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.”

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • biggeek

    The LGBT Center is possibly one of the most hideous FrankenVictorians in the city. Between the preservationists and the decision to hire an an LGBT architect instead of someone who knew what the fuck they were doing, we ended up with a ugly white elephant that was outdated the day it opened to the public.

  • biggeek

    The LGBT Center is possibly one of the most hideous FrankenVictorians in the city. Between the preservationists and the decision to hire an an LGBT architect instead of someone who knew what the fuck they were doing, we ended up with a ugly white elephant that was outdated the day it opened to the public.

  • bloomsm

    So let’s see…LGBT Center runs up enormous debts and we bail them out. Have we changed the management and assumed control to avoid a reprise? Their creditors are essentially looking for a guarantor (the taxpayers of the City and County of SF, an apparently limitless source of revenue). This City is broke, tapped out, done. This project has good intentions but this is totally fiscally irresponsible. Workers throughout SF are being laid off, and while this is a great center, we need to focus on those who are most in need of city dollars (kids, the elderly, the disabled). Kudos to Elsbernd.

  • bloomsm

    So let’s see…LGBT Center runs up enormous debts and we bail them out. Have we changed the management and assumed control to avoid a reprise? Their creditors are essentially looking for a guarantor (the taxpayers of the City and County of SF, an apparently limitless source of revenue). This City is broke, tapped out, done. This project has good intentions but this is totally fiscally irresponsible. Workers throughout SF are being laid off, and while this is a great center, we need to focus on those who are most in need of city dollars (kids, the elderly, the disabled). Kudos to Elsbernd.

  • Greg Dewar

    Um, folks, the City of SF has literally poured millions and millions of dollars to keep a very unprofitable very unsustainable private business afloat. It is called Yoshi’s Jazz Club on Fillmore.

    That place has been a sinkhole for a business model that simply no longer works (giant jazz clubs with lots of overhead) and is all part of a failed idea that made people feel good but had no basis in reality.

    We also drop millions and millions of dollars into other rat holes. So by comparison ,the LGBT center is a drop in the bucket.

    Is it worth it? I dunno. But citizens in SF have time and again been more than happy to pour millions down these and other projects and not complain. They will always do so , no matter what some commenters think, and will always be there to bail out wealthy people as well. If they didn’t like it, perhaps they’d put down their blue bottle coffee and pay attention at election time. They do not.

  • Greg Dewar

    Um, folks, the City of SF has literally poured millions and millions of dollars to keep a very unprofitable very unsustainable private business afloat. It is called Yoshi’s Jazz Club on Fillmore.

    That place has been a sinkhole for a business model that simply no longer works (giant jazz clubs with lots of overhead) and is all part of a failed idea that made people feel good but had no basis in reality.

    We also drop millions and millions of dollars into other rat holes. So by comparison ,the LGBT center is a drop in the bucket.

    Is it worth it? I dunno. But citizens in SF have time and again been more than happy to pour millions down these and other projects and not complain. They will always do so , no matter what some commenters think, and will always be there to bail out wealthy people as well. If they didn’t like it, perhaps they’d put down their blue bottle coffee and pay attention at election time. They do not.

  • kl2real

    San Francisco never had an LGBT center before this place opened, and doesn’t seem destined to have one for much longer unless they make some real changes. I wish the Center provided more tangible benefit for the community. I have virtually no contact with this organization. Other service centers (Magnet, AHP, New Leaf, SFAF, etc.) seem to have better financial models running, and more direct interaction with the community. Friends who work at the Center are being laid off. Meeting rooms are prohibitively expensive to rent, leaving them often unused. Perhaps if they charged less, they would rent for some rate of return greater than zero? The cafe on the ground floor seemed like a good idea, but couldn’t run a profit. Maybe they should lease the space out to a proven concept such as Peet’s or Squat & Gobble to bring in some cash flow. Right now, when you walk into the place, it’s like walking into the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid: lifeless and devoid of purpose. It’s probably just going to end up being a Target or something awful like that.

  • kl2real

    San Francisco never had an LGBT center before this place opened, and doesn’t seem destined to have one for much longer unless they make some real changes. I wish the Center provided more tangible benefit for the community. I have virtually no contact with this organization. Other service centers (Magnet, AHP, New Leaf, SFAF, etc.) seem to have better financial models running, and more direct interaction with the community. Friends who work at the Center are being laid off. Meeting rooms are prohibitively expensive to rent, leaving them often unused. Perhaps if they charged less, they would rent for some rate of return greater than zero? The cafe on the ground floor seemed like a good idea, but couldn’t run a profit. Maybe they should lease the space out to a proven concept such as Peet’s or Squat & Gobble to bring in some cash flow. Right now, when you walk into the place, it’s like walking into the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid: lifeless and devoid of purpose. It’s probably just going to end up being a Target or something awful like that.