To give a sense of how expensive San Francisco is, the official “low income” level is $117,400 per year for a four-person household in the combined city-and-county (as well as in adjacent Marin and San Mateo counties).
That’s okay for some residents: The average income for Bay Area tech workers (many of whom are single) is $142,000. But the inequality is extreme. San Francisco had 7,499 homeless people as of a biennial census taken last year, and most of them had homes in the city previously. Now a new ballot initiative would move a small fraction of income from the wealthiest to fund services designed to alleviate and, ideally, eliminate homelessness.
The initiative, Our City, Our Home, qualified this week for the November ballot with a whopping 28,000 signatures–well above the required 9,485. If it passes, it will impose a 0.5% tax on all companies earning more than $50 million per year.
That translates to about $300 million to fund a variety of services, including low-income housing, rent subsidies for tenants facing eviction, and mental health services. It would fund public bathrooms and sanitation centers in a city that often reeks of human waste.
“We need to undo a lot of the damage that’s been done with tech not being taxed for the right amount,” says Kevin Ortiz of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, one of the organizations supporting the ballot measure. The city has seen an influx of superrich tech companies. Salesforce (site of a recent protest where I met Ortiz), for instance, reported revenue of $8.4 billion for the past year.
The money isn’t just in tech, though. Salesforce ranks just 285 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list. Pharmaceutical distributor McKesson, the top San Francisco company (at No. 6), pulled in more than $198 billion last year.