In the current OEWD narrative, it’s all about Biotech, dot-coms, and China: very little about supporting San Francisco’s existing workforce, and not really about what drives a sustainable economy. And it does not fundamentally address the role of finance and access to credit after the credit collapse. This is partly an effect of Prop 13, which makes city’s look at attracting the new/latest thing, even if it displaces existing businesses. The agencies don’t prioritize our existing strengths; there is no neighborhood economic development infrastructure, no robust small business loan assistance program, etc.
Whereas OEWD, the Planning Commission, and the Redevelopment Agency, seem ruled by an objective of providing developers the ability to make profit, the General Plan nowhere uses the word “profit,” instead emphasizing welfare and the common good. The role of local government has been to try to accommodate whatever investment capital wants, and then to try to get a share of the richest industry. Instead, we need to maintain and stimulate the existing foundations of the economy (in particular, the enormous role of the public sector), so we can start defining where we want the private sector to intersect.
We propose central coordination of public sector policy and programs in recognition of the need to organize resources and activities to maximize the benefits to low-income populations and enhance resident oversight and participation in policy formulation and development.
1. Consolidate the City’s economic development activities under one department of Community-based Economic Development.
Key to any successful economic development agenda is restructuring the city’s government to make community economic development a priority. This means consolidating the city structure for economic development (currently residing in different agencies, MOEWD, OCD, SFRA, Planning) with the overriding goal of serving the priority policies of the City Charter and General Plan – ie, to serve existing San Francisco residents and workforce (in terms of labor standards, access to jobs, and workforce training/development), and to support the city’s backbone of existing small businesses and “creative” industries. We propose the creation of a City Department and associated Commission to set policy and strategies for, exercise fiscal authority over and oversee all City departments, agencies and offices, all contractors and all non-profits with an economic, housing, workforce or community development program. This department will serve to better align and coordinate highly decentralized City resources, as necessary to maximizing community impact by exercising strategic, policy and budget oversight overall all entities. There is also a need to consolidate differences between the numerous plans and strategies that encumber and constrain efforts to promote comprehensive problem treatment, effective coordination, efficient resource allocation and mutual support between hundreds of public, private and non-profit sector entities. The activities of the Redevelopment Agency, as they affect neighborhood economic development, shall coordinate with this Department. The new Credit Union of San Francisco, described below, would fall under the oversight and coordination function of this Department.
2. Develop enforceable Priority Policies and a Strategy that puts racial and economic justice at the center, to guide the City’s economic development activities.
The city’s policies and implementation must be led by a clear goals and a community-based economic development strategy – creating the infrastructure for economic development to provide opportunities for existing businesses and residents. The goals of San Francisco’s economic development policies should be to support entities that, a.) Have a maximum local multiplier, including local employment; b.) Provide living wages, benefits, and economic stability; c.) Promote local ownership; and/or d.) Promote community and worker control. The city needs to be clear about the role of its economic development agency. The proposed department will be charged with the task of creating a community economic development strategy based on assessment of existing conditions and needs to determine vision, goals, priorities, and objectives; and to assign fiscal resources and program responsibilities to carry out a coordinated, mutually supportive and comprehensive development strategy linking business, housing, workforce, community and associated service activities. The City should have a role in assessing what’s already here, industries, viability, etc., and targeting micro-sectors of industry, looking at horizontal/vertical integration, linkages to transportation, effects of external environmental conditions such as climate change/peak oil/carbon taxes, etc. This strategy will be ultimately responsible to an overriding vision, or priority policy, of the city, focused on local, community-based economic development, as described above. All of this must be based upon authentic engagement of community residents in planning; and ongoing monitoring, evaluation and reflection.
3. Establish a commission, accountable to the people, to set the City’s economic development policy.
Establish a Community Economic Development Commission, to set policy for and oversee the operations of the Department, which would be responsible to both the executive (Mayor) and legislative (Board of Supervisors) branches. This is essential in providing citizen and policy setting oversight of a critical agency, the primary entity addressing economic development and workforce issues, which is presently operating in the absence of any oversight whatsoever and, while it’s an independent agency and no longer a “Mayor’s Office” largely considers itself responsible to and operating under the Mayor. The Commission would have representatives from various community councils to ensure wide representation of affected constituencies, with full transparency and public hearings over all aspects of the operation. The Commission will exercise approval of the proposed annual development plan, and accompanying recommendation regarding funding allocations, prior to submission to the Board of Supervisors. Commissioners would serve as public members of the Board of Directors of the new municipal Credit Union of San Francisco, described below, ensuring coordination of economic development activities.
4. Create local community councils from the most affected communities and economic sectors, to ensure democratic participation in the direction of the City’s economic development activities.
Enlisting the aid and support of, and encouraging the direct participation of a broad range of stakeholders, especially sectors and populations that are often marginalized in local policy debates, will be crucial. This must begin with effective resident oversight that insures that City and private sector economic activity is aligned with community priorities. To this end, we propose, in addition to a department Commission, the creation of a set of local community councils that will propose and vet proposals; and that will designate representatives to serve on the department Commission. Efforts would be made to utilize these citizen councils to support effective partnership with local organizations that serve low- and moderate-income persons. A central goal would be to create and support effective partnerships with and investment in community-based strategies and organizations that serve low- and moderate-income persons via direct ties not only to government entities but to the private sector, so that macro economic activity is directly linked to and supports (through fees, employment, procurement, etc.) micro-economic enterprises and neighborhood / community development. The community development resident oversight body (the Commission) would not only encourage resident participation but also build consensus and cooperation between key economic sectors (business, labor, environmentalists).