I. Introduction

1. The Challenge

As residents of San Francisco we face one of the most challenging times in our history. San Francisco stands at a crucial junction brought about by the collapse of the real estate-based speculative bubble and the related steep reduction of the City revenue resulting in cuts in funding important programs and services. This situation is likely to continue and raises serious public policy questions as to the continued existence of the “San Francisco model” of community-based health and human service programs, community development and affordable housing, sustainable employment and economic development opportunities for residents, especially lower-income San Franciscans. In the long term, structural economic crises, climate change, peak oil and gas, and the emergence of a new low-carbon economy, will put increased pressure on the city. Elected officials seem overpowered by events, unable to articulate an alternate policy to the status quo of continued deep cuts and reductions of public sector assistance to communities in need.

Now is the time for San Franciscans to come together to create a New Deal for themselves and their city’s future. A new commitment to San Francisco is needed, and it must come from us, the people who live and work in this city. We need to discuss, debate and finally agree on a set of actions that will preserve our neighborhoods, protect and enhance our communities, save our civic environment, transform our local economy, and sustain our common future. We must define a New Deal for San Francisco, one which is just and equitable for all, which cherishes our human diversity and again shows all that San Francisco is the City that Knows How. That New Deal must recognize the economic base of the City and the region has changed forever and that new public actions – and revenues necessary to pay for those new actions – must be devised and then supported. It must recognize that global and irreversible changes are at hand – from climate to the rise of a new energy regime – and that we must begin now to address the specific impacts of those changes on our City and what we must begin now to do to make San Francisco sustainable in the face of these changes.

It is, in the end, our City and our future that is on the line. Clearly, it’s our responsibility to create a New Deal for San Francisco.

2. Community Congress Goals

This paper is the result of the Community Economic Development working group of the New Deal for the City Community Congress. In 1975, a Community Congress brought together diverse organizations and movements from San Francisco to develop a common agenda, outlining a vision that included, among other things, District Elections and Rent Control, people’s wins that now define the City of San Francisco. The New Deal for the City effort is today’s attempt to bring together progressive community groups to articulate a set of policies and to develop a locally actionable agenda that addresses a comprehensive set of issues of critical importance to San Franciscans. These policies seek to maximize community control over the provision of critically needed health and human services and community and economic development; maintain a vital public sector; and seek to make a material difference to San Franciscan’s lives. It is our hope that the debate and agenda developed through the Congress will play a significant part in the 2010 Supervisor races and the 2011 Mayoral race, and perhaps develop a scorecard of how various candidates stand on the proposals contained here. Beyond the immediate elections, it is our hope that the Congress platform will contribute to the further development of policy, programs, and municipal reform.

The objective of the Congress is not only the development of a set of proposals, but also bringing together a movement of community people able to challenge the current status quo by independent joint political action not dependent upon elected officials. The Congress seeks to develop an implementation strategy that calls for ballot measures, supervisorial initiatives, and restructuring of city government. We recognize that it is not enough to develop a comprehensive platform, but that we need to think through how all the good ideas we come up with can be carried forward organizationally.

3. Overview of Document

In the pages that follow, the economic development work group sets out the context: the current conditions of the Great Recession and crisis in the financial system, the rising ecological challenges, the failure of San Francisco’s private sector economy of boom/bust cycles, the loss of job opportunities, and the city’s ongoing budget and revenue crisis. We present the analysis we have developed regarding the problems with how the city currently approaches the economy, what the city chooses to emphasize and what it leaves out, and the failure of the city’s economic development agencies to look to our strengths rather than relying on the same “next big thing” and boom-and-bust cycles that create the economic and ecological crises we now face. We believe there is a lack of understanding of both the role of the public sector as the major economic engine, and on the key importance of small businesses and cultural work that underpin other economic sectors, and a deliberate denial of our existing assets and existing workforce. Our principal angle is that the city should be approaching economic development in terms of creating economic opportunities that fit the workforce and demographics of people who actually live in the city and who are most in need of dignified livelihood. Finally, we believe that we need to develop a plan that looks to the long term, including how the city begins to create the economic and physical infrastructure to deal with climate change, carbon reduction, peak oil & gas, and sea level rise impacts, and a vision that emphasizes local strengths and regional import-substitution as key to long-term sustainability.

The proposals that follow vary from immediately actionable items, based on current campaigns that people are waging, to more long-term structural solutions and reform to how city government conducts its economic development activities.

Section III develops a policy platform that proposes a variety of reforms within city government, tied to structural consolidation of the city’s many economic development agencies under a common framework and priority policies based on a community-based vision of economic development. A key component of this will be the creation of a municipal bank, putting a portion of the City’s savings (which total over $2 Billion) into a new community financial institution that reinvests in locally-owned businesses and projects that advance city’s public policy goals. We also discuss comprehensive revenue and city budget reform that prioritize front-line workers, and the city’s role in enforcing labor standards and in regulating the community benefits derived from private development.

Section IV focuses on the critical role of the public sector as a major economic driver, and in providing direct employment for the city’s workforce. Though the city’s economic development agencies tend to ignore this, the public sector is in fact the key employment and economic development sector in the city – with $6.1 Billion in city expenditures alone (not counting utilities & hospitals), versus, for example, the $2.1 Billion for tourism. This section includes discussions of infrastructure, both physical and social, proposals for a community jobs program, as well as the city’s role in contracting other economic sectors.

Section V seeks to reframe the role of the private sector around those locally-centered sectors that are San Francisco’s natural strengths and opportunities in the new economy, and which are the foundation to other (externally-focused) economic sectors. We begin with a discussion of local small businesses, including light-industrial “Back Streets” sectors. A section focuses on the “green economy,” moving beyond OEWD’s emphasis on dubious venture-capital fueled “clean tech,” to local green workforce development and local sustainability goals, including urban agriculture, recycling and reuse, green business incubators the focus on appropriate technologies manufacturing, and the city’s energy efficiency programs with an emphasis on community-oriented solutions versus individual upper-income homeowner subsidies. A third section focuses on the creative economy work of culturally-based entities, including recommendations for consolidating arts & culture agencies under a community-based economic development framework, prioritizing neighborhood arts and cultural equity programs, developing arts industry incubation projects, and expanding workforce development and CCSF with links to creative industries. Finally, we close with a discussion of city policies that can create the support infrastructure for community-based solidarity economy projects such as worker-owned cooperative enterprises. The municipal credit union discussed in Section III will be key to promoting industries and linking access to municipal credit with the city’s economic development goals, including jobs creation and local hiring, wage standards, and local and community ownership.


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