Inner Sunset Action Community

Your San Francisco Green Benefit District Resource Site

P.O. Box 22242, San Francisco, CA 94122
Email: InnerSunsetActionCommunity@gmail.com

Who are we?  Why this site? 
Inner Sunset Picture


February 2, 2019 - Inner Sunset GBD effort abandoned. Promoter's web site taken down.

We will keep this site available while SF continues its GBD program. We invested much time and effort in learning about the GBD program, and believe the information on this site provides insight for neighborhoods that are, or will be targeted.

Links on this site that point to the Inner Sunset GBD promoters' web site will no longer function.

September 3, 2018 - We've added a NEW page for News and Reviews.
New Green Benefit District Information
  • Revealing quotes by Inner Sunset GBD insiders and links to their sources. Sources were obtained through public records requests.
  • A look at SF's schizophrenic park policies.
  • Park funding news for FY 2018-19.
  • A video slideshow review of the NW Potrero Hill/Dogpatch GBD. Did that GBD upgrade existing services?
  • Links to other sites opposing the GBD tax.

A NEW TAX ASSESSMENT MAY BE IMPOSED. ITS TIMING IS UNCERTAIN.

This site provides information about the proposed Inner Sunset Green Benefit District (GBD). Our intention to help property owners make an informed decision about their vote in the coming GBD election. We are Inner Sunset residents who attended GBD "Formation Committee" meetings during 2017, researched the issue and oppose Inner Sunset GBD creation. How we reached this conclusion is our web site's topic.
What is a Green Benefit District (GBD)?

WHAT IS A GREEN BENEFIT DISTRICT?

A Green Benefit District is a 501(c) (non-profit) corporation formed as a result of property owner vote and Board of Supervisors approval. Its mission is to provide benefits to property owners in proportion to the property tax assessment made on all property owners in its district.

HOW MUCH WILL MY ASSESSMENT COST?

The first things most property owners want to know are, "Am I in the district?" and "How much will this cost?" Let's get right to this!

We created a GBD assessment calculator with a map to answer these questions.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A GREEN BENEFIT DISTRICT?

The Inner Sunset GBD Draft Managment Plan's executive summary explains, "A GBD can fund a wide range of enhanced maintenance and capital improvements for Inner Sunset public spaces, beyond the City’s existing baseline services and not as a redundant or replacement source of funds."

In order to make sense of this, we need to know the City's Inner Sunset existing baseline services. The problem starts right here. We can't get a straight answer. Check out the answer we got from Jonathan Goldberg, DPW Green Benefit District Program Manager. The page also shows that the City used to give straight answers to this question.

Without a clear baseline of City services, Inner Sunset GBD voters have no assurance that GBD benefits will be service enhancements rather than replacements for services currently provided without additional cost.

WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO?

Green Benefit District BudgetsDo we have assurance on where the money goes? Well, sort of. The Management Plan has a budget. The Plan gives the Board of Directors the ability to alter spending from budgeted amounts by up to 10% in any category.

The Management Plan budget for "Advocacy and Promotion" is $185,000 in year one. This means that the Board of Directors may spend between $166,500 and $203,500 in this category.

To be clear, "Advocacy" means "Lobbying."

Please review our GBD Budget Analysis for a more detailed look at the budget.

Interested voters may also wish to examine the Inner Sunset GBD Draft Management Plan. This is the source document for our budget analysis.

HOW IS A GREEN BENEFIT DISTRICT FORMED?

The SF DPW has a page that describes the Green Benefit Formation Process.

The DPW page describes the first step as, "Convene Meeting of interested property owners." This omits the actual first step: DPW hires a consultant to convene the meeting. We have seen that the consultant, Build Public, Inc., now known as Place Lab, is in charge of every step of the GBD formation process.

If the GBD is formed, up to $50,000 in formation costs may be clawed back from first year property assessments.

Thanks to San Francisco's "Sunshine Act," all email and documents generated by City employees can be viewed by the public. We were able to obtain this email thread verifying DPW's GBD formation spending.

MEET THE INVENTOR OF THE GBD

So, who or what is this "Build Public / Place Lab" and why should I care?

Developer Michael Yarne, co-founder of Build Public, was Gavin Newsom's Development Advisor when Newsom was Mayor. The Green Benefit District was Yarne's idea.

Yarne was interviewed by S.F. Chronicle Reporter J.K. Dineen in his article Dogpatch, SF’s latest boomtown neighborhood, shedding scruffy past, published October 29, 2017.

"The plantings were paid for through the Green Benefit Districts program started five years ago by developer Michael Yarne of Build Inc., which recently completed O&M Dogpatch, a 116-unit development at 650 Indiana St. The program levies a voluntary tax on developers and uses the money to improve and maintain public open spaces throughout the neighborhood. So far every developer has agreed to pay into the district, which has smoothed the approval process.

“It’s a beautifully proportionate relationship,” Yarne said. “The capacity of the Green Benefit Districts to do good work grows precisely in unison with the number of new units and new people.”

It's hard to know where to start on Yarne's comments, but let's give it a try:
  • SF's GBD legislation passed in 2004. The Dogpatch GBD first assessed property owners in November 2015 and began operations in 2016, not five years ago.
  • The GBD property tax assessment is not voluntary. A lien may be placed on your property if you don't pay it.
  • The tax is on all property owners in the district, not just developers.
  • How does a GBD, "smooth the approval process?" Hint: See the budget item, "Advocacy" in the "Where does the money go" section, above.
Yarne is correct in one sense. A small number of developers owned enough property to control the GBD vote in Dogpatch. Eight properties accounted for 23% of the vote. Two of those eight voting properties are owned by the City of SF. You can see the results of the Dogpatch election here: Dogpatch/NW Potrero Hill GBD Final Results Report. Click on the "Final Results Report" link.

Through public records requests we found the estimated GBD formation budgets for the Inner Sunset and Dogpatch/NW Potrero Hill GBDs. Dogpatch GBD formation cost over $332,000. Developers contributed more than $115,000 to Dogpatch GBD creation.

DO BENEFIT DISTRICTS HAVE ANY REDEEMING QUALITIES?

Yes! Benefit districts let property owners help themselves when the government cannot or will not. We think of benefit districts as the final option for joint neighborhood action when calls for assistance from government go unanswered, and something must be done.

As a government created agency, a benefit district can apply for grants or issue bonds. The City’s credit rating will provide lower interest rates than if property owners took out loans themselves. This makes benefit districts appropriate for projects requiring large capital expenditures.

But a benefit district should not be property owners “go to” first choice if other funding is available. Retain your option to create a benefit district until you really need it, and hope that you never do.

FINAL WORDS

If you have questions about the Inner Sunset GBD, please email us. If the GBD formation effort holds another meeting (we believe they should!), try to attend if at all possible. Whether you support or oppose this effort, we encourage you to engage with the civic process.

Of course, should the Inner Sunset GBD move forward, we urge you to VOTE NO! Thanks for reading.