Public Comment

Facebook money and California housing

Zelda Bronstein
Thursday May 30, 2019 - 04:02:00 PM

How Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are funding a shadow government that’s shaping California and Bay Area housing policy

On January 24, 2019, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the limited liability company founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and funded by a lifetime pledge of 99 percent of his Facebook shares (he’s given $3 billion so far), announced that CZI had helped to launch the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, “a new kind of public-private housing partnership….aimed at helping to solve the interconnected challenges of housing, transportation, and economic opportunity.” The website of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative promotes charitable giving, although it’s really not a charity.

Joined by the Ford Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, other big philanthropies, and Facebook itself, the Partnership had already raised $280 million, with plans to assemble a total of $500 million over the next five years.

According to one account, the Partnership for the Bay’s Future “grew out of CZI’s interest in housing and an initial funding commitment” of $50 million. Ten of those millions will go to a “Policy Fund” led by the San Francisco Foundation that, the Partnership website says, will be disbursed to counties, cities, and community groups in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties to “protect families and individuals burdened by high rents…, preserve and produce affordable housing” and “enable more Bay Area residents to remain in their communities.”

Lost in the buzz of acclaim that greeted the Partnership’s founding was the fact that CZI had already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofit organizations that have used their grants to shape public housing policy for the Bay Area. Those donations are not secret; they’re listed on the CZI website; and the foundation’s broader interest in housing policy has been noted in the media.

What hasn’t been reported:

Some of CZI’s biggest grantees are promoting policies that, stated intentions notwithstanding, will inflate land values, boost rents, and force many of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable residents out of their homes, while instituting and reinforcing undemocratic forms of governance that benefit Big Tech and Big Property Capital.

These CZI grantees often collaborate. They have clout in Sacramento, manifest in bills such as SB 50 (Wiener), SB 330 (Skinner)—both endorsed by Facebook—and AB 1487 (Chiu), endorsed by CZI, and their contractual and informal relationships with state agencies.

Public records we have obtained show that this shadow government is being facilitated by CASA (the Committee to House the Bay Area), the secretive, ad hoc entity that officially operated under the auspices of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from June 2017 to December 2018, and whose members continue to lobby Sacramento, in at least one case with public funding from MTC. 

[Read the rest of the story on 48hills. com]