¿Quien Gana y Quién Pierde?

La Opinion
Orson Aguilar Samuel S. Kang

El recién anunciado plan de AT&T de adquirir T-Mobile tiene el potencial de cambiar el espectro de las comunicaciones de manera importante. Algunos ya han aplaudido o condenado la propuesta de la fusión, pero antes de apresurarnos a emitir un juicio, (y reguladores federales les podría tomar un año o más para aprobar o rechazar la propuesta), puede que convenga respirar profundo, tomar un paso hacia atrás, y ver el contexto completo.

Continue reading “¿Quien Gana y Quién Pierde?”

‘Greenlining’ Aims to Reclaim Parts of Stockton

Recordnet.com
By Almendra Caprizo

STOCKTON — Emma Smith remembers when the city tore down the once-vibrant Little Manila community during the 1960s in downtown to make way for the Crosstown Freeway.

Smith, now 73, recalls families being driven out of their homes and neighborhood, which at one point held the highest concentration of Filipinos outside of the Philippines.

They couldn’t afford to move anywhere else, so they moved into poverty, the Stockton resident said.

Now, three buildings, blight, a gas station and a fast food restaurant are what remains of what was once also home to Japantown and Chinatown in Stockton.

Redlining — the practice of denying services to neighborhoods based on their racial and ethnic makeup — made it possible to dismantle Little Manila and is also responsible for creating social, health and environmental inequity, according to advocates who spoke during the Greenlining the Hood: Reclaim & Rebuild Our City forum on Tuesday. The conversation, which was open to the public, was intended to address problems and challenges, and to build partnerships to change the outcomes for years to come.

“This blight wasn’t created by just the poor,” said Dillon Delvo, executive director and co-founder of the Little Manila Foundation. “But in the fact that cities have said, ‘OK, there’s a place for people like you over here and a place for people like you over here.’ ”

Sergio Cuellar, community engagement coordinator for the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, said blame is put on people who live in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, but communities were designed that way.

The impact is tied to the redlining of Stockton as far back as 1938, he said. Decision-makers decided to not invest in areas that had high concentrations of poverty, which were mostly populated by minority communities, he said.

The place people call home determines how long they’ll live, said Sammy Nuñez, founder and executive director for Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, which hosted the forum.

“It’s really the tale of two cities, right?” he said. “Many folks in Stockton … have opportunities and live in communities that are vibrant and have opportunities for pathways out of poverty … and are liberated from the fears that many of us in these communities are talking about.”

According to research, the difference in ZIP codes can mean having a life expectancy of 74 for someone living in Stockton’s 95205 or 83 in the more-affluent 95219. It can determine how much hotter a home and neighborhood is and the quality of air people breathe in.

Stockton has three ZIP codes — 95203, 95205 and 95206 — that fall within the top 10 most polluted areas in California.

“Just by a ZIP code you can tell who’s going to live a longer life,” Nuñez said. “Not by any decision you make, just by a ZIP code.”

The ZIP code, according to maps provided by Cuellar, can also mean access to opportunities.

Older urban areas “have weathered decades of disinvestment as development dollars followed higher-income residents to the northern suburbs,” according to the 2015 report Mapping Opportunity in California’s San Joaquin Valley conducted by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. “They now face People Opportunity challenges such as unemployment and poverty rates as high as double the regional average.”

Lower-income communities in south Stockton also face limited access to health care facilities and supermarkets, while poor neighborhoods in east and north Stockton grapple with paying for housing.

There’s an illusion of scarcity in Stockton, but there’s wealth, Nuñez said. The problem is, “we’re stingy.”

The forum brought stakeholders together to deliberately connect people with resources and collaboratively develop an action plan, he said.

Stockton city officials were invited to the forum, but none were present. San Joaquin County Supervisor Kathy Miller was in attendance.

The information provided during the forum was important, and it should be elected officials who should be alerting the community about opportunities for funding solutions, said Irene Calimlim, health justice coordinator for Fathers & Families.

During the forum, state, city and county organizations presented programs and opportunities available to Stockton’s residents. California ReLeaf highlighted the existence of grants to create urban forests and green spaces, Kaiser Permanente Central Valley presented its community benefit program, and the Department of Community Services and Development gave information about weatherization programs created to make sustainable technologies attainable to lower-income families.

The next step is to become a model for other cities by applying for grants and empowering communities, organizers said.

Although redlining became illegal with the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, the issue remains, according to organizers.

It’s subliminal, Delvo said. It “exists in our minds and our hearts. The community has been taught the idea that instead of building community, people must buy into a community.”

‘Lost’ Check Cashed: Oregon Mortgage Fraud Lawsuit Exposes White Collar Abuses

The Skanner
by: Lisa Loving

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week called out the U.S. Attorney General for not doing enough to help consumers

RealtyTrac reported last week that Oregon is the second hottest spot in the nation for home foreclosure.

And as The Skanner News went to press this week, the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a report faulting mortgage servicing processes – and calling out Attorney General Eric Holder for not doing enough for consumers.

While many critics blame defaulted homeowners for creating their own financial problems, the issue of mortgage fraud, detailed in a recent FBI report touches many homeowners in crisis.

At issue is the federal insurance that mortgage servicers rely on when consumers default on loans; the Federal Housing Administration literally pays out claims to mortgage servicers based on these defaults.

And the FHA has paid out some $12 billion in claims now considered fraudulent by the U.S. Department of Justice.

That’s no surprise to Northeast residents Michael and Judy McEldery, who are getting ready to fight an unusually sticky court battle over the North Portland home that has been in their family for 50 years.

Their lawyer says the case involves clear evidence of fraud by Nationstar Mortgage, the servicing company that bought McElderys’ mortgage after it was resold several times.

“This case reveals a corporate system that’s not governed by sound policies or individual decision-making. Nationstar’s conduct in this case appears solely motivated by the prospect of maximizing profitability and market share,” the McElderys attorney Mike Fuller says. “And the law is on their side most of the time.”

Nationstar Mortgage’s Portland-based attorney did not return a request for comment.
It Started with Repairs

For the McElderys, it all began several years ago when they moved back to Portland to take care of Judith’s mother, who had Alzheimer’s. To make ends meet Judith started caring for children in her mother’s 106-year-old house.

The family home had long been paid off, but, Judith says, they landed into the home loan market after a disgruntled ex-family member complained to the City of Portland that the building needed repairs.

So McEldery borrowed money for the repairs, landing his family in the hands of a chain of mortgage companies that started with World Savings and ended with Nationstar.

“I don’t know if World Savings went out of business or what happened,” Judy says. “Anyway, our lender started changing, and it went to two other companies before Nationstar got it.

“You can’t keep up — all of a sudden you got a letter from a different company that says they have your mortgage. And nobody is telling you anything.”

Somehow the situation worsened no matter what the McElderys did.

“They said the mortgage would go up once a year,” she says. “Our mortgage was going up every ninety days.”

When Judith called the “Homeowners HOPE Hotline” phone number for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development listed at the bottom of each bill, nothing happened.

“It took awhile but I did end up talking to a person,” she says. “They told me that I could dispute them and attempt to fight them but that was all on me.”

By September of 2012, the McElderys were sliding into default and could no longer make their mortgage payment.
National Mortgage Settlement

It’s hard to overstate the federal government’s disarray in trying to crack down on fraud by the corporate sector in the home mortgage industry.

The National Mortgage Settlement, hammered out this year between the state attorneys general, HUD and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers (JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup and Ally Financial) required the companies to pay a combined total of $25 billion to resolve claims stemming from illegal foreclosure practices. It also allowed them to pay $225 million to be released from added liability under the federal False Claims Act.

But Wednesday’s mortgage fraud report from the federal consumer bureau lists three main areas where corporate practices are still not living up to state and federal legal standards: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201308_cfpb_supervisory-highlights_august.pdf

–Sloppy account transfers, with disorganized and unlabeled paperwork, including important foreclosure documents; failures by mortgage servicers to tell consumers when the servicing of the loan is transferred to another company;

–Poor payment processing;

— Foreclosure processing mistakes, including inconsistent communications with borrowers; waiving certain fees and interest charges for some borrowers but not others; long application review periods; incomplete loan files, making it hard for consumers to find out about their loan modification applications when they call the servicer for help.
Lost Payment Cashed Later

In January 2013, Nationstar offered the McElderys a deal: If they agreed to pay a reduced amount for three months, they could stay in their home and modify the mortgage.

They took the offer and started sending checks; after a couple of months, Nationstar claimed they never received the second payment.

At the same time they were negotiating on the phone with Nationstar — and even sending more payments — the company had already started the foreclosure process.

In June of this year, Nationstar literally demanded payments from the McElderys while at the same time returning one.

“Enclosed you will find we are returning the funds you have submitted on your account that were insufficient to resolve your delinquency,” the letter from Nationstar’s “Loss Mitigation Department” says. “At this time, we are continuing with our collection efforts.”

Sound bad? There’s more.

A month after the foreclosure was initiated, Nationstar Mortgage cashed the “lost” check that triggered the foreclosure itself — but didn’t stop the foreclosure action.

Judith McEldery says a Nationstar staffer told her on the phone that perhaps the lost check had been deposited in somebody else’s account; the copy of the cashed check returned to the couple includes an endorsement on the back with a complete stranger’s name.

“It’s not uncommon for a borrower who is behind on mortgage payments to try to modify their loan, and it’s not uncommon for borrowers to receive offers to modify their loan and then not end up getting a modified mortgage,” says the McElderys’ attorney, Michael Fuller with the law firm Olsen Daines.

“What’s uncommon is that after Nationstar initiated foreclosure, started to kick the McElderys out of their home, they went and found the payment that was allegedly missing all along, and even collected payments that were sent by the McElderys in good faith after the three month period ended.

“And they refused to return them,” Fuller said. “And they refused to stop foreclosing.”
National Fines for Fraud

In her letter to Holder on Wednesday, Warren wrote that the $225 million that the five mortgage servicing companies paid in fines represented only .6 percent of the 92,735 fraudulent mortgage claims they made, the value of which totaled over $12 billion.

Further, Warren asks Holder to explain how his department came up with the $225 million settlement figure; she requests copies of any research by the DOJ on how much the fraud actually cost the government and consumers; “any other documents that relate to DOJ’s decision to accept the $225 million payment as a release from False Claims Act liability;” and a statement certifying how much of the fines paid by the mortgage companies has been deposited in the FHA’s Capital Reserve Fund so far and how much will be deposited there once the fines are paid off.

The National Mortgage Settlement only impacted homeowners with foreclosures from 2008-2011; the amount each qualifying homeowner received is pennies on the dollar – or even less, if that’s possible.

“Unfortunately, these checks will do very little to soothe the financial pain of these households, which were much more likely to be households of color,” the Greenlining Institute’s economic equity blogger Kevin Hill wrote this week. “That’s because the checks are approximately $1,480 according to the official settlement website.

“That won’t even begin to repair the damage done to those who lost their homes during the housing crisis and were forced to find other places to live.

“Frankly, the amount is so small it seems to be more of an insult to the victims of the housing crisis than anything else,” Hill wrote.

As for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren appears to be gearing up for a fight.

“First, I am troubled because I believe there needs to be a clearer and more public accounting of the damages that FHA incurred from the servicers’ fraudulent conduct,” she wrote to Holder.

“Second, and more broadly, I am concerned that this might be yet another example of the federal government’s timid enforcement strategy against the nation’s largest institutions.”

 

‘No Uber Oakland’ Campaign Seeks to Keep Uber Out of City

A movement is forming in Oakland to keep Uber out.

The Greenlining Institute joined other Oakland advocates Monday morning to launch a campaign called No Uber Oakland.

Uber has acquired the former Sears building on Broadway in Oakland, but this group is trying to keep the company from taking the building over – at least for now.

It first wants Uber to agree to preserve Oakland as a diverse city for people of all income levels.

The group has set a 10-point platform to keep Oakland from over-gentrifying.

It includes things like providing job training for local workers and maintaining non-profits for aspiring artists.

‘No Uber Oakland’ Kicks Off Campaign With List Of Demands

CNET
By Dara Kerr

A coalition of local organizations tells Uber that if it wants to have a hub in Oakland, then it “should really roll up its sleeves and work with Oakland.”

Uber announced it would open an extension of its global headquarters in downtown Oakland, California, a couple of years ago. It had plans to renovate a historic 1920s-era building and move in thousands of employees to become one of Oakland’s largest employers.

This announcement was greeted with mixed emotions. While the city said it looked forward to added commerce, locals worried about gentrification and rising rents.

But, over the past two years Uber’s vision has dwindled.

The renovations, which were slated to be complete this year, have slowed and the building still appears to be in the early phases of construction. In March, Uber announced it was scaling back the project and would move in only a couple hundred employees.

Uber’s back-and-forth has left Oakland residents wondering what the ride-hailing company’s real plans are for the city. So, a coalition of local organizations and community leaders on Monday launched a campaign with a list of demands called “No Uber Oakland.”

“We want to hold them accountable to some of the things the community wishes they were doing,” said Orson Aguilar, president of Oakland’s Greenlining Institute, which is one of the organizations in the coalition. “A company like Uber wants to move to Oakland, it should really roll up its sleeves and work with Oakland.”

Uber has experienced a rocky past few months. It all started with a #DeleteUber movement in January centered on the perception that the company was not doing enough to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban. And things got worse from there. Uber has been mired in accusations of sexual discrimination at it headquarters, chaotic corporate culture, a massive lawsuit with Google and an exodus of top executives. These scandals have added to No Uber Oakland’s concerns about the company settling in the city.

When Uber first announced its major hub in Oakland it said it was looking forward to working with the local community.

“We are excited to deepen our roots across the Bay by investing in the revitalization of historic downtown Oakland and to become a permanent part of the fabric of the East Bay community by adding thousands of jobs at our Oakland site,” Renee Atwood, Uber’s global head of people and places, said at the time.

The company has met with local organizations throughout the past couple of years and says it continues to be committed to the city.

“Over the last year, we’ve met hundreds of community leaders to hear concerns and discover ways we can work together to make Oakland and Uber a better place,” said Jordan Medina, Uber’s Oakland community outreach lead. “We’re proud of the relationships we’ve built and we’re committed to continuing these conversations as we gradually build out our Oakland presence.”

But local organizations say that while they’ve met with Uber, they’ve seen little action from the company. For instance, they’ve repeatedly asked to meet with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and have been repeatedly turned down.

Along with launching a website, social media campaign and inviting community members to get involved, No Uber Oakland has created a 10-point plan for Uber. They want Uber to hire Oakland residents, invest in education and training “pipeline programs,” contract with small local businesses, support local artists and more.

“They have a responsibility to cities like Oakland to keep them diverse and creative,” Aguilar said.

‘Too Big to Fail’ Banks: Glimmers of Hope

The Huffington Post
by Preeti Vissa

Last December I wrote about a bank merger deal that could create yet another “too big to fail” bank from the smoking embers of two of the very banks that helped blow up our economy in 2008: OneWest Bank (formerly IndyMac) and CIT Bank. While I’m baffled that this merger is still pending, I’m happy to report a bit of good news.

The federal officials who must approve the merger have listened to the pleas of community groups and consumer advocates that they not rush this deal through. Groups like the California Reinvestment Coalition and The Greenlining Institute (where I work) strongly urged the feds to hold a public hearing to ensure full vetting of the deal’s impact on the communities these companies serve — or fail to serve, as is more often the case. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have agreed to hold a joint public hearing on the impact of the merger this Thursday, Feb. 26 in Los Angeles, including testimony from individuals and community organizations.

All of the reasons I laid out for being skeptical of this merger still hold. Both banks have a sketchy past: OneWest emerged from the ashes of the failed IndyMac, one of the largest bank failures in American history. CIT experienced one of the largest bankruptcies on record, and did so after taking $2.3 billion in federal bailout money and breaking its promise to help small businesses. Executives of both banks dismiss this history as if it never happened.

In addition, bank officials have failed to address the needs of the communities the new supersized bank would serve (including an initial refusal to make meaningful commitments to low-income communities under the Community Reinvestment Act), acting instead as a bank for the top 1 percent. OneWest does almost no purchasing from minority-owned businesses, and CEO Joseph Otting has responded to legitimate questions with crude attempts to strong-arm community groups into supporting the deal.

Now the people will get to speak to the regulators. Live. In person. Face to face. Because opportunities like this are rare, it’s important for people who want a fair and responsive banking system to show up in numbers.

Of course, no one can predict what the Fed and the OCC will eventually do, but even if they approve the merger, they could attach conditions that would benefit consumers, particularly those not part of the 1 percent. But whatever action officials finally take, the very fact that this hearing is happening is a small win for the people.

Why? For one thing, it will create a public record. All the comments — from the public and community advocates as well as from the banks and their supporters — will be public and available online, creating an invaluable resource for all who want to keep the new institution honest as it moves forward.

Just as importantly, it helps establish that these sorts of bank megamergers shouldn’t be easy or quick. Banks should know that they’ll have to go through a thorough examination at which the communities they serve will have a real voice, and they should be ready to address those concerns or face time-consuming, expensive delays.

Strikingly, rather than address those concerns, Otting tried to head off a hearing by generating a blitz of form-letter emails to regulators, claiming that “there is no need for a public hearing” and that the “merger will retain and create new jobs in California.” That he didn’t get away with it is a good thing all by itself. Hopefully, Otting will be able to explain what jobs will be created, other than the few multimillion-dollar-compensated executive positions CIT will move to the state.

If you will be in Los Angeles Feb. 26, I urge you to attend. The hearing will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, located at 950 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. If you can’t make it for the whole day, opponents of the merger will hold a rally outside the building starting at 12:15 p.m. And by all means join the conversation online by using the hashtag #StopOneWestCIT. My colleagues will be posting updates on Twitter @Greenlining.

‘No Uber Oakland’ Coalition Releases a List of 10 Demands for Ride-Hailing Giant

Fortune
By Polina Marinova

In 2015, Uber announced that it would open a giant office in Oakland, Calif., for 2,000 to 3,000 employees. The move would’ve made Uber the city’s largest employer outside of government agencies and health care centers.

Alas, that did not happen.

In March, the ride-hailing giant revealed that it had scaled back its ambitious expansion plans from up to a few thousand employees down to a few hundred.

“We are slowing, not halting, our plans to grow into our Oakland space. We’re growing into the space,” Uber said in a statement to USA Today. “We’re still planning to move some folks there in (the second quarter of) 2018.”

As a result, a coalition of community leaders has formed “No Uber Oakland,” a campaign that urges Uber to make concrete plans and “hammer out a constructive agenda to ensure that Oakland’s diverse residents have access to good jobs.” The coalition has also released a list of 10 demands for the tech giant, including recruiting and hiring Oakland residents as well as guaranteeing its drivers a living wage that enables them to live in the city.

The movement is gaining some traction on social media with local leaders are tweeting using the hashtag #NoUberOakland.

“To be welcome in Oakland, Uber must change,” reads the No Uber Oakland website.

Uber could not be reached for comment.

‘Stop Mega Comcast’ Coalition Aims to Block Time Warner Cable Merger

Variety
by Cynthia Littleton

A clutch of public interest groups, unions and media companies including Dish Network and Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze have formed the “Stop Mega Comcast” coalition to advocate against federal approval of the $45 billion cable merger.

The group spearheaded by the non-profit org Public Knowledge said it would focus on blocking the union of the nation’s two largest cable operators outright because “no set of conditions can address the substantial harms that will be caused by the merger.” The strident opposition to the merger by the coalition members is nothing new, but the Stop Mega Comcast forum may amplify their arguments at a time when there’s growing speculation about the possibility that regulators will reject the deal.

In announcing the effort, the group listed familiar concerns about the merger, including the fact that the combined company would control nearly 50% of the broadband service in the U.S. — although Comcast maintains the figure is 35%. Broadband is a hot button for regulators at a time when the FCC is evaluating its net neutrality policies. Comcast has said it would abide by the FCC’s net neutrality rules that were put in place several years ago, even though a federal appeals court struck them down in January.

Comcast described the coalition as comprised of “self-interested opponents” with competitive motivations for seeking to block the merger.

“Hundreds of community organizations, programmers, lawmakers and diversity groups have praised the pro-consumer benefits of this transaction. It is no secret that some companies that want billions of dollars in higher fees for consumers are paying lobbying firms to organize against this transaction,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s VP of government communications. “This minority of self-interested opponents has used the same tactics in our past deals, and their claims were not found to be credible by the expert agencies. We believe the same will be true here.”

The Writers Guild of America West is among the industry orgs in the coalition, along with the Consumer Federation of America, Greenlining Institute, Parents Television Council, Sports Fan Coalition, WeatherNation TV, FairPoint Communications, Future of Music Coalition, Hargray Communications and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.

In a conference call with reporters, execs with the various orgs emphasized that the combined Comcast-TW Cable would have a dangerous amount of “gatekeeper” control over aspects of the media and entertainment marketplace. They pointed to Comcast’s track record in fighting a condition of its 2011 NBCUniversal takeover — the stipulation that it carry Bloomberg TV in the same “neighborhood” as its own biz channel CNBC — as a sign that conditions would not be strong enough to police the company’s power.

Ellen Stutzman of the WGA West said flatly that Comcast, through its cable and studio divisions, would have “unprecedented” power over programming, which would ultimately mean that “writers would have fewer outlets to sell to, and they’d be paid less to create and innovate.”

The group has launched a website and plans to meet with officials at the FCC and Justice Department as they hunker down on the review of the merger, which was unveiled in February. Gene Kimmelman, prexy-CEO of Public Knowledge, also noted that they feel momentum is on their side as in the past few months there has been growing speculation that the deal will be nixed entirely or saddled with so many conditions that it becomes unattractive to Comcast.

“The conversation has been different in the last month or two,” Kimmelman said. “The concerns we want to raise could fall on receptive ears at the enforcement agencies.”

Lynne Costantini of TheBlaze said the nature of the questions that have been asked of merger opponents by FCC and Justice Dept. staffers indicates that they are grappling with the issues raised by the size and scope of Comcast post-merger. “This is not a run-of-the-mill review. They’re thinking about this in new and different ways,” she said.

The coalition cited Comcast’s overwhelming market share in the traditional cable biz as well as its size as a programmer through NBCUniversal. Other areas of concern cited were the sway that the enlarged Comcast would have to provide the broadband for connected consumer devices; the market share it would command in local cable advertising; and the impact of its size in markets with high concentrations of minority viewers.

The org’s media strategy is being handled by D.C.-based Glover Park Group, the communications firm known for its work on politically charged issues and regulatory fights such as Comcast’s 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal.

“All of the Tools in Our Tool Belt.” A Community Foundation Steps Up its Impact Investing

Inside Philanthropy
By Alyssa Ochs

Impact investing is one of the hottest topics in institutional philanthropy right now. And while private foundations have tended to be on the leading edge of this movement, a growing number of community foundations have been jumping into impact investing or ramping up existing efforts. The latest example is the San Francisco Foundation, which last month announced a $50 million commitment for an investment pool aimed at generating positive social and financial returns. That sum represents 6.3 percent of the foundation’s $800 million endowment.

We’ve written often in recent years about TSFF’s move to put racial and economic equity at the center of its work. It has emerged as an early adopter of a strategy that’s been gaining traction across the foundation world. TSFF Vice President of Programs Judith Bell told us last year that the foundation is “all in” on equity and is looking to expand its civic leadership and elevate the foundation’s voice on key equity issues.

That commitment has been clear in TSFF’s work on housing affordability. The foundation and its president, Fred Blackwell, have been playing a critical role is galvanizing a stronger public-private response. (Which is why IP named Blackwell “Foundation President of the Year” in our 2018 IPPYs).

Given its ambitious equity agenda, it’s not surprising that TSFF is putting aside some serious new cash for impact investing. As we’ve often discussed, the daunting scale of key equity challenges—especially the affordable housing crisis—requires far greater resources than what’s available through traditional grantmaking. The momentum behind impact investing, which has been growing for years, is further fueled by a mounting sense of urgency among funders grappling with entrenched equities in top metro areas like San Francisco. Dipping into the “other 95 percent” of capital that foundations control is one way to step up the fight.

“The scope and complexity of the issues that we are trying to address in the Bay Area require us to use all of the tools in our tool belt,” said Blackwell in announcing TSFF’s new investment fund. “We see investing in a values-aligned manner as part of how we achieve our overall mission, and we don’t think we have to sacrifice returns.”

TSFF is no newcomer to impact investing—in fact, the funder’s first loan program kicked off in 1989, before impact investing was even a thing. Yet recent surveys show that only about 17 percent of foundations are pursuing impact investing strategies today, which means that funders like TSFF are still in the minority. Meanwhile, there remain serious questions about whether it’s really so smart for foundations to use their endowment capital in this way.

The term impact investing can be fuzzy, describing a range of approaches by foundations looking to align their endowments more closely with their missions. That’s clear in the way TSFF describes impact investing on its website, and in its March announcement of the new fund—which it says will be composed “of a diversified portfolio of managers using a variety of impact investment and socially responsible strategies, including social screens and environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.” It’s not clear yet how much of the $50 million fund will be available for, say, investing in affordable housing projects.

But the new commitment comes on the heels of TSFF’s move last year to put aside $10 million for the Bay Area Community Impact Fund for loans to local nonprofit organizations and social enterprises. Before that, TSFF approved a $500,000 program-related investment loan to the Greenlining Institute to renovate its downtown Oakland headquarters in 2015 and set aside $5 million to make other loans to nonprofits in the Bay Area in 2009.

Reflecting a growing push among foundations, TSFF also said in its March announcement that it’s looking to work with investment firms owned by people of color and women. And it’s steering clear of controversial investments, such as fossil fuel companies, tobacco companies and private prisons. Donors who have set up donor-advised funds at TSFF also have the opportunity to grow the new impact investing pool. According to foundation estimates, the targeted risk-adjusted return for the investment pool is between 7 and 8 percent.

Together with its donors, TSFF gave $154 million to nonprofits last fiscal year to serve Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.