With a new recreation center slated to break ground later this year, the foundation administering funds paid to the San Bruno community following the PG&E pipeline explosion is strategizing its next move.
The San Bruno Community Foundation sought community input Monday, April 26, from residents and community members regarding how to manage roughly $30 million left over in the fund after $50 million is paid for the recreation center construction.
The foundation was initially formed to manage $70 million paid by Pacific Gas and Electric to improve the quality of life in San Bruno in the aftermath of the tragedy that devastated the Crestmoor neighborhood in 2010.
Following a previous community outreach campaign, officials agreed in 2017 to allocate a majority of the restitution money to build a new recreation facility and aquatic center at the site of the existing community center on City Park Way.
The rest of the fund was set aside to be invested by a wealth management group and an estimated $20 million has accrued through the end of 2020, according to a city report. In all, about $30 million remains which officials must determine a plan for managing.
A central question which community members have been asked to help officials determine is whether to spend the $30 million and exhaust the fund, continue investing it or take a mixed approach of setting aside a portion while seeking specific projects to finance.
According to feedback from the most recent community meeting, most who participated favored spending some of the money on priority projects while continuing to invest and manage the fund with hopes of allowing it to grow further.
Investing in programs assisting San Bruno students and aiding local schools was the most popular strategic initiative identified by those who participated in the most recent community meeting. The fund has already been used to launch a scholarship program for local students, and more than $500,000 has been spent to improve local music education programs.
The preference for school support during the most recent meeting differed from priorities shared by those participating in previous community meetings, who suggested improvements for downtown San Bruno would be the best way to allocate the money.
Investment in banners, welcome signs, fixing and paving streets, trash clean up, traffic signals, landscaping and other amenities which could help make downtown a more inviting environment for shoppers and merchants were among the potential initiatives which would be financed through the fund.
More than $250,000 has already been spent on infrastructure intended to make downtown safer, and the fund paid $150,000 through a business grant program intended to help local companies struggling amid the pandemic.
Building more parks, open spaces and gathering places for children such as a bike or skate parks was a priority shared by those who participated in the most recent online meeting as well. Consultants hired to facilitate the discussion noted that the new recreation center will also offer space for outdoor activities.
The broader community survey suggested that some of the funds should be set aside to finance social programs such as low-income housing, food security services, support for those experiencing homelessness, mental health benefits, legal aid, nonprofit assistance and other similar initiatives.
So far, the foundation has already allocated $1.4 million in community grants assisting 114 programs and services throughout San Bruno.
Proposals to use the funds to rebuild the senior center or library did not garner much support, during the most recent online discussion or the broader community survey. YouTube, which is looking to expand its campus, has suggested previously it may assist the city with construction of a new library.
A proposal to use the funds for upgrading the city’s water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure failed to collect much support as well. Officials are attempting to raise some utility rates with the hope of generating enough income to fix failing infrastructure, and some frustrated residents had suggested using the restitution funds for the projects rather than passing the obligation onto ratepayers.
From the most recent meeting, facilitators agreed to consider the feedback along the more than 400 responses they have already received regarding potential fund management strategies and present those findings to foundation board members next month.
Looking ahead, the facilitators anticipated that the foundation will make a decision regarding its next phase of spending later this summer.