Business plan

Group of experts drawing up a business plan for the public bank SF

The proposal to create a public bank for San Francisco, to provide an alternative to the big banks for the city’s investment and lending needs, is gradually moving from concept to reality. A group of experts in relevant fields, from finance to affordable housing, has been selected to begin developing a business plan for a public bank. Fernando Martí, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, and Sylvia Chi, co-lead author of AB 857, California’s Public Banking Act and member of the California Public Banking Alliance, spoke with “Civic” about how a public bank would operate – including how it would be run and how it could help affordable housing development – ​​and how long it might take before such a financial institution was established.

“It’s not your supervisory board that sits as the bank’s board of directors. Part of our job is to develop the governance structure, and that will include determining who will actually sit on the bank’s board. To whom are they going to report and how do we ensure that the members of this board are free from any conflict of interest or apparent conflict of interest? We are going to make sure that the governance of the bank is something people trust.

—Sylvia Chi

“Part of the way we currently finance affordable housing is through loans from traditional banks. And these loans aren’t necessarily made because traditional banks like to invest and lend in affordable housing, but because we have laws in place – the Community Reinvestment Act – that compel banks to do this kind of lending. That said, these are the same banks that invest in fossil fuels; invest or have ties to payday lending establishments, all kinds of bad actors. And so the city’s investments, whether it’s in affordable housing or whatever, are now tied to all of these things that at the same time we’re passing resolutions and saying we as a city don’t support these things.

— Fernando Marti

A segment from our radio show and podcast, “Civic”. Listen at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 102.5 FM in San Francisco, or online at, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher.

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