monopoly_money.jpgBacking of LGBT Center’s debt service moves forward

What’s a couple hundred thousand between friends? The City and County of San Francisco looks likely to bail out the LGBT Center — the smartly-designed, soon-to-be-foreclosed upon Market Street fountain of free services — after a proposal to front the center $1 million cleared the initial legislative stages on Wednesday.

The “Center,” as it is called, owes a Nevada-based bank about $3.2 million, monies used to construct the building. The bank, leery of the center’s ability to pay, has asked the Center to create a $157,500 reserve account to guarantee *some* payment — money which the center does not have, forcing the center to ask the City to front it the money.

That $157,500 could grow into over $1 million if the Center is consistently out of cash to pay its own way, according to a budget analyst report. If the loan is approved, the center would pay back the city in five neat annual payments from 2015 to 2020 at the cool rate of 1.35 percent.

Of course, the center’s continued existence is a cause celebre for LGBT politicians, chief of whom is Supervisor Bevan Dufty, the openly gay Castro representative running for mayor (and, for our money, the best-smelling politician of all time). The loan idea seems likely to pass the full Board of Supervisors next Tuesday, as the moderate Dufty is generally considered the swing vote needed to rain on a veto’s parade.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, a fiscal conservative, was the only naysayer Wednesday at the three-member Budget & Finance Committee. “I just don’t know if we should be doing this,” he said, noting that if the LGBT Center is broke, the Center should note the City is broke, too. “If the bank feels like the Center can’t make these payments without a loan from the city… putting the city on the hook for this is not something I think we should be doing.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom has also poo-pooed the financial rescue, observing that the city does not print money.

The Center’s mission is admirable, but some question its execution. The city has already shoveled $12.3 million into the effort, on top of the $3.2 million the center owes to outside lenders. A business once housed at the Center also failed, shuttering in 2008.

Supervisors John Avalos and Ross Mirkarimi both love them some queer centers and voiced approval for the bailout plan (which LGBT Center directors insist is not a bailout plan at all. Semantics, semantics).

“I really see the need to have a viable LGBT Center,” Avalos said. “I have a sense we need to continue with this investment.”

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