Local Taxes:
Bay Area Voters to Consider Precedent-Setting Parcel Tax

In June, voters in the San Francisco Bay Area will decide the fate of what could be a precedent-setting parcel tax. Unlike most parcel taxes that are limited to a small geographical area, this one would be imposed on property owners in all nine counties of the Bay Area.

On January 13, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority’s board voted to place the measure on the June ballot in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The $12-per-parcel tax must be approved by two-thirds of Bay Area voters to take effect. If approved, the tax will go into effect July 1, 2017, and will expire June 30, 2037. All locally assessed taxable properties wholly or partially within the nine counties would be subject to the tax.

Revenue from the tax would be used to build levees, restore wetlands and tidal marshes, and to protect Bay Area properties from the impacts of rising sea levels attributable to climate change.


Parcels on the 2013-14

Secured Roll



Contra Costa






San Francisco


San Mateo


Santa Clara








Annual revenue at $12 per parcel: $26,040,768

Source: State Board of Equalization, compiled by CalTax.

The campaign to pass the measure is being spearheaded by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The group’s president, Carl Guardino, said: “The bay is a beautiful asset we all want to protect and restore. We are also concerned about the risk of sea level rise over time, or a storm that could cause flooding in unprecedented fashion. Either way we want to be prepared for it.”

Proponents, who also include Save the Bay and the Bay Area Council, have raised $700,000 to support the measure and are looking to raise $5 million. Early donors to the campaign include Robert Fisher of Gap Inc., and John Doerr, a technology venture capitalist. (CalTax: Mr. Doerr is no relation to David R. Doerr.)

A January 13 article in the San Jose Mercury News noted: “The unique tax raises complex questions, however. Since the $12-per-parcel tax will apply to all property owners in the nine counties, will people who live far away from the bay, such as residents of Cloverdale, Gilroy, Half Moon Bay or Livermore be willing to vote yes?”

A December poll of 1,500 likely voters commissioned by proponents found that the proposal likely would receive support from more than 65 percent of voters.

In 2008, the Legislature approved AB 2954 (Lieber), a CalTax-opposed bill that established the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority as a special district, with the ability to impose special taxes, benefit assessments and other charges. (Source: San Jose Mercury News, January 13.)

For more information on parcel taxes, see the California Tax Foundation’s Center for Special Taxes.







January 22, 2016

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