project.

The concern that San Francisco companies would leave the city if taxes become too high echoes arguments in favor of the so-called “Twitter tax break,” an incentive program that began in 2011 intended to keep technology companies in Silicon Valley.

“I am absolutely convinced that Twitter would have moved out of the city. We would have lost not only the jobs that they had, but what they expected to create,” former Mayor Ed Lee, who passed away last year, said in 2013.

By allowing companies to circumvent a 1.5 percent payroll tax, the program, which will expire in May 2019, has encouraged major tech companies to stay in the city and helped contribute to the city’s impossibly high housing costs.

“We have 70 billionaires in [the] San Francisco” Bay Area region, Benioff said. “Not all of them are giving money away. A lot of them are just hoarding it. … This is a critical moment where I think Prop. C kind of illuminates who is willing to be a San Franciscan and actually support our local services.”


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