Our mission is to create a socially and environmentally responsible Los Angeles Public Bank that supports the local economy and provides fair and equitable financial services to the city, businesses, and residents. The Los Angeles Public Bank will be chartered to promote economic development in the region, follow transparent, ethical, sustainable, and regenerative investment practices, and partner with local community banks and credit unions to strengthen existing financial institutions. We’re committed to serving the needs of all Los Angeles communities, particularly underserved members, by ensuring their meaningful participation in the financial system.
WHO WE ARE:
Public Bank Los Angeles (PBLA) is a volunteer initiative founded in 2017 with the goal of establishing a socially and environmentally responsible municipal bank for the City of Los Angeles. PBLA evolved from Divest LA, a grassroots movement that successfully divested Wells Fargo from the city’s commercial banking services. This movement was inspired by the DefundDAPL phenomenon and the desire to resist unethical banking practices that harm vulnerable communities. The Divest LA Change.org petition to the Los Angeles City Council received nearly 38,700 supporters.
In 2018, Public Bank LA led Measure B, a Los Angeles ballot initiative to amend a section in the LA city charter to take the first steps towards the creation of a municipal public bank. With only four months to organize and less than 1/10 of the average budget needed to win a city-wide initiative, the measure did not pass but received 44% of votes in approval, with over 430,000 Angelenos supporting the ballot.
In 2019, Public Bank LA, a founding member of the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA), passed the California Public Banking Act (Assembly Bill 857), which empowers California cities, counties, and regions to form public banks. AB 857 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 2, 2019, legalizing public banking in California for the first time in history. This was the first legislation passed in modern times authorizing municipalities to set up their own public banks.
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Public Bank LA and the California Public Banking Alliance collaborated on a State Public Bank bill to expand the existing California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank) and increase its capacity for recovery lending for small businesses and community development infrastructure.
In 2021 and 2022, PBLA led the advocacy efforts for the Los Angeles City Council’s unanimous vote to take the next steps toward establishing a Los Angeles public bank. As a result of this vote, the council issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire consultants to write the bank’s viability study and business plan. The RFP bid is expected to be awarded in 2023.
In addition to working on municipal public banking, PBLA also helped pass AB 1177, the California Public Banking Option Act, in collaboration with co-sponsor SEIU California. AB 1177, also known as CalAccount, was signed into law by Governor Newsom in October 2021 and will begin the process of offering fee-free and penalty-free debit cards to all Californians, providing basic financial services such as check cashing, deposits, and bill paying. The program aims to provide affordable financial services and promote economic growth in California by providing greater access to financial services for Californians, particularly unbanked and underbanked populations.
PBLA and the CPBA are currently advising Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2023 reintroduction of the Public Banking Act, a federal bill that aims to facilitate the establishment of public banks by states and local governments.