News and Commentary

San Francisco Wants To Solve Its Poop Problem With A ‘Homelessness Tax’

It may cost millions for San Francisco to address its massive homeless problem, and the city, famous for having some of the highest rents in the country, has only one idea on how to make up the shortfall: raise taxes.

The tax, which will likely be on the ballot as San Francisco’s “Proposition 9,” is a so-called “head tax” that charges businesses operating within a city’s limits a “per-employee” charge to help cover some of the city’s expenses.

The money, in San Francisco’s case, would go towards covering the cost of clearing poop from the city’s streets, shutting down a massive “open air drug market” that’s popped up in the city’s “Tenderloin” neighborhood, and housing homeless individuals.

Seattle famously passed a similar “head tax” measure earlier this year and then promptly repealed it after big corporations like Amazon pointed out that the city was punishing businesses with a policy that had no marked effect on curbing homelessness. Although Seattle has dramatically increased spending on the issue in recent years, homelessness in Seattle has only increased.

In San Francisco, ABC News reports, social activists are hell-bent on punishing the big tech companies they believe are responsible for a population boom that’s driven people onto the street. But San Francisco already spends more than $380 million on homelessness to no avail, and opponents of the tax say the measure would merely double that spending without adding any additional accountability.

Part of the problem is that San Francisco is unwilling to change some of the basic aspects of city governance that led to the homeless problem. The number of homeless individuals on San Francisco streets hasn’t increased in several years, but when the homeless began forming “tent cities,” activists blocked the city from cleaning out the encampments, and, in fact, made life worse, passing out free tents to people living on the city’s streets.

And residents of those tent cities aren’t particularly interested in moving into city-subsidized housing or moving on from San Francisco. The best San Francisco can do is clean up after them.

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