San Francisco Examiner, May 11, 2020
By Joshua Sabatini
San Francisco plans to ask voters this November to approve a $438.5 million bond measure to fund a wide range of needs: street repaving, park improvements and homeless services. The “Health and Recovery Bond” proposed by Mayor London Breed will fund services including supportive housing and mental health and substance use treatment; street repaving and curb ramps; and improvements to parks and recreational facilities. The bond reflects The City’s need to expand mental health and homeless services. But it can also help stimulate the local economy by funding shovel-ready projects at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is causing an economic downturn and significant unemployment, city officials said. They noted also that money for streets and maintenance often goes unmet in times of a recession and budget cuts. The City faces a budget deficit of about $1 billion over the next two years. Previously, The City was planning to bring just a bond for parks and open space to voters in November that would have totaled $255 million. A total of $200 million in this bond measure would still go to parks and recreational facilities. In addition, however, $197 million would go toward treatment and supportive housing for people experiencing mental health issues, substance use disorder and homelessness. The bond’s remaining $41.5 million would go to street resurfacing and curb ramps. When it comes to the spending for homelessness, $90 million will go directly to expand supportive housing or shelters. Estimates show it could fund 250 more supportive housing beds and 75 additional shelter beds. The additional $107 million will fund services for mental health and substance use, including “a new Behavioral Health Access Center to provide low-barrier centralized access to the City’s network and system of behavioral health services,” according to the Capital Planning Committee’s report on the bond proposal. Other costs are for an expansion of behavioral health respite facilities and detox facilities. Existing community health facilities will also see a portion of the funds, including the Chinatown Health Center. There are also funds to help financially struggling board-and-care facilities, also known as adult residential facilities, which house seniors with behavioral health needs. “There is a need to open more shelter beds, protect residential board and care facilities and pursue innovative solutions for treatment,” the report said. “Doing so will expand care and services for those most acutely suffering. If we don’t act now, that number will continue to rise.” The funding for parks includes $121 million for five projects ready to undergo construction, with the largest portion, $50 million, for the renovation of the Gene Friend Recreation Center at 270 Sixth St. in the South of Market area. About $29 million will go toward improvements to the India Basin in Bayview-Hunters Point and $25 million will go toward the renovation of the Japantown Peace Plaza. Other projects to receive funding include $2 million for the Buchanan Mall and $10 million for the Herz Playground Recreation Center project at 1700 Visitacion Ave. in Visitacion Valley. Three citywide parks will also get funding for improvements, including $10 million for Golden Gate Park, $6 million McLaren Park and $2 million for Lake Merced. About $10 million will go to renovate playgrounds and $20 million will go to “sustainability” projects, such as sea level rise mitigation at Ocean Beach and water conservation like installing irrigation systems. Of the funding for streets, $31.5 million will go toward paving and resurfacing 300 blocks in San Francisco. The City’s current 940-plus miles of streets have a Pavement Condition Index score of 74. “If we do not invest in improving the PCI score, costs to fix streets will skyrocket, street degradation will continue and the backlog of streets needing reconstruction will grow exponentially,” the report said. The remaining funding for streets includes $5 million for the design, construction and maintenance of ADA-compliant accessible curb ramps and $5 million for the repair and maintenance of street structures, like stairwells. The report said that voters had previously approved bonds during the Great Recession beginning in 2008 that helped San Francisco’s economy recover. “Investing in public facilities and infrastructure is an important and necessary step that San Francisco can take to put thousands of people to work and help accelerate our economic recovery,” the report said. The Capital Planning Committee approved the new bond Monday. It will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday for approval for the ballot by July 14. As with previous bonds, landlords can pass on to tenants 50 percent of the property tax assessed to pay for the bond. It also meant to be time so that the bond does not increase the tax burden on property owners by replacing previously approved bond tax bills. The committee also approved an update to The City’s 10-year capital plan, which includes new details of funding measures to bring to voters in the coming years. As a tradeoff for the November bond, the committee voted to reduce the $500 million transportation bond slated for June 2022 to $350 million and the $220 million public health bond to $186.5 million for the November 2023 ballot. The committee also committed to an affordable housing bond of an unspecified amount in November 2024.