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SF voters may be asked to renew half-cent transportation sales tax

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman Tuesday introduced an ordinance that would give voters in November the chance to renew San Francisco’s transportation half-cent sales tax.

Mandelman introduced the ballot measure ordinance at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday — it now heads to the Budget and Finance Committee and then the full board for approval.

The existing half-cent sales tax was approved by voters in 1989 and again in 2003 as Proposition K.

The tax revenue has funded a number of major transit capital projects over the last decade, including the recently completed Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit corridor, the purchase of new Muni light rail vehicles and the Caltrain electrification project. Funds from the sales tax have also gone to street safety improvements and road repairs.

Officials said the sales tax generated $100 million annually before the pandemic.

In March, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board, which includes all members of the Board of Supervisors, approved a 30-year spending plan for revenue generated by the existing half-cent sales tax.

The plan includes funding for electrifying Muni’s bus fleet, increasing capacity on Muni and BART vehicles and the Caltrain downtown extension, which would bring Caltrain and California High-Speed Rail, if ever completed, to the Salesforce Transit Center.

Funds will continue to support street safety improvements, including traffic calming measures, upgrading traffic signals and bike lanes.

Mandelman, who chairs the SFCTA board, which administers the Prop K project funding, said Tuesday of the expenditure plan:

“The investments called for in this expenditure plan will support San Francisco public transportation agencies’s recovery from the pandemic and delivery of reliable service, and will advance key goals around street safety and Vision Zero.”

Supervisors Shamann Walton, Aaron Peskin, Myrna Melgar, Catherine Stefani, Dean Preston, Gordon Mar and Matt Dorsey cosponsored the ordinance.

If Mandelman’s proposition makes it to the November ballot, it will need two-thirds voter approval to pass.

EMC Research conducted a survey on behalf of the SFCTA from March 29 to April 4 of likely voters for the November election. The research company surveyed 1,329 participants by phone and online in English, Chinese and Spanish.

Sara LaBatt, principal at EMC Research, presented the survey results Tuesday at the SFCTA board meeting. LeBatt said reauthorizing the transportation sales tax is currently supported by two-thirds of voters, which meets the passing threshold.

Forty-three percent of those surveyed said pedestrian improvements are a high priority, followed by improving Muni reliability at 38 percent and supporting transit services for seniors and persons with disabilities at 37 percent.

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