By Adrian Castañeda
To support those living in public housing, the Osiris Coalition is hosting an event called The State of Black SF this Sunday (Feb. 28) at the Main Library’s Koret Auditorium from 2-4:30 pm. It will feature a short film and a panel discussion on the plight of the city’s African American population, a topic discussed in this week’s Guardian cover story.
One of the items the panel is sure to discuss is the mayor’s Hope SF initiative to renovate eight public housing projects around the city. City officials, residents, and developers agree that housing projects like Hunter’s View and Alice Griffith are dilapidated. But while plans have been made for revitalization and rebuilding, some community groups are worried that current residents, an already marginalized population, will be overlooked.
With this in mind, the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco is drafting The Right to Remain Act that aims to assign accountability and protect current tenants during the construction process.
If passed by the Board of Supervisors, the ordinance would provide for the establishment of a monitoring committee comprised of residents and community leaders to approve plans and keep the public informed. The aim, says Julian Davis of the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, is to guarantee that current residents benefit from revitalization and will be allowed to remain in their neighborhoods. “They’re all just stated policy goals at this point,” he said of the effort to provide stronger guarantees.
Under the ordinance, existing provisions in the Hope SF plan would be enforced by limiting city funding for future projects until appropriate conditions for relocation and construction are met. The current Hope SF plan includes specific one-to-one placement and phased development provisions, where residents will be moved to on-site housing if possible.
However, there is no guarantee the developers will abide by these plans, so the Right to Remain Act will fill in gaps in federal and state housing laws and hold the Hope SF plan to its goals by ensuring every resident will receive a contract for their home and can sue if their rights are not upheld. Sara Shortt of the HRCSF told us, “No matter what kind of rhetoric is thrown around by officials during all of this, there’s something real on paper that can be enforced.” Shortt, who served on the mayor’s Hope SF task force, says there is a long history of broken promises in communities like Hunter’s View and tenant’s fear being pushed out of their homes.
Many city officials, including District 10 supervisor Sophie Maxwell and those in the Mayor’s Office of Housing, are receptive to the general idea behind the act but few have assured their support. “I don’t think the mayor’s office is particularly keen on it,” Davis said of the proposed residential committee. Shortt said, “It’s not just about logistical issues. We believe you can’t guarantee that without having accountability and oversight.” She adds that the act should be “in the spotlight,” for the November District 10 elections, “so all the candidates are aware this is something that they’re going to have to take a position on.”
The act is still being drafted, but the relocation of residents at the Hunter’s View projects has already begun. The pre-existing surplus of hundreds of empty units has made the on-site relocation simple, and Jack Gardner of the John Stewart Company says demolition will begin in March. While the Right to Remain Act would not retroactively cover current projects, it will protect residents in future redevelopment plans.
“Wouldn’t it be great to have it happen like Hunter’s View at the other sites?” says Davis.