Breaking news: Supe committee continues LGBT Center loan request
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A Board of Supervisors committee has delayed action for two weeks on whether to approve a $157,500 loan for the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.
Supervisors on the board's budget and finance committee expressed support for the center at their Wednesday, March 10 meeting, but wanted more details on the center's financial future, including possible new funding sources.
The center is working with First Republic Bank to modify the terms of its loan related to the outstanding costs from the construction of the center's building years ago.
As part of the loan agreement, the center needs to keep $157,500 in an account with First Republic.
During the meeting, some, including Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, expressed concern that if the center gets the help from the city's general fund for its mortgage, other organizations might start lining up for similar assistance from the city.
"This situation breaks new ground" and if other institutions need help "what, then, is our duty to do what we can to improve and sustain their operations?" Mirkarimi said.
Rebecca Rolfe, the center's executive director, told the Bay Area Reporter in early February that the original loan amount was $3.2 million. Of that amount, $3,150,000 remained to be paid. The loan, which was put into place in 2009, consolidated all the center's construction-related debt. The center opened its doors in March 2002.
The loan from the city will be repaid starting in 2015, and that has to be paid back by 2020.
During the meeting Wednesday, Rolfe said the restructuring is "not an emergency," but part of a two-year strategic effort that has also included $300,000 being cut from the center's budget, through staff reductions and other means. The center's budget for 2009-10 is $1.85 million.
Openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who's not on the budget committee but co-sponsored the loan resolution with fellow gay Supervisor David Campos, said during the meeting that the center is "an important institution in the city and within the LGBT community."
Like others at the meeting, Dufty noted the center's involvement in pioneering economic development efforts that include the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative. That program is designed to help transgender individuals find stable jobs.
Dufty said what sets the center apart from other organizations is that the city has already invested more than $5 million in the facility. He also said the renegotiated agreement with First Republic would bring a savings of $200,000 over five years.
Harvey M. Rose, the board's budget and legislative analyst, noted in a report that "creation of the proposed 'mortgage payment reserve fund'" could ultimately cost the city up to about $1 million. That figure includes the $157,500.
At the meeting, Rolfe said she's not asking for the larger figure, and said she didn't anticipate coming back for more loan assistance. She reminded the supervisors they could always say no.
Before the committee meeting, Rolfe told the B.A.R. that the center has complied with the bank's request of them staying within two months of payment.
James Williamson, co-chair of the center's board, said the most recent payment was made last month.
Center officials also indicated that the center's not in any imminent danger of being foreclosed on.
After the meeting, Williamson told the B.A.R. that center officials approached the bank because "we foresaw the difficulty in meeting the existing terms" of the agreement, but "a lot more discussion would take place before the bank moved forward" on foreclosure.
On Wednesday afternoon, Greg Berardi, First Republic spokesman, told the B.A.R., "We are continuing to work cooperatively to finalize a positive resolution for all parties."
Besides Mirkarimi, the budget committee also consists of Supervisors John Avalos and Sean Elsbernd.