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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Smart Voter
San Francisco County, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Proposition K
Changing the Enforcement of Laws Related to Prostitution and Sex Workers
City of San Francisco

Ordinance - Majority Approval Required

Fail: 140,185 / 40.94% Yes votes ...... 202,235 / 59.06% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Results as of Jan 24 10:41am, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (580/580)
Information shown below: Fiscal Impact | Yes/No Meaning | Arguments |

Shall the City: stop enforcing laws against prostitution; stop funding or supporting the First Offender Prostitution Program or any similar anti-prostitution program; enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion and rape, regardless of the victim's status as a sex worker; and fully disclose the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against sex workers?

Fiscal Impact from City Controller:
Should the proposed ordinance be approved by the voters, in my opinion, costs could increase or decrease depending on how the City implements the ordinance. The ultimate cost or savings from the proposal would depend on decisions made in the City's budget process.

In general, the ordinance proposes to decriminalize prostitution by restricting the City from allocating resources to the investigation and prosecution of prostitutes for prostitution. Investigation and prosecution of other crimes related to prostitution would not be restricted.

The proposed ordinance could result in lower costs related to decreased enforcement by the Police Department and other public safety and justice agencies related to investigating, arresting, prosecuting and jailing sex workers for prostitution. Estimates are that the City spends between $1.6 million and $3.2 million on these enforcement efforts annually. However, there is also research showing that decreasing prostitution enforcement could significantly increase other public safety and justice costs as well as costs related to public health, counseling and regulatory activities.

The City would be specifically prohibited from providing support or receiving funds through the First Offender Prostitution Program, which collects fines from clients of prostitutes and uses these funds to educate them about the effects of prostitution among other purposes. In Fiscal Year 2007-2008 public agencies such as the District Attorney and Police Department received approximately $162,000 from the First Offender Prostitution Program and non-profit organizations received approximately $85,000 through contracts with the City

Meaning of Voting Yes/No
A YES vote on this measure means:
If you vote "yes," you want the City to:
  • stop enforcing laws against prostitution,
  • stop funding or supporting the First Offender Prostitution Program or any similar anti-prostitution program,
  • enforce existing criminal laws that prohibit crimes such as battery, extortion and rape, regardless of the victim's status as a sex worker, and
  • fully disclose the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against sex workers.

A NO vote on this measure means:
If you vote "no," you do not want to make these changes.

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Arguments For Proposition K Arguments Against Proposition K
The current system of criminalized prostitution is not working in San Francisco. It is not working for PROSTITUTES who work consensually nor for those who are abused or coerced. As of this date, there have been no prosecutions for human trafficking in California.

According to the Public Defender's Office "This initiative would not prohibit local law enforcement from enforcing federal law to combat the exploitation of persons who are kidnapped, transported, abused and held captive by sex traffickers."

MEASURE K WOULD enable sex workers, clients and authorities to join forces and challenge abuses. In less criminalized environments, police can also obtain assistance from clients who are often the first to report trafficking or other abuses.

The city spends millions of dollars each year on the revolving door of arrests and operating a shame-based program. Meanwhile there is a record homicide rate. This legislation is about sensible law enforcement, budgeting priorities, and redirecting resources for sex workers and our families. By focusing on equal protection, the whole community's standards will be improved.

A five year study just released in New Zealand where decriminalization has been in place since 2003, found no increase in prostitution, either street or home based. Although the stigma for sex workers had not disappeared, coercion was not widespread, and prostitutes were safer and healthier than before.

This city has a unique opportunity to once again to take the lead in advancing civil rights. Please vote YES on MEASURE K.

Maxine Doogan, Erotic Service Providers Union
Starchild, Sex Workers Outreach Project Northern California

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Unfortunately, my office sees the faces of women and children being exploited every day. Many are brought to San Francisco against their will by human trafficking rings that force them into sexual slavery. Many speak little English and don't know their rights. Many are victims of pimps who control their lives.

All of them are scared.

Proposition K empowers pimps and human traffickers, allowing them to exploit their victims without repercussion.

If Proposition K passes, San Francisco's justice system will turn a blind eye to those who violate the human rights and dignity of their victims, encouraging these dangerous predators to come to San Francisco.

Proposition K forces police officers to disregard California's prostitution laws, strips ALL funding to investigate human trafficking rings and prevents my office from prosecuting prostitution- related crimes.

This measure will harm prostituted children, for whom enforcement efforts are often the only hope. Only by pursuing and prosecuting abusers can we find these young victims and give them the help they need.

Services will be cut across the board if Proposition K passes. City funding will end for re-education programs like the First Offender Prostitution Program and Early Intervention Prostitution Program.

Proposition K conceals the inhumane nature of prostitution and cripples efforts of law enforcement, human rights groups and social service agencies to assist those seeking to escape.

As a law enforcement officer, a woman and a citizen of San Francisco, I ask you to join me in voting NO on Proposition K.

Kamala Harris, San Francisco District Attorney


Ordinance K is bad policy because it decriminalization prostitution without any accompanying regulation.

Decriminalization of Prostitution in other states has been accompanied by strict regulations that allow local communities some level of control over the impact of prostitution on the individual communities.

For example, while prostitution in a brothel allows for community input as to appropriate locations, hours of operation and HIV testing, this legislation decriminalizes prostitution across the board. There is no differentiation between prostitution that takes place in a hotel room or in a car parked across the street from an elementary school.

Even with the current laws, it is not uncommon for our kids to find used condoms in and around their school. Ordinance K which prohibits law enforcement from allocating resources for investigation and prosecution of prostitution can only make this situation worse.

The San Francisco Police report a large percentage of drug dealers arrested near our BART stations do not live in San Francisco. They use BART to commute to "work" because of real or imagined lax enforcement/prosecution of drugs crimes in San Francisco.

Isolated decriminalization will make San Francisco a magnet for both prostitution and their customers who don't want to risk a night in jail.

Even if you believe in decriminalization, this is bad legislation.


Wendy Collins
Member Mission Merchants Association.*

  • For identification purposes only; author is signing as an individual and not on behalf of an organization.

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
It is unnecessary to charge people with prostitution in order to enforce existing laws against lewd acts in public, littering, or other "quality of life" offenses.

San Francisco already has a vast number of zoning restrictions and other means of regulating appropriate business locations. These regulations do not require criminalizing consensual sex.

The idea that Proposition K will result in an increase in people coming to San Francisco is purely speculative. The truth is that other economic factors impact the already self-regulated sex industry. Contrary to what the opponent infers, the SFPD's CrimeMAPS website, does not show arrests clustered around BART stations.

Additionally, highly regulated environments like the Nevada brothels tend to favor management over workers, and therefore would not be a good match for our city. When workers are evicted from housing, commercial districts and other locations because prostitution is criminalized, the result is that they are trafficked to the streets. Voting Yes on prop K will stop this cycle.

Furthermore, Proposition K will stop another cycle by which the city spends money on condom distribution as a means to promote public health, then the police confiscate these safety devices when arresting people, which is detrimental to worker/public health and safety.

A Yes vote will also stop law enforcement resources from being used to force people into the shame based First Offender Prostitution Program. Sexually shaming people is not a San Francisco value.

The Libertarian and Green parties recommend YES on K.

Annie Chen, educator
Ted Gullicksen, Tenants Rights*

  • For identification purposes only; author is signing as an individual and not on behalf of an organization.

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Created: January 24, 2009 10:41 PST
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