SF Chronicle: "...Prop. D is being bankrolled by these tech power brokers"

J.D. Morris

Sep. 29, 2022

(Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle)


Wealthy people with close ties to the technology industry have been pouring money into one of the most high-profile measures on San Francisco’s November ballot: a proposal to boost housing production championed by Mayor London Breed and her allies.


Housing advocates from the “yes in my backyard,” or YIMBY movement are fervently supporting Proposition D, framing the measure as a badly needed effort to help developers build new market-rate and affordable homes in the city. The Nor Cal Carpenters Union is another big backer of the proposition, which aims to speed up the approval process for certain kinds of housing projects.


But Prop. D also counts among its top contributors a range of leading tech executives, founders and investors, according to campaign finance records. The donors’ involvement is a sign of how San Francisco’s most prominent industry continues to play an influential role in the city’s most salient political debates, even as some tech firms have reduced their local office footprints or moved elsewhere in recent years.


Among those who have given six figures to the Prop. D campaign are Twilio co-founder John Wolthuis, Pantheon CEO Zack Rosen, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear and the venture capitalist Garry Tan. Angel investor Ron Conway, who is known for rallying support behind pro-tech causes and San Francisco’s political moderates, has kicked in $50,000 and another $40,000 non-cash contribution related to mail. Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and his wife Kaitlyn each gave $50,000 in August.


It’s not the first time this year that tech money has flowed into a prominent local race. Industry-affiliated donors, including Tan, also gave to the successful campaign to recall former progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin . Conway helped solicit contributions to the recall effort.


Some of the Prop. D donors gave money while supporters of the measure, also known as Affordable Homes Now, were running an expensive signature-gathering campaign to qualify for the ballot. Others have contributed more recently as Prop. D began gearing up for an electoral showdown against a rival measure, Proposition E, that was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors — stoking concerns that voters might be confused between the two.


Tech-affiliated donors account for at least two-thirds of the more than $1.5 million the Prop. D campaign reported raising from the start of the year through Sept. 24, records show. After accounting for expenses, the campaign had about $185,300 in the bank.


The competing Prop. E campaign — which launched later and did not need to run a signature-gathering effort — had raised $286,100 through Sept. 24 and ended the reporting period with about $200,000 cash on hand.