Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 7 - Norman Yee

DISTRICT 7 - Norman Yee

How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City? Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.

Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or Communities. I believe the arts and artist have an incredible positive impact on the community and on our city. I see everyday how our community is made better by art and artist. I was very proud to work with Precita Eyes to expand a beautiful mural along Laguna Honda Hospital and we were able to do so through our District 7 Participatory Budgeting Program.

How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?

I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy and benefit from the arts. I would like to see a significant increase in funding for arts program and events specifically to be held in underserved communities. Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities. I have been incredibly excited to work with the Ocean Avenue Association on their Second Sundays event which brings music, art and entertainment to one of the main thoroughfare in the district. I have also been excited to work with Precita Eyes on a mural project. I am also looking forward to working with other organizations on many similar projects.

Research shows that students with an arts rich education have better grade point averages, lower dropout rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?

I was one of the authors of Prop C which reauthorized PEEF for 25 years ensuring that San Francisco Public School will have a baseline to ensure arts education is provided and thriving in our Public Schools.

How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist specific affordable housing? Why or why not?

My plans are to continue to push for additional funding for affordable housing. I believe what the City can access in terms of state and federal funding is insufficient, and therefore we must continue to invest local money to supplement funds already available. As Supervisor, I supported increased investments through our November 2015 housing bond, and through our annual budget process. I also believe that we need to ensure that the affordable housing we do build meets the needs of all the people who are struggling to remain in San Francisco. I am working with the City Planning Department to define the elements of good family units to apply to new housing, and pushed to include more family friendly housing units in new developments such as Mission Rock and the 5M development in the old Chronicle building. I am also supporting an effort to build housing at the Balboa Reservoir that balances the neighborhood character  with the need to create affordable housing. I have pushed to make this project at least 50% affordable.

What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?

I am excited to support Proposition X on this November Ballot as an important step in the right direction. I was also supportive of the allocation for arts organization been displaced in the City. We need a comprehensive strategy to address displacement, this strategy will have to include artists and arts organization because we cannot to pit people against each other, many are struggling and we need to come together.

Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness? Why or why not? 
Yes

Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities. Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city? Why or why not?

Yes, I think that it is good policy and it could be successful city wide

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Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 5 - London Breed

DISTRICT 5 - London Breed

How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City? Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.

I served for 10 years as the Executive Director of the African American Arts & Culture Complex where we provided empowering programs through the arts to my community. I have witnessed first-hand how arts and expression can truly change lives. I am proud to continue supporting artists and art organizations throughout my tenure as Supervisor. Our city has always been a haven for artists and it’s imperative that not only we continue to support the arts at all levels, but that we support policies around housing that keep them in our communities.

How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?

Growing up in public housing in the Western Addition, I didn’t have a lot but I was the product of public schools. It’s a shame that arts education hasn’t been a priority for decades, but as Hillary Clinton would say “it takes a village”. I believe that nonprofit and after school programs have an important role to play in that effort. As the Executive Director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, I provided after school arts programs and support for thousands of children in the Western Addition. But it’s also important that we fund arts at the adult and professional levels. I believe in artists getting paid for their work – not just the final product but the hours and hours of training and practice that goes into that final piece of work. I actually display art in my office at City Hall and make it an avenue for artists to sell their work.

Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.

I am an art lover in every way – I am interested in every opportunity to improve our community with art. I am lucky to live in and represent a district with so many public art pieces and murals. The more the better!

Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?

As I referenced earlier, I believe that nonprofit and after school programs have an important role to play in that effort. As the Executive Director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, I provided after school arts programs and support for thousands of children in the Western Addition.

How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist-specific affordable housing? Why or why not?

To me, affordable housing means just that – housing that an everyday person has access to. We live in a city that boasts many different income levels. A lot of people who aren’t rich but have good jobs, are finding themselves in a place where they can’t qualify for affordable housing or any kind of assistance, but they still can’t afford market rate. It’s also incredibly important that we make a real connection to the people who live and work here – artists as well. That’s why I passed groundbreaking Neighborhood Preference legislation to prioritize our neighbors for the affordable housing units built in our community. Recently, the federal government dealt a devastating blow to our plan, ruling that federally-funded housing projects could not use Neighborhood Preference. My goal is to preserve the affordable housing we do have, rehabilitate and build more affordable units, and to continue working on a blueprint of the neighborhood that analyzes the policies of the past, assesses our present, and outlines our future next steps. As Supervisor I have: passed legislation prioritizing neighborhood residents for affordable housing in our community; introduced San Francisco’s highest affordable housing requirements; protected thousands of rent-controlled units from demolition; successfully pushed to increase citywide requirements from the 2012 standard of 12%--we are now at 25%; and rehabilitated vacant public housing units, providing permanent housing for 179 homeless families.

What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents -- for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces -- for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?

The City can and should provide more direct subsidies to arts organizations. It should make surplus City space available for arts uses, even if it’s only temporary, as I have helped arrange currently on a parcel in Hayes Valley. The City should also push for dedicated arts spaces in large projects such as Mission Rock or Hunter’s Point Shipyard.

Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness? Why or why not?

Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities. Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city? Why or why not?

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Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 3 - Tim Donnelly

DISTRICT 3 - Tim Donnelly

How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City?  Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.

Art is important for the enjoyment of life. Growing up in the City there were plenty of bands playing everywhere, including neighborhood garages. I believe the abundance and quality of music we had inspired many to pursue musical careers, and to play music for the enjoyment of it.

How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?

I believe we need to have after-school programs that offer Art and Music, to enrich our youth and find that hidden talent. It would also benefit working parents to have their kids engaged in a safe and healthy activity after school.

Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.

I have always appreciated how murals have beautified otherwise dreary facades, and have told important stories. They could and should be utilized more for their beauty and for delivering a message.

Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?

I guess I answered this already. Our students should have every opportunity to develop all of their talents. Be it education, dance, music of various forms of art. It affords them confidence and opens up worlds of possibilities and friendships.

How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist-specific affordable housing? Why or why not?

I believe our required affordable housing should be prioritized to allow those who we want most to be here, to be able to afford to stay. Teachers and first responders for example. Rather than a random lottery, perhaps positive influence for their community should be taken into account. I think this City is getting quite crowded already. We should be more selective about what get built and where, as well as what it displaces. I think Oakland needs at least 100,000 more people to be the vibrant city they want to be. They have plenty of room, especially to the west, which is a faster commute to downtown SF, than many of our own neighborhoods. This would also take the pressure off of our own housing stock.

What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents -- for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces -- for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?

Again I answered the question already. (I should read the whole thing first) Aside from the win-win of developing Oakland, we need to expand our rent control to include newer buildings, single- family homes and businesses.

Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness?  Why or why not?

I support the use of hotel tax for the arts. I believe we need to get better bang for our buck with regards to City spending. We need to closely audit our service providers to see that best use of the funds, are happening.

Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities.  Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city?  Why or why not?

I wish new buildings would spend the money to look like something we want in our neighborhood. We are losing our charm. Design beautiful buildings and put our artists to work making them appealing.

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Board of Supervisor Candidates: DISTRICT 1 -  Sandra Lee Fewer

DISTRICT 1 -  Sandra Lee Fewer

How would you describe the specific impact of artists and arts organizations on the life of our City?  Please use at least one example of the arts changing lives or communities.

SF has a long legacy of treasuring our arts and arts community, and we pride ourselves on having a diverse range of arts in the city. As a member of the SF Board of Education, I am clear that there is a critical role for arts within our schools.  We saw a dry spell for many years because of lack of funding, but we have reintroduced not only visual but performing arts into our schools, and this recent additional funding has transformed the arts experience for tens of thousands of students each year.  There is a new mural being painted at Galileo High School, which will transform the experience for thousands of students entering that school every day—it is quite frankly magnificent. My own son was a ballet dancer and pianist and composer. As a mother, I think the arts are very important component of our students’ lives, and I have vigorously advocated for a sequential arts curriculum so that every student who graduates has a arts foundation upon which their knowledge can grow.

How will you ensure that San Francisco’s historically underserved communities are able to access the full benefits of the arts and resources for creative and community expression?

In SF schools, 90% of our students are of color and most are low-income; they come from traditionally underserved neighborhoods and so having arts in schools is so important.  But the arts must be accessible not only to students but their families.  Having families be able to enjoy both traditional and non-traditional arts could include city-funded free performances or family passes to museums.  But underserved communities should not only be able to enjoy the arts but also create art themselves.  The arts are often viewed through a middle-class paradigm but we could be offering mini-grants to allow for the cultivation of community artists in underserved neighborhoods and support the organic development of new art communities that too often face a lack of resources as an obstacle.

Over the past year the arts have been utilized to improve safety and protect the environment. For example, artist studios have activated vacant buildings. Murals have highlighted bike corrals and warned residents about the dangers of pollution. Name one or two ways you would leverage the work of artists and arts organizations to cultivate vibrant neighborhoods and achieve civic priorities.

In District 1, we have seen many new murals be commissioned— like Mr. Foggy’s Neighborhood on Clement— which represents an exciting and vibrant Richmond District.  I wold love to see more of this in our neighborhoods, using art to highlight our neighborhood history, key issues facing residents, and storytelling.  Also, given that 70% of Golden Gate Park is in District 1, I’m interested in exploring how we can use this resource to cultivate more opportunities for visual and performing arts as an intersection with open space.

Research shows that students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, lower drop-out rates, and score better on standardized tests in reading and math. How will you ensure every San Francisco student is provided a robust arts education in school and has access to ample opportunities to engage in art outside of school?

I agree that for every student to have a robust and well-rounded education it must include the arts—and we are not currently incorporating arts into our academic curriculum and in particular our humanities curriculum.  As the Director of Parent Organizing and Education at Coleman Advocates and as a Board of Education member, I have vigorously supported measures like the Public Education and Enrichment Fund, which provide funding for the arts in schools. I’d like to work with arts organizations to explore how we can build opportunities for intersection with the arts, and support our teachers and afterschool staff in understanding how to build it into their curriculum.  

How will you improve affordable housing and tenant protections, both for low income and middle class San Franciscans? Do you support artist-specific affordable housing? Why or why not?

The major issue I see facing our city is one of economic inequality (deeply connected to racial disparities in our city for communities of color)—and that encompasses several other policy issues, including: the development of affordable housing; tenant protections; long-term infrastructure planning for our growing population (like do we have a transportation system or enough schools in place); how we are treating workers in San Francisco; and even decisions about how our city collects and disseminates our resources (and from/for who).  I believe that we must think outside of the box with regard to strategies for building affordable housing, and look at surplus public lands, community land trusts, small site acquisitions, and financing options from pension funds for affordable housing development. There is incredible demand for affordable housing and because so many low and middle income workers are struggling I do worry about artists being pit against teachers against firefighters, etc.  That said, I would be interested in discussing more specific proposals and I am open to artist-specific housing.

What can the City do to address skyrocketing rents -- for office, studio, rehearsal and performance spaces -- for artists, arts groups and other nonprofits?

Rents are out of control and not only for residential units-- I am interested in working with state officials to develop an initiative for commercial rent control.  I also think that we must work to pass Prop X, the PDR ballot measure on the November ballot to protect artists and non-profit organizations.

Do you support the SF Arts and Families Funding Ordinance, restoring allocations of some Hotel Tax revenues to the City’s arts agencies and resources to prevent family homelessness?  Why or why not?

I support the principle of this measure but cannot support in full because as a school board commissioner, I was recently advised by the Superintendent that this measure reduces funding for the schools in the amount of $2M that currently pays for social workers and nurses.  It is these staff people who are currently supporting our students, including those struggling with family homelessness.  If anything, schools are asking us for more support personnel as more families struggle with homelessness and housing insecurity.  So while I support this in principle, I really am struggling with the fact that it reduces funding for supports in our schools.

Private development in some portions of the City must set aside 1% of their construction budget for art, or support for arts facilities.  Would you support extending that 1% for art requirement on new development to the entire city?  Why or why not?

I’m open to it, but I’d have to learn more about this issue to understand the considerations and possible impact.

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Emerging Bay Area Arts Organizations Face Unique Challenges

Re-granting, crowdfunding, cultural data, and funding transparency promise greater equity

 By Kelly Varian, Communications Specialist at Sustain Arts 

Six months ago Sustain Arts launched a series of free cultural data resources tailored to meet the needs of arts organizations in the Bay Area. The online platform provides data for everyday strategic decision-making. For example, users track funding connections between grantmakers and grantees, search for arts organizations by budget size, discipline, and county, and explore audience participation rates and demographics. Yet Sustain Arts does much more than supply data. 

At Sustain Arts, we endeavor to tell a story about the Bay Area arts sector that is grounded in facts and to facilitate community dialogue informed by a shared understanding of the health and sustainability of the local arts ecosystem. To this end, Sustain Arts published a Bay Area Key Learnings Report analyzing 17 highly relevant national and local data sets. The report highlights unique challenges and opportunities facing small arts organizations in the Bay Area. 

At first glance, Sustain Arts data suggests sector-wide prosperity. Compared to the rest of the nation, the Bay Area arts sector recovered rapidly from the 2008 recession. Revenue jumped 30% between 2009 and 2012 (compared to a 7% national average), attendance increased 4%, and both earned and contributed income went up for non-profit organizations. Most impressive of all, board giving spiked 222% in the same period. 

Yet despite sector-wide success, a deeper dive into the data reveals this narrative of resilience may not ring true for all. Financial gains for the Bay Area’s largest arts organizations inflate sector-wide averages and smaller, emerging organizations lag financially. Organizations with annual budgets under $10M show negative margins and have a .3% deficit on average, while organizations with budgets over $10M enjoy a 23% surplus. Finally, very small arts organizations are most likely to fail. Those with budgets under $100K have a 69% survival rate, and those with budgets of over $1M have a 90% survival rate.   

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To many in the arts community, these statistics may not come as a surprise. Conversations about creating equity have become ubiquitous at Bay Area arts sector conferences and coalition meetings, and cultural leaders increasingly advocate for policy to protect the arts. Sustain Arts data provides insights into the specific factors destabilizing small organizations.

CHALLENGES

1. Bay Area arts and cultural funding patterns favor large organizations. Less than 15 percent of Bay Area arts nonprofits have budgets over $1 million, but they receive over three-quarters of foundation funding for the arts in the Bay Area.  

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2. Smaller organizations have limited geographic reach. The larger a nonprofit arts and cultural organization, the further Bay Area residents will travel to visit it. Participants will travel over 15 miles on average to visit an organization with a budget of $8M, and only ten miles to visit an organization with a budget under $8M.  

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While small organizations face many challenges, Sustain Arts data reveals a promising number of opportunities for increased sustainability, namely re-granting, crowdfunding, access to cultural data resources, and greater funding transparency.

OPPORTUNITIES 

1. Re-granting supports small organizations. More than half of dollars re-granted by intermediary organizations such as Sustain Arts partners Theatre Bay Area, Dancers’ Group, and Silicon Valley Creates, support arts and cultural organizations with annual revenues of less than $100,000.

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2. Alternative giving vehicles provide a new revenue stream for small for-profit and nonprofit entities. More than $24.6 million was raised on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter for arts and culture related projects in the Bay Area in 2013 alone. The vast majority of recipients were for-profits, while unincorporated entities, nonprofits, and individuals raised less. 

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3. Sustain Arts levels the playing field in terms of access to cultural data. Arts and culture organizations in the Bay Area increasingly rely on data for critical fundraising, strategic planning, marketing, partnership development, and general operating activity; yet obtaining high-quality data can be prohibitively expensive, time-consuming and challenging, particularly for small to mid-sized organizations with limited resources. Sustain Arts seeks to create equal opportunity for all organizations by providing free and easy-to-use online cultural data resources to the public. 

4. Increased funding transparency promises a more equitable arts sector. The Sustain Arts/Bay Area platform enables users to examine the interrelationships among organizations and their funders, shifting demographics, and participation trends. By bringing these types of data together, we can begin to see how sector growth and development does or does not align with demographic changes or emerging cultural preferences. And we can begin to see whether capitalization flows favor large, established or small, emerging cultural organizations and how broadly (or narrowly) they serve the cultural needs of the community. 

Whether you are part of a small or large organization, nonprofit or for-profit, Sustain Arts would love to hear from you. Do our observations ring true to your experiences? Are you taking advantage of re-granting, crowdfunding, or Sustain Arts’ free cultural data resources? Would you like to incorporate Sustain Arts’ Key Learnings into a conference or event? Please email me at kellyvarian(at)gmail(dot)com or take this brief Sustain Arts survey.

Take a few more minutes to read the Bay Area Key Learnings Report 

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SNAPSHOT: Cultural Equity Statements

Mark Sabb is the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) and Sarah Pritchard is the Director of Communications at SOMArts Cultural Center. They recently sat down to discuss organizational statements on cultural equity in the arts. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation, including quick links to more resources on crafting a cultural equity statement that fits your organization.

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  • With organizations like Americans for the Arts adopting Cultural Equity Statements, it seems like there is growing momentum behind arts organizations adopting statements that detail their approach to cultural equity. What do you think is motivating this trend?
  • Increasingly, arts organizations are understanding their responsibility to the communities they service. I think Americans for the Arts did a great job offering a definition of the term as embodying “the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources.”
  • Cultural Equity takes into account that we all have valuable stories and complex histories while also recognizing that certain communities have histories which have been historically repressed. I think it is important for every arts organization to have these ideals as a part of their core values. 
  • We were asked to create a template for Bay Area organizations interested in creating cultural equity statements. After talking it over, we decided that we would rather provide a list of resources so that organizations could be more intentional about crafting statements that are a good fit for their unique settings. We didn’t want to encourage a copy-and-paste approach to addressing systemic issues of inequality in organizations’ cultures. 
  • Along with the direction Sarah stated above, we believe that it is important to remember the cultural perspective and history of the community you serve when creating cultural equity statements. As arts organizations we should do all we can to encourage strength in diversity and collaboration.
  • As part of ABBA’s work, we are committed to promoting a just and fair arts ecosystem in the Bay Area — working together to eradicate systemic racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia when they manifest in the arts world. If adopting a cultural equity statement at your arts organization will help achieve those goals, see below for some of the resources we were able to find and contact ABBA if you would like to connect about how to implement a cultural equity statement. We would love to work with you!

Example cultural equity statements:

Resources to support organizations adopting cultural equity statements:

 

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Vote S to Stabilize Artists and Homeless Families

By Rebecca Bowe

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Mayor Ed Lee recently approved a whopping $9.6 billion city budget, reflecting tremendous economic growth in recent years — as one newspaper pointed out, that’s more cash flow than the entire state of Iowa has to work with. But it would come as a shock to no one that the benefits of abundant wealth floating through San Francisco aren’t equally distributed.

Among others, artists and homeless families are two groups acutely impacted by the pressures of San Francisco’s sky-high cost of living. To balance the scales for them, an unlikely coalition of advocates has come together to carve out a life raft of funding assistance. Their measure on the November ballot promises to offer help to families facing housing loss and artists who find themselves in precarious situations, and it won’t require a heavier lift from taxpayers. To achieve this, the measure would allocate funds from the city’s hotel tax.

San Franciscans will have a chance to bring greater stability to homeless families and artists by voting in favor of Prop. S, the Arts and Families Initiative, on the November ballot.

Don’t miss your chance to vote

Arts and culture are at the heart of what makes San Francisco unique, but economic pressures have propelled a rash of evictions and displacement. When the San Francisco Arts Commission surveyed 600 local artists last year to assess their level of stability, results showed that 70 percent either had been or were about to be displaced from their homes, workplaces, or both.

For homeless families, constant instability can be a dangerous day-to-day struggle. One in 25 public school students is now homeless in San Francisco, says Coalition on Homelessness Director Jenny Friedenbach. She estimates there are twice as many homeless kids today as there were five years ago. Typically, “our kids are homeless for at least a year,” Friedenbach explains. “But the damage is permanent.”

One in 25 San Francisco public school students is homeless, according to the Coalition on Homelessness

 

A unique alliance of arts and homeless advocacy organizations came together to hatch a solution: Take some of the funding from the city’s long-established hotel tax, and use it to tackle family homelessness and boost funding for the arts.

The unprecedented coalition has brought together small and large arts organizations across the city, as well as a number of homeless advocacy groups. Among them are groups as disparate as the San Francisco Ballet, SOMArts Cultural Center, SRO Families United Collaborative, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, the Homeless Prenatal Program, the Exploratorium and Z Space. It also has a range of endorsements from across the political spectrum: Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, rivals in the race for California Senate, both support it, as do Sups. Eric Mar, Norman Yee and David Campos. The San Francisco Tenants Union is on board, as is San Francisco’s largest city employees’ union, SEIU 1021. There’s no formal opponent listed on the ballot. 

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“There’s been a real focus on equity, in many different forms,” says Adam Fong, a composer and cofounder of the Center for New Music, who has helped the effort along. If the Arts and Families Initiative fails to pass, the existence of cultural institutions that help make San Francisco what it is could be jeopardized and families seeking permanent housing would be at higher risk of experiencing homelessness. Extreme circumstances brought these advocates together, but support is still urgently needed. The threshold for approval is a two-thirds majority of San Francisco voters. 

Hotel tax revenue is growing

Directing hotel tax revenue toward these twin purposes is a smart move, because the funding generated by this tax is on an upward trend. In the next four years alone, it’s projected to increase by about $90 million, and this measure would only allocate about 38 percent of that expected revenue increase.

Tourism is one of several powerhouses relied upon to replenish city coffers. In 2015, according to San Francisco Travel, 24.6 million people visited San Francisco. That same year, 44 conventions were booked at the Moscone Convention Center, which, according to SF Travel, ensures more than 1.5 million overnight hotel stays stretching all the way into the year 2032. As of April, there were also proposals to build a dozen new hotels in San Francisco.

In 2015, 44 conventions were booked at the Moscone Convention Center

 

Visitors arrive from every corner of the globe, but almost every San Francisco hotel guest has something in common: Their bill comes with a little extra fee tacked onto the end, known as the hotel tax.

The tax was set up in 1961 with the intention of supporting arts and culture organizations in San Francisco through grants and other forms of assistance. The concept set off a trend. Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles followed suit soon after with similar taxes aimed at shoring up the arts, so that they could boast cultural draws that would attract even more visitors. In the decade after it was established, funds from the San Francisco hotel tax were also directed toward low-income housing programs.

092113_WelcomeDeborah_byTommyLau_008.jpgBut even though the tax was meant to give artists and low-income residents a leg up in a pricey city, San Francisco didn’t stay true to that intention over the years. Hotel tax funding for these special purposes started to erode in the early 2000s, when the city fell on lean times. In 2013, specific allocations were repealed altogether, and the hotel tax revenue was absorbed into the city’s general fund to pay for various city services.

The dedicated funding was never fully restored, even after the economic picture improved. All told, artists and arts organizations have lost more than $200 million in funding over the past 14 years, while low-income housing programs lost $90 million.

And in the arts world, as funding support waned, it got harder to make it work in San Francisco. Just ask Nomy Lamm.

 An endless housing hunt

“I’m a voice teacher -- my primary medium is singing,” Lamm explains, but this only scratches the surface. “I’ve been in a bunch of bands, and I play accordion. I do performance arts stuff -- dressed as a bird, dressed as a mermaid.” At various points Lamm has also been a novelist, an illustrator, a documentary filmmaker, and an activist. She’s participated in arts symposiums and used her work to plug in on issues affecting people with disabilities, the queer community, communities of color impacted by police violence, and other social-justice causes.

A film she made recently screened at Artists’ Television Access on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. And at an October ODC show with the Sins Invalid performance project, which incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, she plans to treat the audience to a mix of voice and live sound loops while donning a dress “the size of the stage.” There’s just one problem — Lamm no longer lives in the city where she makes art, even though it’s a place that’s fed her creativity since she moved here almost nine years ago. 

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After being caught in an unworkable housing situation last year, she and her partner Lisa, also an artist, embarked on a housing hunt. But in the end, the search was in vain — they were even turned down as tenants when they applied to live in a unit two hours north of San Francisco. Making matters worse, across her community of artists and musicians, “Everyone we knew was getting evicted.”

Lamm and her partner relocated to Olympia, Washington, where she grew up, this past January. She’s made the trek back and forth to San Francisco time and again to continue to be a part of the arts scene, but the distance has reshaped her reality and altered her career for good. The Arts and Families Initiative might offer new hope for artists who are determined to stay put despite the challenges.

How the allocation will work

If it passes, the new hotel tax allocation will provide more operating support grants for the arts. It will triple funding for arts agencies that make grants to historically underserved communities and nonprofits that provide affordable facilities for artists and arts organizations. And it will make it easier for arts organizations to access emergency rent support if they need it.

It will also create the Ending Family Homelessness Fund -- a much-needed source of emergency funding that could be tapped to stabilize current housing for families at risk of displacement, or to provide help for homeless families looking for housing.

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All told, 17 percent of the hotel tax would be dedicated toward new arts funding by 2020, while 3.6 percent would go toward homeless family services. It’s important to note that homelessness and family services receive more funding in other parts of the city budget, which aren’t covered by this tax allocation.

While the city controller has noted that the proposal would make it slightly more expensive to fund a variety of city government services, this prediction doesn’t tell the whole story. Budget projections are necessarily based on conservative estimates — but recent history indicates that revenues from the hotel tax are increasing, not remaining stagnant. So the estimated impact could be less than what’s currently anticipated.

Even though it’s widely supported, it will still be an uphill battle to win voter approval for Prop. S, since it requires a two-thirds majority approval. Help get the word out that artists and homeless families need Prop. S to pass. And don’t forget to vote. 

Rebecca Bowe is a San Francisco resident who has great appreciation for the arts and is concerned about youth and families who are struggling with homelessness.

Photo Credit, From Top to Bottom: ABBA Open Meeting 2015, by Ernesto Sopprani; Kronos Quartet Open Rehearsal with Wu Man, Center for New Music; YBCA Welcome Deborah 2013, by Tommy Lau; Nomy Lamm, "Bird Song" ©Richard Downing, Courtesy of Sins Invalid, 2011; Eki Shola at New Music Open Mic, Center for New Music, by Meerenai Shim

Want to know more about Prop S? Take a look at the resources ABBA has compiled

 

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Getting Started With Voter Engagement

Make A Plan

If your arts and culture organization is not already promoting voter registration and getting out the vote, now is an excellent time to start.

NonprofitVote.org offers a voter engagement checklist to help you consider your organization’s capacity and begin a coordinate, achievable effort with your team.

Register Online

Californians with a social security number and a valid California driver's license or California-issued identification card may complete registration online at the California Secretary of State's website.

Voter registration may also be completed at a Department of Motor Vehicles location.

Host a Polling Place 

The Department of Elections is responsible for providing suitable polling sites for each of the 576 voting precincts located in San Francisco. If you have a clean, well-lit, accessible lobby or other space that might be usable, you may contact Precinct Services at (415) 554-4551 or e-mail us at [email protected]

Be a Poll Worker

The City and County of San Francisco and Alameda County are both accepting applications from those interested in becoming poll workers.

Find your Polling Place

You can enter your address and find your polling place on the CA Secretary of State website. Information will be available 2-4 weeks prior to the election.

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Cultural Space Welcome (2016)

Hi Artists and Supporters,

As many of you know, there has been a flurry of activity around SF arts funding in the last year and many people want to know how to learn more. Navigating the nexus of politics, local funding and art-making can be a daunting task, so this is our effort to help fill you in on some of the details.

Basically, last year, some local artists and arts organizations decided to come together, ask for increased arts funding, leverage some political clout and ABBA was created. What's ABBA you ask? ABBA is Arts for a Better Bay Area and we are a coalition to help educate about arts-related matters and increase arts funding in the Bay Area.

Within ABBA are a few different components and some of us are involved with the Cultural Space Committee, a sub group that feels passionately about improving access to and retention of local art spaces and we want you to help.

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We are really excited about hosting a special cultural spaces public meeting at SOMArts on October 17 and would love to hear from you about what our community needs. What do you think local art spaces should be doing? What do you need to know in order to feel more engaged, more informed and to help you articulate what you think needs to happen?  We’ll also breakdown the two local ballot measures that help support art and artists in San Francisco, and make sure you’re informed come election day on November 8.

So reach out to us and let us know what you think. ABBA has a great website and we will be populating it with lots of helpful documents, resources, FAQs and info to keep you updated on important meetings that relate to cultural spaces. We will also be working on organizing the public meeting this summer and we can use lots of help to make that happen.

Joen & Joe

ABBA Cultural Space Committee Co-chairs

 Cultural Space Committee aims to develop and implement preservation strategies for cultural spaces and artist housing.

 

 

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Advocacy & Non Profits

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On Wednesday, June 29, 2016 several ABBA leaders got the chance to attend the Worry-Free Advocacy training by Bolder Advocacy, An initiative of Alliance for Justice. The training is very relevant as institutions tied to ABBA look for ways to advocate for ballot measure campaigns such as Arts and Homelessness within the confines of what is allowed. Nonprofits are encouraged to lobby and have the right to do so. Many of the activities that can influence policy do not technically meet the definition of lobbying, examples include expressing a view on a ballot, or an indirect call to action. 

During the training useful tools such as the 501 (h) expenditure tests were discussed and contextualized to help nonprofits determine their limits. The training also touched on the importance of tracking contributions to ballot measure campaigns to report on the IRS Form 990, along with the amount of time staff members can spend on ballot measure campaigns before reporting that contribution of staff time.

You can find more resources below along with future training dates.

Lobbying:

Election-related Activity:

California Ballot Measures:

Interested in more workshops?

If you would like to bring a Bolder Advocacy training to your organization, please fill out this form, and we will contact you to discuss your options.

You can checkout upcoming public trainings and webinars here!

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Have more questions about your nonprofit advocacy rights?

Please feel free to contact the attorney on call at advocacy(at)afj(dot)org or 866-NP-LOBBY (866-675-6229) if you have any questions. In addition, you can share my contact information with anyone who would prefer to receive their asistencia técnica en español: sara(at)afj(dot)org and 510-444-6070 x 2002.

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