Understanding Opportunity Zones in the Bay Area


Chances are you’ve heard about Opportunity Zones, a provision nested in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 designed to drive long-term equity capital to low-income communities nationwide. Chances also are you have a lot of questions about what this is going to mean for the communities you serve. What makes this different than other investment tools targeted to low-income communities? What types of projects will be eligible for Opportunity Fund investments? What role can you play to guide investment activity to projects that will benefit vulnerable populations?

On August 13, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, in partnership with PolicyLink and Enterprise Community Partners, convened policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and financial institutions to help shed light on these questions and more. While there are many technical details that are yet to be sorted out, what is clear is that we all have roles to play to boost the potential for Opportunity Zone investments to benefit low-income people and communities of color and—perhaps more critically—reduce the risk of displacing these populations as well as the housing, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that support economic diversity and community vibrancy.

Check out resources and recordings from the event below.

Understanding Opportunity Zones in the Bay Area: Welcome and Overview

Naomi Cytron, Regional Manager for Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, welcomes attendees to the discussion. Fred Blackwell, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation, highlights the history of disinvestment and investment strategies in high poverty geographies and the principles and actions that can help communities drive equitable development through this new tool (video, 15:29).

A Deeper Look at Bay Area’s Opportunity Zones

Melissa Jones, Executive Director of BARHII, discusses conditions in Opportunity Zones in the Bay Area, with a focus on the interactions among spatial patterns of poverty, displacement, segregation, health impacts, and climate resilience (video, 21:10).

Presentation Slides from Melissa Jones, Executive Director, BARHII (pdf, 1.6 mb)

What We Know about how Opportunity Zones and Funds Will Work

Panelists Ari Beliak, Senior Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Lori Chatman, President of Enterprise Loan Fund; and Michael Novogradac, Managing Partner at Novogradac & Company, provide information on qualifying and competitive investments, key considerations for investors, and possible criteria investors can adopt to achieve more equitable outcomes. Sarah Brundage, State and Local Policy Director at Enterprise Community Partners, moderates (video, 1:06:02).

How Local and State Partners Can Help Opportunity Zones and Funds Drive Equitable Investments

Panelists Dan Adams, Deputy Director of Housing at the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development; Christopher Coes, Vice President of Real Estate Policy and External Affairs at SmartGrowth America; and Paulina Gonzalez, Executive Director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, discuss the roles that various state and local partners can play to help prevent displacement and ensure low-income community residents capture benefits from Opportunity Zone investments. Chris Brown, Financial Policy Director at PolicyLink, moderates (video, 1:05:41).

Related Resources

PolicyLink’s Recommendations for Opportunity Zones

Novogradac’s Opportunity Zones Coalition Request for Guidance

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

About the Author
Naomi Cytron is the Community Development regional manager for Northern California and Utah at the San Francisco Fed.