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The fight for homelessness is shared by Bay Area liberals and tech billionaires

SAN FRANCISCO – In a city in which the massive influx of high-paid technology workers has been blamed for rising house prices and exacerbating homelessness, the question of who should pay for a solution has prompted a politically ambiguous $ 300 million tax measure per year for the homeless.

San Francisco's proposal C reflects a broader phenomenon, based on the conviction that the booming Bay Area technology companies should pay more taxes to help cities cope with the growing homelessness crisis and fearsome traffic.

In Mountain View, voters are asked to approve a "poll tax" per employee to raise money for traffic jams. Most of the tax would be paid by the largest employer of Mountain View, Google.

If corporate taxes from San Francisco or Mountain View get voter approval on Tuesday, similar charges will likely affect other cities in the Bay Area, Mountain View mayor Lenny Siegel, an advocate of his city's tax plan, predicts.

"This is something we expect cities to do with great technical effort," Siegel said. "When we need more money, we always think about the little guy. Now we have the opportunity to tax companies that have more money than they know what to do. "

Unlike Mountain View, where Google has not publicly opposed the tax plan, some of San Francisco's technical CEOs are conducting a high-profile fight – against each other.

On the one hand is Salesforce boss Marc Benioff, who donated $ 2 million to support Proposition C. His company has spent nearly six million dollars more in the campaign, financial reports show.

"Unfortunately, some CEOs are still short-sighted and believe that they are only in fiduciary duty to the shareholders and bear little or no responsibility to the communities in which they conduct business," Benioff said in a October 31 tweet. he retweeted since then – and retweeted.

Pedestrians walking past the Salesforce Tower on November 1, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group

On the other side is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who retires on behalf of the company he runs, the mobile payment company Square. After Benioff publicly urged Dorsey to announce how much he and his companies spent on helping the homeless, Dorsey flipped back on Twitter: "Marc: You're distracting. Here I would like to support Mayor @LondonBreed for * the * reason she was chosen. The mayor does not support Prop. C and we should listen to her. "

Lyft, Stripe and Visa have also contributed thousands of dollars to defeating the measure. Chuck Robbins, CEO of San Jose based in San Jose, is one of those supporting Proposition C. Cisco has pledged $ 50 million for five years this year to end homelessness in Santa Clara County.

Proposition C's "Gross Income Tax" would almost double what the city currently spends on housing and homeless services by applying a complex formula to a company's worldwide revenue, taking into account industries, office locations and size. This would affect only companies with gross revenues in excess of $ 50 million, and generally larger, mainly city-based companies would pay more. Half of the new revenue would be spent on permanent housing, one quarter would be used for psychosocial services for the homeless, and the remainder would help prevent homelessness and short-term accommodation.

This bothers Dorsey, who spent $ 125,000 in the fight against the measure, with Square advancing another $ 50,000, according to campaign funding.

Late last month, Dorsey tweeted that the tax on Square and other financial technology startups was unfair, such as Stripe, an online payment company that donated $ 400,000 to defend itself against the move. He said it could force Square to pay more than $ 20 million next year, while Salesforce – a much larger company – could pay less than $ 10 million.

Mayor Breed said in a statement that Proposition C was damaging the local economy and would lead to the "inevitable flight of corporate headquarters – and jobs – from San Francisco to other cities in the Bay Area or to other states."

Mission and Fourth Street in San Francisco, California, Thursday, November 1, 2018. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)

Breed highlighted the work of her administration, pointing to the increase in beds for housing and care facilities, spending on facilities for people on the verge of homelessness, and working with state legislators and leaders in neighboring regions.

The homelessness coalition that gave rise to Proposition C said that the city must first and foremost house the thousands of people who suffer on the streets.

"If it happens, homelessness on the street would be drastically reduced," said Sam Lew, a political director of the coalition.

But Breed and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce fear that without countermeasures against homelessness, Prop C would have the opposite effect across the region and state, turning the city into a magnet for warring people.

"They will spend this enormous amount of resources and have a continuous cycle of homeless people … coming to San Francisco to serve these services," said Jim Lazarus, Vice President of Public Affairs in the Chamber, who opposes the initiative.

The homelessness crisis in San Francisco and its problems with many human wastes and used syringes have increased in recent years, although the number of homeless people was around 7,000. Development and clean-up have forced homeless people from hidden areas, while a heroin epidemic hit the oppressed hard, Lazarus said.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein, of San Francisco, said in a statement that she "would support virtually any homeless plan." , , We Need to Help If you see someone lying – and I just did – on a hot sidewalk sleeping with nothing, it's not the United States of America. "

New federal tax cuts have helped businesses pay more for their communities, Mountain View Seal said. "There is a sense that companies have the money and they have even more money … so they can afford to pay," Siegel said.

A person is sleeping in Market Street, San Francisco, California on Thursday, November 1, 2018. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group.)

San Francisco attorney and attorney Dennis Vann has not yet made a final decision on how to vote, but he is "almost against Proposition C". "It's just more money for the problem," Vann said, 64. "Put money into mental health."

Anna Morrow, who blames tech companies for her relocation from an apartment to the street and now to a public housing project, believes Proposition C could help. The 58-year-old former massage therapist and consultant said today's burgeoning tech industry and rising rents make it impossible for people to get up again after becoming homeless.

"I will live in social housing for the rest of my life," she said a few steps from the Twitter headquarters on the sidewalk. "The tech industry should definitely have to shoulder some of that responsibility."



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