After three years of preparation, Community Bank of the Bay is ready to have a go at wiping away five decades of urban blight.

The community development bank opened its doors this month, becoming the first institution of its type in Northern California.

The start-up netted more than $7.7 million in its capitalization, well above the state's $6 million minimum. It joins a short list of other Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured community development banks in operation, including South Shore Bank, Chicago; Community Capital Bank, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Elk Horn Bank and Trust of Arkadelphia, Ark.; and Albina Bank, Portland, Ore.

"There's really quite a need for a bank like ours," said Cecil Adams, chief executive and primary organizer of the bank. "When you look at total loans by conventional banks, the penetration into the low- and moderate- income markets is less than 1%, which makes up about 70% of the Oakland market."

Community Bank of the Bay will seek to serve neighborhoods not only in Oakland, but in parts of San Francisco, Richmond, Berkeley, East Palo Alto, and San Rafael.

"There's going to be an enormous impact by making loans available to capital-starved neighborhoods," said Ed Voris, a member of the bank's organization committee. "Unquestionably, there has not been adequate credit or technical assistance for residents in these areas."

"This is really going to be a wonderful opportunity for small businesses in the area, many of whom haven't had a whole lot of access to capital up to now," said John Christensen, manager of economic development, Oakland Chamber of Commerce. "We see this as a real positive step in serving an area that has traditionally been under-hyph here ok?banked."

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