Only Regulated Financial Institution in Redevelopment Corridor
(July 12, 2010 – San Francisco, CA) Residents of San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood, have reason to celebrate now that Northeast Community Federal Credit Union (NECFCU), a $10-million-in-assets community development credit union (CDCU) serving more than 1,650 members, has opened its fourth retail location. Located in a “green” building on the corner of Howard Street and Sixth Street, the SOMA branch is NECFCU’s latest endeavor to expand service to a community in desperate need of accessible and reliable financial services.
Plaza Apartments, San Francisco’s first totally “green” low-income housing development, and new home of Northeast Community FCU’s SOMA branch.
San Francisco’s Sixth Street corridor is a mixed-use community, roughly bounded by Stevenson, Mission and Natoma Streets in the north; Fifth Street in the east; Harrison Street in the south; and Seventh Street in the west. The area is characterized by high rates of homelessness and drug use throughout the community, which has led to large numbers of vacant ground-floor commercial spaces; a prevalence of older residential and commercial buildings, including many single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels; and a derth in regulated financial service providers, with check cashers, payday lenders, pawn shops, and loan brokers among the most widely-available financial institutions in the community.
Over the years, residents, developers and local businesses approached NECFCU encouraging them to open a SOMA branch, but none of the commercial street-front locations available were suitable for a credit union. “We had many members and SOMA residents who requested that we open a convenient branch in the area to offer basic financial services,” explained Lily Lo, CEO and Manager of NECFCU. “Before the opening of the SOMA branch, the neighborhood had no banking facilities in the area, and members in the community were forced to use check-cashing and loan services that charged exorbitant fees.”
It wasn’t until 2006 that Northeast Community FCU would find its SOMA home, with the completion of Plaza Apartments, the city’s first totally “green” low-income housing project for SOMA residents. Despite identifying a suitable location, it would take another four years before the credit union’s SOMA branch would open for business. “After years of effort, and with extensive assistance from our partners and colleagues, there is now a responsible alternative to meet the community’s financial needs,” declared Lo.
Representatives from San Francisco credit unions (from left to right): Lily Lo, Manager & CEO, NECFCU; Barry Kane, SVP, Patelco CU; Diane Dykstra, CEO, SF Fire CU; Michael Chan, Board Chairman, NECFCU; Lynn Athens, CEO, Spectrum CU; and Darlene Hong, SF Police CU.
Special recognition was made to Patelco Credit Union, a San Francisco-based $4-billion-in-assets credit union that has been one of Northeast Community FCU’s strongest supporters over the years, assisting with the development of the CDCU’s branches in the Tenderloin, Visitacion Valley, and now SOMA; as well as providing each of those locations with Patelco ATMs, which the CDCU members can use free of charge.
“As a community development credit union, Northeast Community is on the front lines in serving the low-income and underserved residents of San Francisco,” said Barry Kane, Senior Vice President of Operations at Patelco. “It continues to be an honor for Patelco to support the efforts of Northeast Community Federal Credit Union in reaching out to these populations,” he added.
Officials speaking at the event included California State Senator Leland Yee; San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros; and representatives from the office of State Assemblymember Fiona Ma; the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA); the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency; the SOMA Project Area Committee; Urban Solutions; and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (Federation).
Representatives from several San Francisco credit unions also attended, including Patelco CU; Spectrum CU; SF Fire CU; SF Police CU; and Mission SF FCU, the only other CDCU in San Francisco, serving the predominantly Latino Mission neighborhood.
About Northeast Community FCU: Serving the San Francisco community for over 29 years, Northeast has the dual purpose of meeting the unmet savings and borrowing needs of the underserved, as well as the economic development needs of the community. Through its offering of savings and checking accounts, low-interest rate loans, and financial workshops, Northeast promotes economic literacy, financial stability and small business development within its investment area. Since its establishment in 1981, Northeast has grown to become a self-sufficient financial institution with four branches in the San Francisco community. For more information, please log on to: www.necfcu.org.