San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst Urges City to Develop Plan for a Public Bank
City report highlights need for public bank to open the door to rapid, sustainable, and equitable recovery during the COVID-19 crisis and to invest in long-standing needs such as affordable housing, small business, and green infrastructure
SAN FRANCISCO — A report released by the City of San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analyst (BLA) Office on public banking recommends that the City immediately set up a Working Group to develop a business plan for a San Francisco public bank, which will address capitalization, funding, lending operations, and governance to be submitted to the Board. This report was first requested by District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who has been a champion of public banking since entering office in 2017.
“The Budget and Legislative Analyst report demonstrates clear and compelling reasons for moving forward with a plan to create a public bank in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Fewer. “Such an institution could invest in the rebuilding of our local economy to benefit San Franciscans. A public bank for the public good? Absolutely.”
The medium-term impact of the current economic recession could be addressed with the creation of a public bank by investing in affordable housing, public infrastructure, and small businesses. As the Budget and Legislative Analyst office writes, “our present circumstances highlight ever more clearly the need for such an institution, which could provide the City and its residents with an additional set of powerful tools to promote economic regeneration, and to address long-standing problems such as the multi-decade crisis of affordable housing and the need for a large-scale publicly financed energy transition.”
The BLA report’s public banking model outlines the following:
- A San Francisco Public Bank would be profitable immediately due to the nature of the funding arrangements with the City, and public bank operating costs would be similar to industry standards.
- A San Francisco Public Bank would cultivate lending agreements to support a network of affiliated community institutions, including local and regional credit unions, banks, loan funds, and Community Development Financial Institutions.
- A San Francisco Public Bank will have “strong risk buffers,” considering the public bank’s capital-to-asset ratio will far exceed the level at which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation defines a bank as “well capitalized.”
- The City’s investment pool can be tapped safely for establishing a public bank without impacting current spending and can be enlarged by utilizing its interest earnings.
“The COVID-19 crisis has plunged communities that were already struggling into further poverty and homelessness,” said Reina Tello, community organizer at PODER. “This report reveals what we already knew to be true: A public bank in San Francisco will provide an economic lifeline to San Franciscans for years to come. We can invest in what our people need, such as financing affordable housing, investing in small businesses, and building an economy that meets peoples’ needs.”
The report can be viewed in full here.
The San Francisco Public Bank Coalition unites diverse community and labor organizations to advocate for a public bank, including Bill Sorro Housing Project (BiSHoP), People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER), Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO), Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Democratic Socialists of America – SF Chapter, and United Educators of San Francisco (UESF).