Proposition I: Creating a ‘Dignity Fund’ for Services for Seniors and Disabled Adults

This Charter amendment would create a “Dignity Fund” dedicated to annual, mandatory spending on services for seniors and adults with disabilities.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to put this initiative on the ballot. Voting for: John Avalos, President London Breed, David Campos, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Scott Wiener and Norman Yee. Voting against: Aaron Peskin and Katy Tang.

Why is this on the ballot?

The city’s housing affordability crisis carries a special threat for seniors on fixed incomes and adults whose disabilities limit their work opportunities.

And the city’s senior population is growing. Today, about 186,000 adults in San Francisco are age 60 or older, and that number will rise by about 100,000 by the year 2037, based on 2014 projections from the California Department of Finance. Between now and then, the slice of the population representing seniors will grow from about 22 percent to 28 percent.

Those same projections found that seniors make up a higher percentage of the city’s population than they do in the state as a whole: 21.7 percent, compared with 19.4 percent. And 40 percent of seniors in San Francisco live alone, compared with the statewide average of 33 percent, according to a 2009 report by the San Francisco Human Services Agency.

Compared to data about seniors, population numbers for adults with disabilities are harder to track, largely because they’re based on census data that’s self-reported and therefore less reliable. But the available data, however qualified, suggest that the population of adults with disabilities is on the rise nationally.

The city’s senior population with Alzheimer’s-related dementia also is projected to rise. It will reach almost 35,000 by the year 2030, from about 22,500 in 2007, based on Department of Finance data from that year.

In recent years, a combination of state and federal budget actions have reduced the funding available for programs that serve seniors.

The organizations that form the Dignity Coalition, which helped write the ballot measure, have “been working for over two years to place Proposition I on the ballot,” said Karl Robillard, director of marketing & communications for Meals on Wheels for San Francisco, a coalition member.

The official argument against Proposition I states that this fund could waste taxpayer dollars because it has not defined specific expenditure targets. The fund “can be used for ANYTHING related to Senior Citizens and/or Adults with Disabilities,” and “should be re-named the ‘Anything Goes Fund.’”

What would it do and at what cost?

If passed, the “Dignity Fund” would have “a significant impact on the cost of government,” the city controller says.

Proposition I sets mandatory baseline funding of at least $38 million annually for residents 60 years and older and adults 18 years and older with disabilities, beginning with the current fiscal year, which began July 1. In the previous fiscal year, the city budgeted $32 million for these services, so an additional $6 million would be required immediately. For fiscal 2017-2018, the fund would receive $44 million from the general fund, and increase $3 million a year until fiscal 2026-2027, when it would top out at $71 million annually. The fund would expire after fiscal year 2036-37.

Between fiscal year 2017-18 and 2026-27, if City Hall faced a $200 million deficit it could freeze the fund’s growth.

In the first year, the city’s Department of Aging and Adult Services would set specific spending targets, which it would re-evaluate every four years. But in general, the money would pay for:

  • Home care.
  • Short-term interim housing, which could be used for people transitioning out of institutions.
  • Food programs, such as home-delivered meals and the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly food stamps).
  • Computer training and job skills.
  • Case management at senior centers.
  • Eviction prevention and housing advocacy.
  • Consumer fraud prevention.
  • Programs targeted at LGBT seniors, veterans and adults with disabilities.

Proposition I would also create an 11-member committee to oversee the Dignity Fund and evaluate — in consultation with the community and service providers, among others —whether it was effective and responsive to the community’s needs. From planning to execution, it would take two years before the fund started spending money.

Is there a catch?

The proposition would set aside and dedicate increasingly large sums for the Dignity Fund from the city’s general fund. That money could not be used for anything else.

The controller states: “The proposed amendment is not in compliance with a non-binding, voter-adopted city policy regarding set-asides. The policy seeks to limit set-asides which reduce General Fund dollars that could otherwise be allocated by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors in the annual budget process.”

Who officially proposed it?

Supervisors Malia Cohen, Eric Mar, David Campos, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim.

Who officially opposes it?

Terence Faulkner, a former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party.

Vote threshold to pass

Simple majority — 50 percent plus one

Effective date if passed

Jan. 1, 2017.

Follow the money

One committee so far is spending money in support of Proposition I: “Dignity Fund Coalition, Yes on I.

Follow the money at the San Francisco Ethics Commission: all Proposition I filings.

Endorsements: our methodology

The Public Press chose to count endorsements from organizations that backed multiple candidates or ballot measures, and that made those endorsements available online. We did not count endorsements from individuals.

If you think we missed an important organization, please tell us. We’d love to hear from you.

Tracked endorsements by organization


Written by: Noah Arroyo, Zachary Clark and Shinwha Whang

Published: Sept. 30, 2016