Reinventing San Francisco - Page 3

We need to make sure development isn't just code for finding new ways to gentrify neighborhoods and displace existing residents



What would this City of Hope look like, and how would it work? Consider what we could accomplish with a municipal bank. The City and County of San Francisco currently has almost $2.6 billion in highly liquid reserves, about $500 million of which could be used to fund a Municipal Bank of San Francisco. Once established (and federally insured), the Municipal Bank could take additional deposits and use this to issue more loans. The bank could promote economically viable worker-run cooperatives that produce goods and services addressing community needs — be it day care, urban gardening, or ecologically sustainable light industry that creates meaningful employment for local residents. The bank could provide competitive small-interest loans to help stimulate small-business development — the key economic engine of the city. Currently, access to credit is one of the primary impediments to small business growth in San Francisco.

The city could also start a Municipal Development Corporation to produce goods and services that meet essential needs, boost local employment, and generate surpluses that would be available for local reinvestment. San Francisco could launch itself on the path to local energy self-reliance with funds from the Municipal Bank, together with revenue bonds—raising large pools of capital to finance large-scale alternative energy investments such as solar panels to generate energy for sale to local businesses and households.

The proceeds could help subsidize community-based development such as urban farming projects that could grow food for our public schools. The Municipal Development Corporation could explore other initiatives like large-scale medical marijuana cultivation and development of a commercial fiberoptic network. Other ideas can be developed; we need to engage our collective imagination to envision what can exist if there's enough people power and political will.

By expanding access to credit, municipalizing a chunk of the city's assets, establishing an economically viable municipal development enterprise, and democratizing city planning and development, San Francisco can enable long-disenfranchised communities to create sustainable and diversified development — instead of fighting over "jobs versus the environment" and other false choices and getting nowhere for decades.

It's time for proactive, community-led economic development that addresses urgent needs, from local hiring and training, to creating a diverse base of neighborhood-serving businesses, to ecologically sustainable and healthful development and planning that is driven by communities and residents.

San Francisco's job creation policies can be transformed to prioritize community needs over corporate profits by linking major development contracts to strict local hiring and training, community benefits agreements that invest in social goods like childcare and in-home health services, and ensuring dramatic increases in the city's stock of affordable housing.

We need to build new forms of public participation in local government in ways that address people's everyday needs. For instance, the congress will propose a new partnership between residents and Muni to make Muni work better, involving current riders and drivers in a new, more powerful role in how Muni lines function.

We need to find better ways to sustain a diverse population of working-class, people of color, artists, writers, musicians, and others. We need to make sure development isn't just code for finding new ways to gentrify neighborhoods and displace existing residents.



Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work for the past several decades. Over the past several years, Welch has folded for each and every profitable development scheme that the Newsom administration has cooked up. Since Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work, the position of working San Franciscans has fallen further and further behind.

Calvin Welch is the last person to whom San Franciscans should look for guidance on how to move forward because his fifteen minutes should have been up once he has failed to adapt to changing circumstances and others suffered for his arrogance.

None of what is to be discussed at these meetings will ever see the light of day until San Franciscans organize before, during and after elections to make it so.

Currently the between elections organizing is relegated to the "community based organizations" of the nonprofit constellation in San Francisco.

These nonprofits are dependent on City money and don't bite the hand that feeds them. The advocates frame their approach in terms favorable to the Mayor and bureaucracy. They also jealously guard their political territory to ensure that nobody else competes for the cash.

We've learned over the past decade that once elected, progressive pols need to be coerced into keeping their promises through organized force. It is the nonprofits who are sponsoring this event who have failed to follow through on that and are using events like this to mobilize to elect friendly supervisors who will continue to feed them through the add back process at the expense of moving the broader, non poverty progressive agenda.

"Imagine the world of the possible" sounds great until you realize that these people have been the ones who have refused to move on those goals for the past decade but still get paid.

Just like labor is realizing what happens when the spread between public employee compensation and benefits increases to unsustainable levels, so will the nonprofiteers see a similar day of reckoning when the coalition who benefits from their services dwindles past the point of political relevance, and they discover that San Francisco's reserves of liberal guilt have long since been depleted.

I warned labor years ago and was dismissed as anti labor. You all have been warned.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

Its hard not to be cynical, who is going to show up at this? The same old faces bemoaning developers, bankers, capitalism etc. I find it hard to believe that this will be a true Community Congress, when the majority of the community won't be there; most SF residence enjoy a good life style in SF because of capitalism.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

The answer from the "community" will be to do what they progressives have already done to drive away jobs, just more of it.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:41 am

No cynicism here, just a fresh dose of reality slapping you in the face. We know that showing up with good ideas is not sufficient. If all you needed were good ideas, I'd be Mayor of San Francisco for life. No, it takes much more to deliver progressive policies. In order to bring progressive change, enough people must be mobilized after the election to give the electeds no other choice. Otherwise, corporate San Francisco will continue to succeed and push their policies in the other direction because they have more money that god and are working 25/8/366 to fuck us.

Nonprofit employees and their slim constituencies are not sufficient in numbers to effect this kind of change. Amongst the bulk of the progressive constituency, the reserves of liberal guilt have been depleted to nil. Tim Redmond's incessant hand wringing about how our electeds are folding early and often like chairs only digs us in deeper. Those who have a "good thing" under current deteriorating arrangements are loathe to embrace any steps which might cut them out of that "good thing."

Thus, instead of pleading for the plight of the most vulnerable, progressives are going to have to expand the scope of activism to include those who are not vulnerable yet who are excluded from the corporate governing coalition. This is basic mathematics.

Not only are the policy priorities going to have to accurately reflect the breadth of the progressive coalition so that constituents feel as if they're bought into the project as full and equal partners, but the door is going to need to be taken off of the hinges and the entire coalition is going to have to be invited in. Otherwise, the nonprofits will continue on their path to take the ship down with them so long as they get paid.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 8:09 am

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity"

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:56 am

Can't you just skip these intermediary steps and move straight to the mass suicide?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

I agree with Marc on this - he says it all here.

Posted by mark on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

Libertarian market chaos is not anarchy.

If similar disrespect were shown for the ideology of the poverty nonprofits or of whatever ideology drives the primacy of immigration as a local issue over other immigration issues (H1-B) or issues that directly effect voters, the professional left would be up in arms.

Apparently, pretending that immigration law does not exist does not qualify as anarchy to the leftist.

Anarchy would mean that communities would be able to take steps on their own to check bulbous accumulations of wealth that drive gentrification, private speculative property rights, what property rights?

Such intellectual disrespect lends credence to the notion that community congresses like these are organizing events thrown by latter day Leninists who think that they are of the vanguard and act on behalf of and in the interests of the vaunted working class. One nonprofiteer asked me how we would fund activism if not with city money through nonprofits? Indeed.

Anarchy also denies the validity of nation states and borders, so don't even go there.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 9:27 am

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