The San Francisco Board of Supervisors came under pressure Tuesday to accept a draft proposal on reparations that includes $5 million for each eligible Black adult resident, a budget-busting figure increasingly embraced by supporters as the baseline.
The evening meeting drew a packed house of people offering public comment in favor of the San Francisco reparations advisory committee’s draft, which drew national attention when its recommendations were released in December.
“We want to make sure that you understand that this is not charity, that we are not asking for a favor,” Tinisch Hollins, the reparations panel’s vice chair, said at the meeting. “What we are asking for, what we are demanding for, is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward.”
The proposals receiving the most attention call for giving eligible residents a one-time $5 million cash payment, paying off personal debt, guaranteeing annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years and turning apartments into privately owned condominiums available to current tenants for $1.
The recommendations have been dismissed as unrealistic. A Hoover Institution analysis found that implementing those four financial proposals alone for the city’s estimated 35,445 Black adult residents would cost about $200 billion, or nearly $600,000 per non-Black resident.
The city’s 2022-23 budget was $14 billion. Even so, supervisors expressed support for the draft report, blaming the media for hyping the $5 million figure while overlooking the 110 other recommendations made by the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee.
“I really do hope all of us in city leadership, especially with these attacks coming from around the nation and from conservative and racist forces across the country and in this city, speak up loud and clear and proud in defense of and in support of the reparations advisory committee’s recommendations and make them happen as soon as possible,” said Supervisor Dean Preston.
The board is not expected to vote on the proposals until after the committee delivers its final report in June.
California was never a slave state, but those commenting pointed to the decades of hardship faced by Black residents, who once represented 13% of the city but whose numbers dwindled to 6% amid discriminatory redevelopment and housing policies such as redlining.
“This is not about Black people just having their hand out,” said Naj Daniels, a third-generation San Franciscan. “This is about hundreds of years of free labor, about being removed from our homes, not allowed to be educated, not allowed to earn a wage, not allowed to reproduce and raise families, pushed out of San Francisco.”
Some of those speaking urged the city to “cut the check.” Anietie Ekanem, a member of the reparations panel, even wore a black sweatshirt with the message: “San Francisco Reparations/Cut the Check.”
Ms. Hollins called on the board to take action during this year’s budget season, telling supervisors that the nation is watching.
“I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco,” she said. “I don’t need to impress upon you that we have national and international attentions.”
Those speaking at the hearing also spoke out in favor of renewing the Dream Keeper Initiative, a 2021 program championed by Mayor London Breed to reinvest $120 million over two years in the city’s Black communities.
The city launched the reparations committee in 2020 amid the racial turmoil stoked by the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The state of California has also formed a reparations panel, which has not yet floated a payment figure.
In his Jan. 24 analysis, Hoover Institution senior fellow Lee Ohanian said the financial proposals, if implemented, would do more harm than good.
“Many African Americans living in San Francisco face significant economic challenges,” Mr. Ohanian said. “But implementing the Reparations Committee’s recommendations is not the solution to these problems. Rather, it is a proposal that would result in massive business and household relocations, ultimately bankrupting the city.”