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Monday, September 2, 2002

Bay View Newspaper Challenges Bay View Bank Buyout

The following editorial will appear in the San Francisco Bay View on Wednesday, September 4:

Bay View Bank Is Ours

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

Bay View Bank belongs to the Bayview Hunters Point community. Bay View Bank was born in the Bayview, and it is our labor, our savings, our hard-earned Black dollars that built it into a major bank with 57 branches that are about to be sold to Minnesota-based U.S. Bank for $429 million.

That is why we are calling on U.S. Bank to turn over the Bayview Branch at 4947 Third St., San Francisco 94124, for use as a community-controlled financial institution. And we are calling on U.S. Bank, as heir to the enrichment of Bay View Bank at our expense, to commit to significant investment in Bayview Hunters Point.

Since my “Reparations for Redlining” editorial (www.sfbayview.com/082102/reparationsforredlining082102.shtml) was published two weeks ago, I have informally surveyed the Black-owned businesses on Third Street and have been flooded with stories from Bay View Bank customers. Many people said they had applied for loans; not one had been approved.

It’s called redlining when a bank accepts deposits from a neighborhood but won’t loan those dollars back. Somewhere, somebody is borrowing our dollars and using them to build mansions and highrises - while our homes fall into disrepair and our business owners sadly close their doors and let their workers go. Bay View Bank shovels our money like manure into somebody else’s garden.

The people of Bayview Hunters Point need time to tell U.S. Bank and the federal regulatory agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), how Bay View Bank has failed us and what we want from U.S. Bank. Friday I learned from a senior vice president of U.S. Bancorp that only about one week remains of the federally mandated 30-day period for the public to comment on the buyout. Neither we nor any of the three nationally recognized anti-redlining organizations we’ve talked with had been notified that the comment period had begun and has almost expired.

Therefore, we have asked the federal regulators to extend the comment period for another 30 days. And meanwhile, we encourage everyone to submit comments immediately. I’m advised that comments should be addressed to Dave Rogers, Licensing Manager, OCC Central District Office, One Financial Place, Suite 2700, 440 S. LaSalle St., Chicago IL 60605-1073; phone (312) 360-8850; fax (312) 435-0951; email CS.Licensing@occ.treas.gov. Send a copy to John F. Grundhofer, Chairman and CEO, U.S. Bancorp, Inc., 601 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis MN 55402-4302; phone (612) 973-0400; fax (612) 973-4072.

Make your comments specific: tell your story about redlining, about Bay View Bank, about the unmet financial needs of your family and your community, about community development projects that deserve funding. Let’s also call for a meeting to be held here in Bayview Hunters Point before the end of the comment period so we can tell the OCC and U.S. Bank, face to face, what we want and so we can decide, based on their response, whether to support or oppose the buyout.

According to U.S. Bank’s California Community Investment Plan, hammered out with anti-redlining activists two years ago when U.S. Bank moved into Southern California and became as big a bank in California as Citibank, it intends to do much better than Bay View Bank. U.S. Bank promises to loan and invest 12 percent of its California deposits in neighborhoods like ours; Bay View Bank’s record, activists say, is 2 percent. And U.S. Bank promises that half the business loans it makes will be in amounts under $50,000; Bay View Bank’s policy is to make no business loans under $500,000.

In an email message to the Bay View newspaper on Friday, Reza Aghamirzadeh, senior vice president and director of corporate community development for U.S. Bancorp, wrote, “U.S. Bank’s California Community Investment Plan will be implemented in the markets currently served by the Bay View Bank immediately after the completion of our acquisition.” He added that in Southern California, his bank has met “each of the objectives outlined in the Plan.”

Billions of dollars have been promised to redlined neighborhoods in California over the past two decades by other major banks when they sought restructuring approval from federal regulators under the Community Reinvestment Act. If any of those promises were kept, it’s a well kept secret. I don’t know of a single solitary soul who has benefited.

With our own bank or credit union in the Bay View Bank building at the corner of Third and Quesada, we can pool our money to develop our own community, create jobs and uplift our people as far as their dreams and diligence can take them. We can stop redlining, one of the many tricks of the Third Hand that is trying to drive us out of the community we love.

Our Black dollars have bought and paid for that bank a thousand times over. With our courage and our comments to the OCC and U.S. Bank, we can win the reparations that we and our parents and grandparents have earned.