What is a GBD?
A Green Benefit District (GBD) is an innovative way for San Francisco residents to directly invest in the beautification and greening of their neighborhood. A new type of neighborhood-based property assessment district, a GBD is voted into existence by the property owners within the proposed district. This special assessment district, authorized by state and local law (See San Francisco Business Code Article 15A), allows individual property owners to vote to assess their own property in exchange for control over how the assessment revenues are spent within their neighborhood.
GBDs are similar to Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) or Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), but are geared towards residential rather than commercial districts. Specifically, GBDs can improve daily maintenance of, and make capital improvements to, Public Realm areas. The geographic area of a GBD is determined by a lengthy public outreach and benefit evaluation process, to ensure that the boundaries of the GBD only contains parcels that will receive a special benefit. Everyone who owns property inside the GBD boundaries and receives a special benefit pays an assessment to support the District's services, activities, and improvements.
Importantly, GBDs enable neighborhood-scale stewardship of shared public resources, complementing a city's baseline maintenance and operations programs at a hyper-local level. A GBD is managed by an independent, nonprofit corporation governed by an elected board of directors that represents assessed property owners and community stakeholders. Every GBD must have a Management Plan that serves as the “mini-Constitution” of the GBD, clearly defining the scope and spending authority of each GBD. Once approved by the voters, the Management Plan can only be changed by a subsequent vote of the assessed property owners. This transparent and grassroots management structure ensures that GBDs are held accountable to the community they serve and that GBD services are provided in an efficient, responsive and cost-effective manner. A GBD allows neighbors to substantially improve the maintenance of green space and parks in their district for a relatively modest dollar-per-square-foot assessment by spreading costs over a broad area.
For a Glossary of Terms used to describe the GBD, click here.
- Maintenance: The maintenance service plan includes district scale maintenance activities like tree care, graffiti patrol, and trash and debris removal, as well as comprehensive maintenance services for all Public Realm areas in the GBD.
- Capital Improvements: The capital improvements plan dedicates a specific percentage of the annual GBD budget to the improvement of existing Public Realm areas and creation of new Public Realm areas, and establishment of new Green Infrastructure in the GBD.
- Accountability, Transparency & Citizen Services: This service category includes management of the GBD’s finances, contracts for services, improving relationship with the public by utilizing web-based services for recording and reporting cleanliness and maintenance concerns and development of public communication and accountability strategy. A GBD manager ensures the smooth operation of the district, advocates on behalf of property owners, and leverages the capacity of the district for maximum benefit to the district.
- Operations & Contingency/Reserves: A required operations category that covers insurance, accounting, audits and financial reviews, and potential cost overruns of the GBD.
For more detail on these four service areas, please see Section V of the GBD Management Plan.
Benefits of GBDs to Property Owners and Other Stakeholders
- Improves the maintenance of parks, plazas, parklets, sidewalks, unimproved areas, landscaped areas, gardens and the Public Realm in general.
- Supports capital improvements to Green Infrastructure, contributing to solving environmental challenges at the local level and enhancing the health of the GBD.
- Provides a steady source of revenue to support reliable and professional services.
- Leverages GBD capital with outside capital (from government grants and/or private funds) to fund far more Public Realm improvements than would occur otherwise.
- Provides property owners with direct oversight in the administration of all funds and ensures a high degree of transparency and accountability in how funds are spent.
- Distributes costs and benefits fairly and proportionately across property owners in the GBD.
How is a GBD Formed?
- Property Owner Petition. Property owners representing 30% or more of the weighted assessment within the proposed boundaries of the GBD must sign a petition supporting formation.
- City & County of San Francisco (CCSF) Board of Supervisors’ Resolution of Intent. If step #1 is successful, a majority of the Board of Supervisors (six members) must vote to approve a “Resolution of Intent” for the GBD to advance to step #3, below.
- Property Owner Ballot. If the Board of Supervisors approves the Resolution of Intent, the CCSF Department of Elections will mail ballots to all property owners within the boundaries of the GBD. Ballots are collected and counted by the CCSF Department of Elections and the results are presented at a public hearing of the Board of Supervisors.
- CCSF Board of Supervisors’ Resolution of Formation. If a simple majority (more than 50%) of the ballots submitted to the CCSF Department of Elections support formation, then the Board of Supervisors may vote to form the GBD.
How is a GBD Funded?
Each property owner in the GBD pays an assessment based on a formula calculated using parcel size and use category. Assessments show up on residential property tax bills and are collected twice a year on the same schedule as property taxes. The rate varies by land use type: Commercial, Residential and Industrial parcels are assessed based on their total building square footage, while Greenspace parcels and Vacant/Parking Lots are assessed based on their total lot square footage. For a more detailed explanation of the methodology used to calculate assessment rates, please see Section G: Apportionment Method of the Engineer’s Report.
Who Governs a GBD?
Consistent with state and local law, a GBD is managed by an owners’ nonprofit corporation that would apply to become a public-benefit 501(c)(3) organization, initially with a part time manager, governed by an elected board of directors (the “Board of Directors”). The GBD is designed, first and foremost, to be accountable and responsive to the community in order to provide real, visible, and lasting services, both to local citizens and to the environment in the GBD. For more details about the selection and governance structure of a GBD's Board of Directors, please see the FAQ page.
What Can a GBD Fund?
A GBD can fund maintenance and capital improvements on existing and new open spaces, parks, parklets, plazas, sidewalk greenings, green infrastructure, gardens and the public realm in general, within the district boundaries. A proposed capital improvement project must meet the following criteria to be eligible for GBD funding:
- Land Ownership and Public Access: The property to receive capital funding for improvements may be public or private but must be a Publicly Accessible Property in a Public Realm area.
- Potential for Neighborhood Stewardship: Letters of support and commitment from neighbors, businesses, or community groups demonstrating support for, and an interest in, stewarding the improvement with maintenance and operations support from the GBD.
- Benefits a broad range of users: A qualitative and quantitative measure of how the new capital improvements will benefit a broad range of users.
- Enhances Public Safety: A qualitative and quantitative measure of how the new capital improvements will positively impact the general public safety.
- Enhances Neighborhood Social Cohesion: A qualitative and quantitative measure of how the new capital improvement will impact social cohesion in light of new neighbors mixing with current neighbors.
- Neighborhood Health Benefits: A qualitative and quantitative measure of how the new capital improvements will impact health benefits in the neighborhood.
- Environmental Stewardship: A qualitative and quantitative measure of how the new capital improvements will impact the environment.