Yes on San Francisco Proposition A

Proposition A would raise $425 million to upgrade the Embarcadero Seawall and construct related infrastructure. Unlike state general obligation bonds, San Francisco county bonds are paid out of property taxes, with Prop A taxing $130 per year per $1 million in property value (replacing other property taxes repaying expiring bonds). This is exactly what bonds should be used for, and the efficient property tax mechanism makes it a win-win.

The Seawall needs an upgrade to better withstand earthquakes and flooding. The United Nations recently reported that atmospheric temperatures could rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2040, worsening the risk of a major flood which would affect citywide infrastructure if not contained.

Property taxes are the right way to fund this project. Prop 13 (1978) locked in property taxes at 1 percent of assessed value, which could increase no more than 2 percent per year. Among many negative consequences, this forced the state to raise high income taxes to make up the resulting devastation to local government budgets. Taxing workers over wealth — many San Francisco homeowners have become multi-millionaires from the surge in housing prices, while paying relatively little in taxes — is regressive and inefficient, as land can’t respond to taxation the way that people do.

Bond repayments are a way around this 1 percent property tax cap. Rather than fund the Seawall with an extra sales tax or business tax, reducing commerce, we can fund it with the core wealth our city has produced together: real estate. Homeowners won’t even feel it, since the tax would phase in according to other bonds’ expirations, keeping the share constant.

Vote yes on Prop A to equitably fund a critical public good.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.