Crossposted on SF Chronicle

San Francisco voters gave Mayor Ed Lee’s pension reform plan a resounding victory Tuesday night, while rejecting a competing measure by Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Both measures were designed to trim the amount the city pays for its workers’ retirements.

The 68 percent support for Lee’s Proposition C was a surprisingly easy victory.

“We knew we were ahead of (Adachi’s) Proposition D, but this exceeded our expectations,” said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the campaign. Adachi’s measure collected just under 34 percent of the vote.

With all 429 precincts reporting, voters also approved two of the ballot’s three money measures.

Proposition A, a $531 million bond measure to renovate and rebuild 53 aging schools, collected 70 percent of the vote, far more than the 55 percent needed for passage.

Proposition B, a $248 million bond measure designed to pay for improvements to city streets and sidewalks, eked out a narrow victory, finishing just ahead of the two-thirds requirement with 68 percent of the vote. That could change, however, as thousands of provisional and late-arriving mail votes are counted in the upcoming days.

Proposition G, which would boost the city sales tax a half cent to 9 percent, didn’t fare nearly as well, with only 46 percent support.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Proposition E, which would allow the Board of Supervisors to modify or rescind voter-approved ballot measures, lost badly, gathering 33 percent of the vote. Voters also rejected Proposition F, which would change the reporting rules for political consultants. It received 44 percent approval. Proposition H, an advisory measure calling on the school district to assign students to their neighborhood schools, won by 1,989 votes, another result that could change by the time all the late votes are tallied.

Money was the focus of San Francisco’s most heavily contested ballot measures, as voters tried to determine the best way to save it and spend it.

The two pension measures were the big-ticket items, with voters forced to decide what to do with two complicated plans that would affect city finances for decades.

Both Prop. C and Prop. D were designed to trim San Francisco’s skyrocketing pension costs, which are eating up a growing chunk of the city budget. The city currently is paying $422 million in pension costs, a number expected to nearly double by 2014. And that doesn’t include the $4.6 billion in health care costs for current and retired workers.

The two measures had different ways of achieving those savings.

Prop. C was backed by Lee, unions and most of the city’s political leaders. It will save an estimated $1.3 billion over the next decade by requiring city workers to contribute 7.5 percent of their salaries to the pension fund, a percentage that would rise in bad economic times and fall when the city – and its pension plan – was flush.

Prop. D, a simplified version of an Adachi proposal rejected by voters last year, would have set a minimum contribution of 7.5 percent, a number that could have jumped as high as 16 percent for the highest-paid city workers when financial times were bad.

Adachi’s plan would have saved an estimated $1.6 billion in the next 10 years.

The biggest difference between the two plans, though, is how they were created. Prop. D was the creation of Adachi and his advisers, and would have required higher pension contributions from police officers and firefighters, whose pensions cost the city far more than those of other city workers.

Adachi collected more than 48,000 valid signatures to get his pension initiative on the ballot.

Lee’s measure, on the other hand, was crafted during long negotiations between the city and its unions, with the help of businessman Warren Hellman. The unions have put up most of the more than $1.5 million raised in support of Prop. C.

“We worked with labor and community leaders and went through a very public process,” Ballard said. “In San Francisco, we do things by collaboration and consensus and this was the right way to do this.”

The national economic woes make this a tough time to persuade voters to dig into their pockets, but the backers of the Prop. A school bonds had history on their side.

The bond is the third and final installment of a 10-year, $1.3 billion plan to upgrade every San Francisco school, as voters backed similar bond measures in 2003 and 2006.