Homeless initiative divides San Francisco - Activate World

Homeless initiative divides San Francisco


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that he and his company will donate millions of dollars to the campaign for Proposition C, an upcoming ballot measure that will raise taxes on the biggest San Francisco businesses—including Salesforce—and use the money to help the homeless. Proposition C would more than double San Francisco’s housing-assistance spending by levying an average tax of 0.5% on business gross receipts over $50 million per year.

Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle (whose editorial board opposes the proposition) that he will donate $1 million ($500,000 from himself, $500,000 from Salesforce) directly to the campaign for Proposition C. He will also spend an additional $1 million on ads backing it on the ballot. “Homelessness is all of our responsibility which is why we are supporting Prop C,” Benioff said via Twitter.

Jason McDaniel, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, says it is likely to pass unless political leaders band together to block it. “I suspect that local companies don’t have the same kind of relationship to the political establishment as they do in Seattle,” he said. “There’s no Amazon here. It’s not like a company town.”

Homelessness is a major problem in San Francisco, as well as other cities on the West Coast with growing numbers of high-paying tech jobs that price lower-income residents out of a shrinking housing supply. Seattle leaders recently repealed a tax on large employers that was intended to fund homelessness services after Amazon pushed back.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced her opposition to Proposition C just before early voting got underway. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which opposes Proposition C and claims it will drive businesses out of the city, coined the slogan “Right Priority, Wrong Approach” to undermine the tax plan. The chamber says suddenly infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into indigence programs would be fiscally irresponsible and would mostly just attract more homeless people to the city.

Proposition C is backed by a coalition that includes homelessness and gay rights groups. Up to half of the money raised would go toward permanent housing, from rental subsidies to new housing. Up to a quarter would go toward mental health services.Supporters say a surge of funding toward compassionate programs would dramatically clear the streets.

“We have a really strong grass roots campaign that is really inspiring the hearts of San Franciscans who want to see the homelessness crisis tackled today,” spokeswoman with the Coalition on Homelessness, Jennifer Friedenbach said. She added that the proposition has the support of U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.


  • Marc Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle, “At the end of the day, it’s going to be — are you for the homeless or not for the homeless? For me, it’s binary,” he said. “I’m for the homeless.”
  • In a series of tweets, Benioff challenged Jack Dorsey’s, CEO of Twitter and Square, opposition to Proposition C.  Dorsey supports San Francisco Major London Breed and her audit of existing spending on homelessness before pursuing new funding. Benioff questioned what Dorsey was contributing financially to solve the homeless issue, and Dorsey ended the spat with a telephone call to Benioff.
  • Newly-elected San Francisco Mayor London Breed vowed to clear the streets of its homeless tent camps within a year of taking office.
  • South of San Francisco, Mountain View’s City Council put a measure on the November ballot asking voters to authorize a tax on Google and other companies with employees in the Silicon Valley city.

Quests and Actions (Q&A):

  • How can business leaders be a force for good on the social issue of homelessness?
  • Should business leaders push for legislation that addresses mental illness as the underlying cause of homelessness? 
  • How does a city address the ethical responsibility of providing affordable housing for the homeless when it conflicts with the rights and desires of landowners and residents?

Sources:  Curbed San FranciscoFast CompanyLos Angeles TimesSan Francisco Chronicle

Updated on October 15, 2018, to reflect the Twitter exchange between Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. Source: Newsweek

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash