July 2014

Young and Old Get a Chunk of Change through Participatory Budgeting

Keith Burbank

A program catering to seniors and another serving youth will each receive $25,000 this year as a result of District 10’s participatory budgeting process. The process allowed residents to propose and vote for projects they want to receive tax dollars. A total of $100,000 was available in District 10 in fiscal year 2014. The remaining $50,000 will be divided between five other projects. All of the seven programs receiving funds will be administered by City departments, which can enlist the help of community organizations. 

“I am proud to announce the results of the District 10 Participatory Budgeting Process,” wrote District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen. “During this year’s pilot program, over 400 District 10 residents voted to decide on how we should spend $100,000 to improve our community.” 

District 3 pioneered the idea in San Francisco in 2013, and was joined by Districts 7 and 10 this year. Cohen, who is up for re-election this November, said she’d rely on the process again next year if she receives another $100,000 in discretionary money. 

Senior Services Resource Program received the most votes in this year’s process. The program, administered by the Department of Human Services, will provide computer training, citizenship classes, expanded access to meals and improved awareness among seniors of the services offered.

Restorative Justice Mentorship Program received the second highest number of votes. The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) will administer this pilot program, which is aimed at low-income students who are suspended for disruptive behavior. Former inmates will mentor the youth and teach restorative justice in District 10 public schools. Participants have yet to be identified. The initiative will be implemented through a collaboration of the supervisor’s office, SFUSD and City staff experienced with restorative justice programs. 

Residents voted to spend $15,000 to study whether to install all-way stop signs at five intersections in the district, at a cost of $3,000 per intersection. On Potrero Hill, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will conduct studies at 18th and Texas streets and Mariposa and Pennsylvania streets. In Dogpatch, SFMTA will examine the intersection at 24th and Minnesota streets. The transit agency will also investigate intersections at Mansell and Hamilton streets and Bacon and Girard streets. 

Eleven thousand dollars will provide six months of rental and utility assistance to Visitacion Valley seniors. The money hasn’t yet been directed to any specific housing complex. The Department of Human Services will administer the program, and allocate the money through a public process.

Ten thousand dollars will be used to expand the City’s existing Urban Agriculture Program in District 10 to preschool children and other youth. A site has yet to be identified for the funds. Another $10,000 will be dedicated to planting a community garden on public property in the Sunnydale neighborhood. And $5,000 will be spent to write a grant to install beautification projects designed by under-served public high school students. 

More than 1,000 cities worldwide use participatory budgeting. In 1990, Porte Alegre, Brazil became the first municipality in the world to launch a full participatory budgeting process. Since then, the idea has spread to Spain, Chicago, New York City, and Vallejo, California. Vallejo was the first United States city to implement the process. 

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