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Cui Bono? Assessing Community Engagement in San Francisco Community Benefit Agreements

UC Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, CA 94012, USA
Societies 2019, 9(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc9010025
Received: 17 January 2019 / Revised: 17 March 2019 / Accepted: 21 March 2019 / Published: 26 March 2019
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Abstract

A community benefit agreement (CBA) that provides tax breaks to a company often has provisions to help uplift the area where the business resides. A number of San Francisco companies, especially those in the technology sector, have received tax relief, a tangible benefit granted in exchange for operating in designated blighted areas, the details of which are delineated in publicly available CBAs. One CBA requirement for the tax break—community engagement—defies easy measurement. This paper assesses whether San Francisco companies were held accountable for fulfilling this unclear but core CBA requirement, namely, engagement with disenfranchised community members, an important part of their corporate social responsibility. To assess the community engagement stipulation of CBAs, this paper presents background on CBAs followed by interview data from two anonymous community liaisons who were formerly or are currently responsible for community engagement at companies that received the tax break. Themes found in the interview data highlight the limitations of CBAs that result from the unequal social exchange between companies and the indigent residents of blighted areas where the businesses are located. The study concludes that the benefits of the vague and unenforceable community engagement provision of CBAs do not justify the companies’ payroll tax exclusion. The disproportionality of this quid pro quo risks aggravating impoverished residents’ resentment of companies and their employees. The relevance of this study’s low participation rate among community liaisons is also discussed. View Full-Text
Keywords: community benefit agreements; Twitter tax break; community engagement; San Francisco; technology; payroll tax exclusion; gentrification; Tenderloin; corporate social responsibility community benefit agreements; Twitter tax break; community engagement; San Francisco; technology; payroll tax exclusion; gentrification; Tenderloin; corporate social responsibility
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Buitelaar, M.S. Cui Bono? Assessing Community Engagement in San Francisco Community Benefit Agreements. Societies 2019, 9, 25.

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