The City Council began its initial discussion Wednesday about setting up a nonprofit organization to handle the PG&E settlement money, and council members received advice on how the process works as well as how to anticipate potential issues.
While no decisions were made, the consensus among council members was that they should continue to take their time with setting up the organization because having a city establish a nonprofit is unprecedented.
“It has to be something long-thought-out, not just hit-and-miss,” Mayor Jim Ruane said.
They also seemed to agree that the nonprofit should be set up in a way that benefits the entire city over the long term.
In a settlement reached in March, PG&E agreed to pay the San Bruno $70 million in restitution to support the city’s recovery efforts following the tragic 2010 pipeline explosion.
Since then, the city has used $1.25 million to purchase five vacant lots in the Crestmoor neighborhood, with the rest—$68.75 million—being invested in U.S. Treasury bonds through an account at Wells Fargo that is generating a small amount of interest.
At the study session, City Attorney Marc Zafferano led the council members through a presentation about the decisions they will have to make over the next few months in regards to the settlement funds.
The decisions are:
- Figuring out what purpose the nonprofit will serve (i.e. who it should serve, what kind of projects it should support over the longterm)
- Figuring out who should have the final say over how the funds are distributed—the council or another type of group
- Figuring out how many people should serve on the board of the nonprofit
- Deciding on whether to have an advisory committee to help with the decision-making process
- Deciding on whether to hire an executive director or have staff or volunteers help out with the day-to-day management of the nonprofit
- Figuring out a name for the organization
As a reference, Zafferano said the city could look to other city-established nonprofits when making future decisions. San Carlos’s Parks and Recreation Foundation and Education Foundation were noted, as well as the Parks and Recreation Foundation for Windsor. None, however, handle as much money as San Bruno is dealing with, Zafferano said.
More meetings are expected to follow as the council continues to try to figure out the best solution moving forward.
City employee Marty Medina—one of the few non-city leaders in the audience at the meeting—suggested that the city make more of an effort to notify the public when meetings are held about the PG&E settlement funds. A notice about the meeting was only sent out several hours before it started, and that angered some residents.
With the consent of the council, City Manager Connie Jackson said that suggestion would be taken into consideration.