San Francisco's Proposition L is "too close to call"

With a margin narrow enough to be called "presidential," the outcome of the anti-development measure remains up in the air.

By Damien Cave

Published November 11, 2000 9:18PM (EST)

Contrary to earlier reports -- including our own -- Proposition L is not a done deal. Although the San Francisco anti-growth initiative won approval when all 647 of the city's precincts finished reporting early Wednesday morning, absentee ballots have started to throw that victory into the now infamous realm of "too close to call."

In fact, as of Friday afternoon, Prop. L was losing by 7 votes, according to the city's election figures. And with 19,000 more absentee ballots to be counted -- probably by Sunday night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle -- there's no guarantee that L will pull a Lazarus and come back to life.

Defeat would be painful for all the activists who have already celebrated Prop. L's victory, which they argued would put an end to dot-com-inspired growth, high rents and ultimately gentrification. Businesses looking to enter the city, on the other hand, could rejoice.

But regardless of L's eventual outcome, there's a lesson to be learned from the narrow margin. Clearly, San Francisco is as evenly split on the issue of growth as the nation is on the question of who should become president. And just as that race has inspired a call for bipartisanship, hopefully the Prop. L race will lead to fewer anti-dot-com protests and more cooperation. At the very least, it will probably teach those of us in the press to pay more attention to the power of the absentee.

Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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