Mar 15, 2023 - News

San Francisco supervisors open to reparations proposal

Photo illustration collage of historical photos of San Francisco's Fillmore district and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photos: Sergio Pitamitz/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, Bettmann/Contributor, San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Contributor

A reparations plan in San Francisco that includes a one-time, $5 million lump sum payment to each eligible Black person had its first public hearing before city officials Tuesday, with dozens of members of the public calling for the proposal's adoption.

What's happening: Following a more than five-hour hearing, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution late Tuesday night accepting the draft plan of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

Yes, but: The board's acceptance of the draft does not signal what specific recommendations from the plan it will ultimately approve.

What's next: The reparations committee will continue to meet monthly before submitting its final proposal in June. The Board of Supervisors has scheduled the next reparations hearing for Sept. 19, but it's unknown whether a vote will occur at that time.

The big picture: The city is trying to make amends for previous actions that ultimately led to a lack of opportunities and displacement of a portion of the city's Black population.

  • San Francisco's urban renewal of the 1960s and '70s, for example, decimated the Black population in San Francisco's Fillmore District, an area once known as the Harlem of the West due to its bustling jazz scene.
  • The city's redevelopment of the Fillmore shuttered 883 businesses, displaced 4,729 households and damaged the lives of nearly 20,000 people, according to the reparations committee.

What they're saying: All of the supervisors spoke favorably of the plan, including District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who said the city needs "to reckon with and ultimately apologize for what those who preceded us did knowingly."

  • "It is not a matter of whether or not there is a case for reparations for Black people in San Francisco, it is a matter of what reparations will and should look like," District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton said at the hearing.

State of play: In 2020, Walton wrote the unanimously approved legislation to establish the reparations committee.

  • In addition to the proposed $5 million payment, the draft plan outlines more than 100 other recommendations, including payroll and property tax exemptions for Black business owners.
  • The plan also calls for the creation of a mandatory curriculum that centers Black history and culture in the school district, recruiting and retaining Black educators and more.

During the public portion of the hearing, supporters talked about the harm the Black community has suffered because of racism.

  • Naj Daniels, a third-generation San Franciscan, told the panel it's about rectifying a number of injustices, including the hundreds of years of slavery, being "pushed out of San Francisco" and facing redlining.

The other side: Since the plan's release, city officials and others have wondered how feasible the $5 million payments would be.

  • The city, for example, has a projected budget deficit of $728 million from July through June 2025.

Details: To be eligible for reparations, a person would need to be at least 18 years old and have identified as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years.

  • They would also need to prove at least two other criteria from the AARAC's eligibility requirements, such as being displaced, or the descendant of someone who was displaced from San Francisco by urban renewal.

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