Municipal Public Banking

In October 2021, the Los Angeles City Council passed a unanimous resolution to seek a feasibility study, business plan, and governance model for a public bank in Los Angeles. This move followed the passage of California legislation enabling the charter of public banks (AB857). This joint report series with the Berggruen Institute examines the opportunities and limitations of a public bank in Los Angeles, responding to advocacy demands in affordable housing, small business lending, green energy, and democratic governance with practical lending and investment options. The reports also consider pathways to incorporation and the legal limitations of the bank, with particular attention to the bank’s differentiated value within a broader ecosystem of financial institutions with parallel goals.

For more about this series and the JFI-Berggruen Institute collaboration, read the press release announcement here. Advocates and experts in social finance and public banking also informed these reports, with special thanks to the Public Bank of LA Coalition (PBLA).

In This Series

Overview Report

What a Public Bank Can Do for L.A. and Its People

A summary analysis of lending programs that create more affordable housing, empower worker ownership of small business, and accelerate the green energy transition, this paper also overviews viable pathways to incorporation.

Part 1

Municipal Bank of LA: Housing Solutions and Portfolio Options

An analysis of how a public bank in Los Angeles could support the city’s broader infrastructure, housing, and sustainability goals.

Part 2

Municipal Bank of LA: Democratic Governance Frameworks

A briefing by Michael McCarthy of the Berggruen Institute on deliberative democracy for public finance and investment.

Part 3

Municipal Bank of LA: Financial Justice Portfolio Options

This briefing analyzes innovative financing mechanisms that could help employees purchase small businesses from a "silver tsunami" of retiring owners in the next decade, among other programs to build community wealth in Los Angeles.

Part 4

Municipal Bank of LA: Clean Energy Portfolio Options

Paired with new federal incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act, this briefing covers ways a public bank could crucially accelerate community and utility-scale renewable energy for a just climate transition in Los Angeles.

Part 5

Municipal Bank of LA: Interactive Balance Sheet Simulator

The simulator enables the public to allocate resources among the proposed public bank lending programs, testing cost and profit assumptions across the bank’s hypothetical balance sheet.

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