Creates a new city commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
What the Measure Would Do
Proposition C would create a new seven-member Homelessness Oversight Commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The commission would have authority to:
- Approve departmental budgets and establish policy goals
- Develop departmental performance standards and conduct performance audits
- Hold hearings and take testimony
- Appoint members of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, which oversees federally funded programs
Boards and committees that currently advise the Board of Supervisors and the mayor on homelessness programs and funding — including the Local Homeless Coordinating Board; the Shelter Monitoring Committee; and the Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee — would advise and make recommendations to this new commission, as well. The commission would not have authority to change programs and services that are required as a condition of funding.
The measure would also require that services relating to homelessness be subject to regular audits by the Office of the Controller.
According to the Office of the Controller, the annual salary and operating costs for the commission would be approximately $350,000.
Commission appointments would be split between the mayor (4 seats) and the Board of Supervisors (3 seats). Mayoral appointees would require approval from the Board of Supervisors. The committee must include people who have experienced homelessness, homeless advocates and service providers, mental health and substance use treatment providers, and business or neighborhood association members. One of the mayor’s appointees would be required to have experience in budgeting, finance and auditing.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing was created in 2016 to consolidate all of San Francisco’s homeless services, which had previously been distributed among multiple agencies. The department director, in consultation with the mayor, currently makes all policy and operational decisions regarding housing, programs and services for people experiencing homelessness. The department’s programs include permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, homeless shelters and street outreach. Its proposed 2022–2023 budget of $676 million is the eighth-largest operating budget of all city departments.
The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is not subject to oversight by a city commission. The Local Homeless Coordinating Board advises the department on its federally funded programs, which account for about 10% of the department’s budget. In 2018, voters approved a new business tax (also called Prop. C) that funds about one-third of the city’s services and programs for homelessness. The Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee makes recommendations to the mayor and the Board of Supervisors on the use of those funds. San Francisco also has a Shelter Monitoring Committee, which inspects group shelters, takes complaints and writes reports to the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors.
Unsheltered homelessness in San Francisco dropped by 15 percent from 2019 to 2022. However, a recent news article reported unsafe conditions in the city’s permanent supportive housing buildings due to the department’s inadequate monitoring and oversight of the nonprofit organizations that manage the properties.
A 2019 proposal from Supervisor Matt Haney to create an oversight commission for the department failed. Studies from the budget and legislative analyst (in 2020) and the Civil Grand Jury (in 2022) have found that the department had improved many of its administrative and organizational functions but had deficiencies in the areas of data management, community engagement and oversight. The Civil Grand Jury recommended the creation of a city commission to provide additional oversight over the department.
Prop. C was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors. As a charter amendment, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
It is unclear whether this measure would have a disproportionate impact on any specific demographic group. If this measure helps reduce the incidence of homelessness in San Francisco, it would benefit extremely low-income residents, who are more likely to be older adults and African Americans. African Americans account for 38% of people experiencing homelessness in the city but represent just 6% of the total population.
- Formal oversight and financial auditing could improve the effectiveness of the programs and services provided by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The department has been flagged for its deficient data management and performance monitoring.
- A commission would offer more opportunity for formal public input on the department’s operations within a single body, rather than at separate boards and committees.
- Creating a commission would not guarantee that services and programs for people experiencing homelessness will improve.
- Prop. C would result in a modest increase in new administrative costs and add a layer of bureaucracy, requiring department staff to report to another entity in addition to existing homelessness services committees.
- Splitting the commission appointments between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors would reduce the mayor’s authority over the department.
There is a need for more oversight, transparency and accountability for a department with the eighth-largest operating budget in the city. Right now, there are currently too many committees and boards that hear complaints on homelessness programs and funding, with little coordination between them. Given the importance of this issue to San Franciscans, we believe there are benefits to having a centralized approach for community engagement on homelessness services and programs. While we think that many of the goals of this measure could have been accomplished legislatively, experience from the past five years shows that the establishment of a commission may be the most expedient way to achieve better transparency and build public trust.
 Joaquin Palomino and Trisha Thadani, “Broken Homes,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2022, https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2022/san-francisco-sros.
 San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst, Performance Audit of the Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing, August 6, 2020, https://sfbos.org/sites/default/files/BLA_Performance_Audit_Homelessness_%26_Supportive_Housing_080620.pdf; and City and County of San Francisco Civil Grand Jury, A Progress Report About the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, June 30, 2022, https://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/2021_2022/2022%20CGJ%20Report_A%20Prog….
 See note 1.