If life were a game of Monopoly, the San Francisco School District would be sitting on a property gold mine, with holdings from Baltic to Boardwalk, and all the utilities and railroads in between. The only problem is, they’re not building hotels. They’re not even charging rent.

Across the City, the school district owns everything from parking lots, to dog parks, to the dirt beneath Nordstrom–a holding that pulls $2.5 billion annually for the district.
Certain officials in San Francisco are urging the district to part with some of their surplus property in order to overcome a $46 million dollar deficit–a deficit they typically fill with rainy day funds.

In one example, a recent consultant’s analysis predicted that if the district were to part with 10 surplus sites, they could bring in an additional $132 million.

But is it the wisest move?

First, the economy is in the toilet. Phil Halperin, an appointed member of the surplus property force, points out: “is there a worse time in the last 35 years to start putting fire sale prices or fire sale leases for pieces of dirt in San Francisco?” Holding property until the economy rebounds could make for increased profits.

Second, state laws prohibit the proceeds from property sales from going to anything except facilities. The funds could not be used for textbooks or teachers. And if enrollment continues to increase, is it wise to risk losing potential sites for new facilities?

Another consideration is leasing surplus sites to community organizations. Leasing to community organizations won’t pull the same profits as leasing to Nordstrom, but such organizations provide invaluable services to the district’s families and their children.
Halperin points out, “These are scarce resources. When you make a decision with respect to surplus property and how you use it…this is multigenerational impact.”

Point. But San Francisco needs to stay on top of this and make a decision soon. Check it out, and let us know what you think San Francisco should do with its surplus property.

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