Lack of Transparency Dogs Community Trust Fund

By Lori Higa : – excerpt from July 2010

///In 2007, TMG Partners created a $1.5 million community benefits fund as part of an agreement that enabled the developer to convert 650 Townsend – the brick building adjacent to the Concourse –from business services to offices without having to provide the hundreds of parking spaces that would otherwise have been required under the City and County of San Francisco’s Planning Code.  Brokered by Dogpatch-based real estate consultant and community advocate Joe Boss, the Eastern Neighborhoods Public Benefits Trust Fund (ENPBTF) has steadily drawn on these funds to support a number of local nonprofits. However, because of the way the agreement was structured, the Trust Fund’s operations, including the identification of which organizations have received funds, has largely remained secret.
The Eastern Neighborhoods (EN) is a geographic designation created by a decade-long, hotly contested City rezoning plan. The collection of communities that make up EN – Potrero Hill, Showplace Square, Dogpatch, the Central Waterfront and northeast SoMa – sprawls across 2,200 acres, almost twice the size of Golden Gate Park.  The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, approved last year, calls for the creation of up to 10,000 new housing units in the area.  The plan was designed to balance affordable and market-rate housing, and preserve production, distribution and repair jobs …
A complete list of grantees is unavailable due to the ENPBTF’s status as a donor-advised fund, as administered by the San Francisco Foundation, according to Boss.  Because of its legal designation, information on the fund, its grantees and award amounts is not “public domain,” stated Boss in an email to the View…
SFMTA received what appears to be the largest chunk of fund monies “because the greatest potential impact to the area is perceived to be the increased daytime population of the project, and the lack of strong transit service in the area…the donor conditioned that over $500,000 of the funds would…[go] to ongoing transportation planning.”  According to Boss, little progress has been made on the SFMTA transit assessment.  The View was unable to get comment from the agency before this story went to press …
“I’ve never heard of grants and grantees being kept secret,” said long-time local community organizer and author Mike Miller. “What’s going on with the ENPBTF seems typical of the nature of San Francisco politics…There’s no shortage of nonprofits who claim to give voice to the voiceless, but end up excluding their constituents…people are bought off in various ways, the conditions that started the protests, remain the same. What neighborhoods and communities need is the equivalent of a union,” said Miller… (more)

The lack of transparency makes you feel good about dealing with non-profits doesn’t it? When you consider the large percentage of the city’s budget that goes to non-profit contractors you begin to wonder whether farming work out to private entities is really the cheapest way to run a city.

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