San Francisco's Prop C Homeless Measure Passed ー And Not Everyone in Tech is Happy

Photo Credit: Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock
November 7, 2018
Updated 4mo ago

By Chloe Aiello

Voters in San Francisco gave overwhelming support on Tuesday to a measure that would tax big tech for the sake of the homeless.

And not everyone in the Silicon Valley stronghold is happy.

Proposition C, or the “Our City, Our Home” initiative, was easily the most controversial issue on the city's ballot. It proposed a tax on revenue over $50 million ー which would hit about the top 1 percent of corporations ー to help mitigate San Francisco's homeless problem. More than 7,000 people in San Francisco experience homelessness ー a stark contrast to the wealth the tech industry has generated for its own.

San Francisco has a "median home price [of] $1.6 million, the third most billionaires of any city in the world and one of the most dismaying homeless problems that a U.N. Special Rapporteur last year compared to Bangladesh," Scott Wilson, senior national correspondent at the Washington Post, who has covered the story, told Cheddar on Wednesday.

"I think there's a real disconnect between what the public wants to see and what the political class is willing to do especially in trying to avoid irritating tech leaders," he added.

The proposition's 10-point list includes efforts to provide more mental health and addiction treatment centers, place sanitation centers and mobile bathrooms on the streets, and expand homeless shelters, among other things.

Salesforce ($CRM) CEO Marc Benioff has been one of the initiative's most vocal cheerleaders ー although his company will surely be hit by the proposed tax.

"Prop C’s victory means the homeless will have a home & the help they truly need! Let the city come together in Love for those who need it most! There is no finish line when it come to helping the homeless. Thank you amazing supporters of Prop C," Benioff gushed on Twitter, following Prop C's victory.

He even reportedly poured about $7 million of his own and his company's money into the campaign, billing homelessness as the responsibility of technology companies that have brought jobs and wealth to the city, while also widening wage gaps and driving up property values.

But not all bigwigs in big tech seem to agree. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter ($TWTR) and Square ($SQ), spoke out against the proposition ー much to Benioff's ire. The two tech elites exchanged arguments about the issue on social media in mid-October.

"I want to help fix the homeless problem in SF and California. I don’t believe this (Prop C) is the best way to do it," Dorsey wrote on the platform he co-founded.

"I think that Benioff probably has his hand a little bit closer to the pulse of San Francisco and the people who live there than Jack Dorsey. I mean there is a real frustration, a real concern and a real compassion fatigue among San Francisco residents," Wilson said.

Dorsey wasn't alone. Legislators, including Mayor London Breed ー who has vowed to address homelessness ー spoke out against the proposition, which Wilson said just reinforces big tech's influence on the city.

"I think what it showed is that big tech still has a big sway over political power in San Francisco and that there's no coherent solution in city hall on how to solve the homeless problem ー and yet voters in approving it are demanding that something be done," he said.

For now, the proposition hangs in legal limbo. It did not pass with a full two-thirds legislative majority, which leaves it open to legal challenges from opponents.