Now that the 2016 election is over, I thought I’d look at what the results could mean for San Francisco hotels and businesses.
President-elect Trump – It’s too early to know exactly how the Trump presidency will affect SF businesses, but there are a few indicators based on his campaign.
- Safe Harbor Cities – Trump has said he wants to stop federal funding to cities, such as SF, that refuse to turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities. With millions at stake, the fight could be expensive for the city. In a recent interview, Trump proposed deporting 2-3 million illegal immigrants in the next year. By comparison, Obama deported about 2 million over the course of his presidency.
- Health Care – It’s unclear exactly what Trump will propose to replace the Affordable Care Act but, with a Republican House and Senate, it’s likely there will be major changes. Because San Francisco required businesses to provide healthcare long before the ACA, any change will likely be offset by a reinstatement of local requirements.
- Gay Rights – Trump has said he considers gay marriage a “settled” issue, so at this time San Francisco shouldn’t be at odds with the new administration on one very important issue to the city.
Recreational Marijuana – Backers of legalized marijuana have had a mixed month. The measure to legalize it passed in California, but Trump’s pick of Jeff Sessions for attorney general means SF may see more tension between federal law, which classifies the drug as extremely harmful, and state law, which will treat marijuana similar to alcohol. Some cities in California had past disagreements with the federal government after legalizing medical marijuana years ago. Temporary orders preventing the DEA from shutting down dispensaries are set to sunset soon, so the new administration will have to decide whether it wants to resume enforcement of federal law or allow states to set their own laws.
If the new California law is allowed to stand, what does legal marijuana mean for San Francisco businesses? The provisions of the law are split. Stores that sell marijuana recreationally won’t be allowed to operate until 2018; however, there are immediate provisions that legalize possession of small amounts and cultivation of up to six plants in a locked area out of public view. It’s worth noting these laws don’t apply to areas under federal jurisdiction, such as the Presidio, or to boats operating on the bay.
Another positive for businesses in controlling marijuana use is that it’s prohibited from being smoked in all public places. San Francisco doesn’t tend to enforce this, but a business can at least stop people from smoking in any area where cigarettes can’t be smoked, including within 15 feet of a door or operable window. In addition, e-cigarettes and vapor pens are treated the same as regular cigarettes under San Francisco and California law.
Scott Wiener – Following a close race, Scott Wiener will now represent San Francisco as a state senator. Wiener supported dismantling homeless tent encampments and is against added tech bus regulations. He also sponsored the bill requiring fully-paid parental leave during his time as a supervisor.
Earlier Parole – Prop. 57 is supposed to give some nonviolent criminals earlier parole and thereby reduce prison crowding. The effect on businesses depends on whether one believes the recent rise in property crime is a direct effect of previous anti-crowding measures, as some law enforcement agencies claim.
Sidewalk Trees – Starting in July, the city will take back responsibility for maintaining trees on public sidewalks. This could be a major money saver for businesses that currently must replace root-cracked sidewalks or be held liable for tripping injuries. We’ll have to wait to see how much retroactive liability the city accepts in dealing with overgrown and dangerous trees.
Tent Camps – SFPD now has authority to dismantle tent camps after giving 24 hours’ notice. Most current camps are located away from the main shopping areas, so the only possible effect to businesses will be the sudden displacement of those who live in these encampments. Various solutions have been proposed, including using piers along the Embarcadero.
Sugar Tax – Soda and other sugary drinks will have an additional 1¢ tax per ounce starting in just over a year on Jan. 1, 2018. 100% juice drinks will be exempt, but other high-calorie drinks might fall into the taxable category.