A controversial draft reparations proposal that includes a $5 million balloon payment for every eligible black person could make San Francisco the first major US city to fund reparations, even as it faces steep financial hurdles and blistering criticism from the Conservatives.
Tuesday’s meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will include a presentation by the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee, which published its draft report in December. The $5 million per person payment is among more than 100 recommendations that range from offering grants to buy and maintain homes to exempting black businesses from paying taxes.
Supervisors can vote to adopt all, none or some of the recommendations and can change them. Several board members have raised concerns about the potential impact the lump sum payment and other options would have on the city’s budget, which is already facing a deficit.
An estimated 50,000 blacks live in San Francisco, but it’s unclear how many of them would be eligible for financial reparations. The recommendations lay out a number of possible criteria, such as living in San Francisco for a certain amount of time and being descended from someone jailed for the police war on drugs.
Critics say the payments are meaningless in a state and city that never enslaved blacks. In general, opponents of reparations say that taxpayers who never owned slaves should not have to pay money to people who were not slaves.
Reparations advocates say that view ignores a wealth of data and documentation showing how, even after slavery in the US, people lived.
Eric McDonnell, chair of the San Francisco Black Reparations Advisory Committee, said he is disappointed by people who don’t understand the legacy of American slavery and how structural racism impacts institutions today.
«There’s still a veiled perspective that, honestly, black people don’t deserve this,» he said. «The number itself, $5 million, is really low when you consider the damage.»
San Francisco could be the first major US city to fund reparations for African-Americans, as the idea of paying compensation for slavery gains ground in cities and universities. San Francisco could even fund repairs ahead of the state of California, which in 2020 became the first state in the US to form a repair task force. The idea has not been taken up at the federal level.
Black residents once made up more than 13% of San Francisco’s population, but more than 50 years later, they make up less than 6% of the city’s residents and 38% of the city’s homeless population. The Fillmore district once thrived with black-owned nightclubs and shops until government redevelopment in the 1960s forced residents out.
Justin Hansford, a professor at Howard University School of Law, says no city reparations plan will have enough money to right the wrongs of slavery, but appreciates any attempt by city officials to «genuinely, legitimately, authentically «do things right. And that includes cash, he said.
«If you’re going to try to say you’re sorry, you have to speak in the language that people understand, and money is that language,» he said.
Led by Supervisor Shamann Walton, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors created the 15-member repair committee in late 2020, months after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on a statewide task force amid turmoil. national after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. a black man. The hearing was scheduled for February, but was postponed to Tuesday.
The committee’s final report is due in June and there is no timeline for San Francisco to act on the recommendations. At Tuesday’s hearing, the board could direct staff to do more research, draft legislation or schedule more meetings.
John Dennis, chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, says he would support a serious conversation on the issue, but he doesn’t see the board’s discussion of the $5 million payments as one.
“This conversation that we are having in San Francisco is not serious at all. They just threw a number, no analysis,” she said. “It seems ridiculous, and it also seems like this is the only city I could go through.”
McDonnell is frustrated by questions about how San Francisco will come up with money to pay for the panel’s recommendations.
“We are the losers,” he said. “If the judge ruled in our favor, the judge wouldn’t turn to us and say, ‘Help them figure out how to make this work.’”
The California task force continues to deliberate recommendations, including monetary compensation. Their report is due to be submitted to the Legislature on July 1. At that point, it will be up to lawmakers to draft and pass the legislation, often a time-consuming process.
The state panel made the controversial decision in March to limit reparations to descendants of blacks who were in the country in the 19th century. Some reparations advocates said the approach overlooks the ongoing harm suffered by black immigrants.
under san francisco draft recommendation, a person must be at least 18 years old and identified as “Black/African American” on public documents for at least 10 years. Eligible individuals must also meet two of the other eight criteria, though the list may change.
Those criteria include being born in or immigrating to San Francisco between 1940 and 1966 and living in the city for at least 13 years; being displaced from San Francisco by urban renewal between 1954 and 1973, or being a descendant of someone who was; being a person imprisoned for the war on drugs, or the descendant of it; or be a descendant of an American person enslaved before 1865.
The Chicago suburb of Evanston became the first US city to fund the repairs. The city gave money to qualified individuals for home repairs, property down payments, and interest or late fees owed on property in the city. In December, the Boston City Council approved a task force to study the repairs.