The SF Board of Supervisors looked ready to approve the recommendations of the local reparations committee for Black San Franciscans on Tuesday, but this seems to be going more in the direction of cultural districts and educational efforts rather than cash payments.
At a four-hour long discussion of the idea of reparations to Black San Franciscans during Tuesday’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting, many public commenters, including Rev. Amos Brown, implored the supervisors to “Do the right thing.” But in reality, there was no “thing” for them to do, or vote on — it was just scheduled as an informational session for the board to review the recommendations of the SF African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC).
Still, something actionable came out of that four hours, as Mission Local reports Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced a resolution to accept the AARAC recommendations, and that recommendation vote could come next week.
“This is not merely a cry for help, but a demand to repair harm and create equity, which is the San Francisco way,” Walton said Tuesday. “We need to step up and provide reparations for Black people.”
But there was almost no discussion whatsoever of those highly contentious $5 million lump-sum payments for eligible Black San Franciscans, either during the AARAC presentation, or the supervisors’ comments. That seems to indicate that those cash payments are not going to be part of any reparations package.
There was only one brief mention of the $5 million payments, from AARAC vice chair Tinisch Hollins, who also hedged on that topic a little bit. “We fully expect that we would see financial reparations,” Hollins told the board. “A priority would be a lump-sum payment to each eligible individual. Our assessment was that’s $5 million, but we continue to look and figure out what financial compensation can look like for Black San Franciscans.”
She also mentioned the notion of “spatial justice,” or what she described as “making sure that we have thriving Black spaces in not just one neighborhood, or pockets of San Francisco, but all over San Francisco.”
The reparations are not intended to make up for slavery, but instead to correct historical injustices of the urban renewal push of the 1950s and disinvestment in Black neighborhoods.
“The practices of this city continue in the form of redlining that created conditions that historically suppressed Black home ownership and wealth building opportunities,” AARAC chair Eric McDonnell said to the board, calling the reparations proposal a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to close the racial wealth gap.”
Many of these recommendations are just policy matters, not cash, so they seem more doable as the city is running a deficit. These include issuing a formal apology, creating an Office of Reparations, and creating a “committee of community stakeholders” to ensure the policies are implemented. In other words, the supervisors can pass this, while kicking the can of actual policy-making to offices and committees that haven’t even been created yet.
Some ideas floated include establishing a historically Black college and university (HBCU) satellite school here, creation of Black cultural districts, supporting Black entrepreneurs, or making city-owned properties available for such efforts. Again, the board can, and probably will, merely pass a vote to create this office and these programs, and leave the actual crafting of policies to those bodies.
One building that could become a piece of a reparations package is the Fillmore Heritage Center, which has sat vacant for several years and which is now the subject of an RFP (request for proposals) process.
Tuesday’s reparations discussion is separate from the state-level California Reparations Task Force, which issued its own recommendations report in June. But the state Assembly is still crafting actual legislation based on that report, as NBC News noted last week.