Proposition C

The issues involved in San Francisco’s Proposition C are so important that we felt we should explain the reasons behind Stripe’s opposition to it in more detail.

Stripe is highly motivated to help solve homelessness. We’re happy to pay higher taxes as part of doing so, a position we’ve made clear from the start. Stripe employees, and Stripe itself, have long worked to help housing-related causes and homeless service providers.

If homelessness was just a question of money, this issue would already be solved. While cities report inconsistently, San Francisco currently spends around $430 per city resident per year on services and programs for the homeless, compared to $260 in New York and $110 in Los Angeles. Yet the problem in our city is worse, and despite increases in spending, has continued to worsen.

Homelessness is the product of a complex web of causes, and solutions require careful interventions. Like many others, we do not believe that Prop C — which would bring San Francisco’s annual expenditure to $770 per person per year — will effectively solve this problem. While well-intentioned, it is San Francisco’s largest-ever tax increase, and comes with no systemic changes or effective accountability.

Anyone who claims that Prop C is a matter of being “for the homeless or against them” is selling a facile falsehood. Prop C is opposed by Mayor London Breed, State Senator and former Supervisor Scott Wiener (whose statement is worth reading), Supervisor David Chiu, and the SF Chronicle. Former San Francisco Mayor (and likely next California Governor) Gavin Newsom says that passing Prop C will make San Francisco’s homeless problem worse. Privately, many individuals and policymakers working directly on homeless causes are also opposed to Prop C. These people are not against the homeless.

Because of the current visibility of the technology industry, it’s easy to see this as a technology issue. But it’s not technology companies that will face the biggest challenges. Indeed, software companies are among those least affected. According to San Francisco’s own Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Prop C would disproportionately impact employees in mid-level jobs, such as administrative staff in retail companies and grocery store workers.

In June, we elected London Breed, the first woman of color to become mayor of the city. Solving homelessness was one of her primary campaign causes. Before her victory, she posted a comprehensive, 4,000-word analysis of the problem. She is immersed in the details of the issue.

We’re impressed with Mayor Breed’s efforts and oppose this attempt to pre-empt her, less than six months after her inauguration. Stripe’s position is that homelessness should be solved by the Mayor and by city administration, and we will continue to actively collaborate with her office.

A solution spearheaded by the Mayor will almost certainly require increased taxes. We accept that responsibility, and we’re ready to work in partnership with the Mayor and a broad group of San Francisco stakeholders to craft a comprehensive response to our homelessness crisis.

With problems as complex as homelessness, there are rarely clear-cut answers. Any of us could turn out to be wrong. Today, the world is pulling us towards polarized discourse and emotionally-charged, soundbite analysis. We’re all familiar with the forces at play. We think this is important to resist.

— Patrick Collison, CEO & cofounder