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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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County

City and County of San Francisco
Proposition B - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Passing

255,653 votes yes (61.33%)

161,178 votes no (38.67%)

Shall the City amend the Charter to create a Department of Sanitation and Streets with oversight from a Sanitation and Streets Commission, and to establish a Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of San Francisco

The Question

Shall the City amend the Charter to create a Department of Sanitation and Streets, overseen by a Sanitation and Streets Commission; create a Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works; and to require an annual performance audit and cost and waste analysis for both departments?

Note: This Pro/Con information is also available in Chinese and Spanish.

The Situation

The City’s Department of Public Works, which was created by the City Charter, has four divisions:

 

 Operations, which maintains City buildings, streets, sewers, street trees, sidewalk trash cans and sidewalks, and removes graffiti;

 Building Design and Construction, which designs, builds, and renovates City buildings and structures;

 Infrastructure Design and Construction, which maintains City streets, sidewalks, curb ramps, plazas, bridges, tunnels, and stairways; and

 Finance and Administration.

 

The City Administrator oversees the Department of Public Works and appoints its director with the Mayor’s approval.

The Proposal

Proposition B is a Charter amendment that would create a Department of Sanitation and Streets, which would take over some of the duties of the Department of Public Works.

 

This new Department of Sanitation and Streets would be responsible for:

 Sweeping streets and cleaning sidewalks;

 Providing and maintaining sidewalk trash cans;

 Removing graffiti and illegally dumped waste; and

 Maintaining City buildings, public restrooms, and street trees.

 

Under Proposition B, the Board of Supervisors, by a two-thirds vote, could modify these duties.

 

The Department of Public Works would continue to provide all other services required by law.

 

Proposition B would create a five-member Sanitation and Streets Commission to oversee the Department of Sanitation and Streets. The Board of Supervisors would appoint two members to this commission, the Mayor would appoint two, and the City Controller would appoint one.

 

The Mayor would appoint the Director of Sanitation and Streets from candidates selected by the Sanitation and Streets Commission.

 

Proposition B would also create a five-member Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works, thus removing it from the purview of the City Administrator. The Board of Supervisors would appoint two members to this commission, the Mayor would appoint two, and the City Controller would appoint one.

 

The Mayor would appoint the Director of Public Works from candidates selected by the Public Works Commission.

 

Proposition B would require the Services Audit Unit to evaluate whether there are inefficiencies or waste in the administration, operations, and spending of both departments each year.

 

A “YES” Vote Means: If you vote “yes,” you want to create a Department of Sanitation and Streets with oversight from a Sanitation and Streets Commission, and you want to establish a Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works.

 

A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote “no,” you do not want to make these changes.

Fiscal effect

Controller's statement: sfelections.sfgov.org/sites/default/files/Documents/candidates/2020Nov/Prop%20B%20-%20Public%20Works%20and%20Streets%20Commissions_0.pdf

Supporters say

 The measure would require the Services Audit Unit to conduct annual cost and waste analyses of both the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Public Works to evaluate whether there are inefficiencies or waste in the administration and operations of both departments.

 The measure creates a standalone department to handle street cleaning and hygiene, which is an ongoing problem in many San Francisco neighborhoods — hygiene and cleanliness are especially important given the COVID-19 emergency.

 Creation of a separate Department of Sanitation brings San Francisco in line with other major US cities.

 The measure provides additional oversight of the Department of Public Works and oversight of the new Department of Sanitation.

Opponents say

The proposal could cost between $2.5 million and $6 million annually, according to a City Controller’s analysis, primarily due to additional staffing and administrative needs.

Removing the maintenance of streets and buildings from the department that designs and builds them creates operational inefficiencies.

The creation of a new government department and two commissions expands government bureaucracy which could delay new projects.

The creation of a new government department could create initial confusion among the general public regarding the department’s core services and responsibilities.

Details — Official information

YES vote means

A "YES" Vote Means: If you vote "yes," you want to create a Department of Sanitation and Streets with oversight from a Sanitation and Streets Commission, and you want to establish a Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works.

NO vote means

A "NO" Vote Means: If you vote "no," you do not want to make these changes.

Summary

Ballot Simplification Committee

The Way It Is Now: The City’s Department of Public Works, which was created by the City Charter, has four divisions:

• Operations, which maintains City buildings, streets, sewers, street trees, sidewalk trash cans and sidewalks, and removes graffiti;

• Building Design and Construction, which designs, builds and renovates City buildings and structures;

• Infrastructure Design and Construction, which maintains City streets, sidewalks, curb ramps, plazas, bridges, tunnels and stairways; and

• Finance and Administration.

The City Administrator oversees the Department of Public Works and appoints its director with the Mayor’s approval.

The Proposal: Proposition B is a Charter amendment that would create a Department of Sanitation and Streets, which would take over some of the duties of the Department of Public Works.

This new Department of Sanitation and Streets would be responsible for:

• Sweeping streets and cleaning sidewalks;

• Providing and maintaining sidewalk trash cans;

• Removing graffiti and illegally dumped waste; and

• Maintaining City buildings, public restrooms and street trees.

Under Proposition B, the Board of Supervisors, by a two-thirds vote, could modify these duties.

The Department of Public Works would continue to provide all other services required by law.

Proposition B would create a five-member Sanitation and Streets Commission to oversee the Department of Sanitation and Streets. The Board of Supervisors would appoint two members to this commission, the Mayor would appoint two, and the City Controller would appoint one.

The Mayor would appoint the Director of Sanitation and Streets from candidates selected by the Sanitation and Streets Commission.

Proposition B would also create a five-member Public Works Commission to oversee the Department of Public Works. The Board of Supervisors would appoint two members to this commission, the Mayor would appoint two, and the City Controller would appoint one.

The Mayor would appoint the Director of Public Works from candidates selected by the Public Works Commission.

Proposition B would require the Services Audit Unit to evaluate whether there are inefficiencies or waste in the administration, operations and spending of both departments each year.

Financial effect

City Controller Ben Rosenfield

Should the proposed Charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would have a significant impact on the cost of government beginning in fiscal year 2022–23, ranging from $2.5 million to $6 million annually. This estimate does not include changes to current service levels. The measure permits the Board of Supervisors to delay portions of the measure’s implementation, which could defer a portion of these costs until a later date.

The proposed Charter amendment would create a new Department of Sanitation and Streets to perform specific duties currently performed by the Department of Public Works. The amendment would shift approximately 835 of 1,711 full-time equivalent employees currently working for Public Works to the new Sanitation and Streets Department.

Decoupling shared administrative services would necessitate a 10–25 percent increase in staffing for these functions for the loss of efficiency with shared services. However, the amendment requires the Board of Supervisors to require the City Administrator, Department of Public Works, and/or other City departments to provide administrative services for the Department of Sanitation and Streets for at least the first two years and three months of the amendment’s implementation. New positions for the Department of Sanitation and Streets include a department head, public information officer, chief administrative officer, and managers for contracts, performance, and information technology to manage the administrative services provided by other departments. Costs would likely increase in future years if the Board authorized independent administrative support for the new department, which is permitted following this initial implementation period.

The amendment would also create two new five-member commissions: one to oversee the existing Department of Public Works and one to oversee the new Sanitation and Streets Department. Costs would include commission secretary, commissioner compensation, and costs such as preparing public materials.

Finally, the amendment also allows the Board of Supervisors to limit, modify, or eliminate duties of the Department of Sanitation and Streets by two-thirds vote and transfer those services to other City departments. 

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

More information

News (3)

Proposition B - November 2020 — October 6, 2020 San Francisco Public Press

Videos (1)

— October 5, 2020 League of Women Voters of San Francisco and SFGovTV
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Proposition B

Organizations (3)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Proposition B

Organizations (2)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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