Proposition B - Neighborhood Historical Resources Preservation Bond

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the November 2004 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

Proposition B would authorize issuance of up to $60,000,000 in general obligation bonds to help finance the acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation, improvement, construction, or preservation of historical resources and structures benefiting historical resources. The specific projects that would receive funding would be selected through an implementing ordinance to be developed if the bond passes. However, the text of the measure lists examples of the kinds of projects that would be financed. The measure was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, and requires a two-thirds vote of the electorate to pass.

The San Francisco Controller's Office estimates that the owner of a home with an assessed value of $300,000 would pay an additional $14.47 per year in property taxes to pay for the bonds.

Why it is on the ballot

The City owns a number of historical resources that are in need of substantial investment to seismically strengthen, preserve, rehabilitate, and place them into useful service. There is not enough money available to pay for this work. Advocates for projects involving historic resources worked with the Board of Supervisors to develop this bond measure to provide a funding mechanism to help improve those resources.


Those who support Proposition B state:

  • Important historical resources are worth preserving, and without a bond measure, funds are not available for this purpose.
  • This measure is balanced in that it envisions funding several projects throughout the city.
  • The bond will assist the implementation of the Recreation and Park Capital Plan. The $110 million Neighborhood Park Bond anticipated funds from other sources in order to meet the Recreation and Park Department's capital-improvement need. Due to the lagging economy, those anticipated sources have not materialized. If passed, this bond will help provide funding for several of the department's facilities, reducing the need to use future open space revenues or park bonds.
  • This $60 million bond will be used to leverage a large amount of financing from other sources. In many cases, grant applications require matching funds from local agencies. If passed, the bond proceeds will allow the City to compete for state, federal and local grants and help secure philanthropic donations that benefit city residents.
  • This bond is relatively small compared to the City's available debt capacity.


Those who oppose Proposition B state:

  • There are a large number of worthy capital improvement projects within the City, but the City has no comprehensive, prioritized list of projects to be funded. The City is in the process of developing such a plan, which would propose a sequence of bonds based on public priorities. Because of other more urgent needs, some question whether the projects listed in this bond measure will be high in the list of the City's priorities. It should be noted that the City's Capital Improvements Advisory Committee did not endorse this measure partially for this reason. This measure advances the restoration of historical resources to the front of the line in awarding scarce funding resources.

SPUR's analysis

In an era of limited City resources and many competing capital improvement needs, it is unlikely that many (or any) of these historical resources will receive the investment required to improve them through the normal annual budget process. If this measure passes, the City would be authorized to issue up to $60,000,000 in general obligation bonds to help finance the acquisition, rehabilitation, renovation, improvement, construction, or preservation of historical resources and structures benefiting historical resources. General obligation bonds allow the City to borrow money for major capital projects, which it repays over time through increased property taxes.

Due to constraints imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act, the measure does not identify the specific historical resources that will receive funding. It does, however, list examples of historical resources, and structures benefiting historical resources, that may apply for bond proceeds. These example projects include the Old Mint, the Palace of Fine Arts , Coit Tower , a Waterfront Pavilion to house the City's historic 7,000-pipe concert organ, McLaren Lodge, Trocadero Clubhouse, the Geneva Car Barn Building , the San Francisco Unified School District 's School of the Arts's Nourse Auditorium, the Sunnyside Conservatory, the Moscone Fieldhouse, and the Bayview Opera House.

If voters approve the measure, the Board of Supervisors will adopt an implementing ordinance specifying procedures for the administration and oversight of the funded projects.

No single project would be permitted to receive more than 20% of the total bond proceeds. In addition, in order to qualify for funding, a project must demonstrate that it will have sufficient funding from other sources plus the bond proceeds to ensure completion of the project. The idea is that this bond measure will serve as the City's "match" against other funding sources. Almost all of the examples of projects listed in the ordinance have active private fundraising campaigns underway. Although being listed in the measure does not technically guarantee a project will receive funding, it would certainly provide a boost to those fundraising efforts.

Because Proposition B lists example projects that may never receive bond funding, it may mislead voters into believing those projects will benefit from the bond. On several occasions in the past, bond measures have been unable to fund all of the projects initially promised, leaving voters and community residents frustrated and disappointed.

We believe the purpose of this measure is important and the funding amount is appropriate. Following the grand restorations of City Hall and the Ferry building, which have added so much to the fabric of San Francisco , we agree that it is time to invest in the rehabilitation of the next set of publicly owned facilities.

We are sympathetic to the criticism that this bond measure short-circuits the process of prioritizing capital needs, but while we commend the City for beginning an effort to prioritize capital projects, the truth is that this process is not yet complete or functional. SPUR will be working with the City to develop a comprehensive capital planning process over the next few years. But for now, we are left with the traditional process of evaluating each bond proposal on its own merits, and we find this one to be worthwhile.

SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Proposition B.