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SF: Delay Housing Enforcement

by Larry Bush on 03/27/2011

in Paper Trails

Hundreds of San Francisco families continue to live in tax-payer subsidized housing that fails minimum standards for health, safety, and sanitary conditions, according to recent inspections by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

San Francisco’s response is to defer compliance with housing codes “until replacement housing can be found.”

A San Francisco-HUD agreement to share the results of property inspections that reveal serious code violations is not being implemented, CitiReport has learned.

HUD rated as “substandard” public housing developments containing 1,002 units of housing. HUD inspectors also rated as substandard another and 722 units of “assisted housing” privately owned but subsidized through HUD programs.

The lowest public housing score – 42 out of a possible 100 – was at Robert Pitts Plaza, once a showcase of city-federal partnership at the edge of the Western Addition. A score of 60 is considered necessary for minimum housing quality standards. At Pitts Plaza, a second scoring element showed that the units failed basic safety and sanitary requirements.

The lowest assisted housing score – 38 out of a possible 100 – was at the O’Farrell development at 477 O’Farrell Street.

Some of the public housing developments that failed minimum standards are slated to be demolished and replaced under the HOPE SF program, but tenants will be living in substandard housing for years more – and almost all have already lived in substandard units for a decade or more.

The first HOPE SF development is at Hunters View and is not projected to be completed until 2012. Currently the Housing Authority reports that 119 units of its 267 units are uninhabitable.

The developments with failed scores are Hunters View, Hunters Point East, Westside Courts, Potrero Terrace, Potrero Annex, Westbrook Apartments, Robert Pitts Plaza, Mission Dolores, and properties at 666 Ellis and AAMP.

HOPE SF targets Hunters Viet, Potrero Terrace and Potrero Annex, Westside Courts, Alice Griffith and Sunnydale. Each sits on valuable property now slated to become a mix of public and subsidized housing and market rate housing.  Essentially they form a crescent around the new Lennar development on the city’s southern waterfront and the former Hunters Point shipyard.

Overall,  the San Francisco Housing Authority inched above its previous rating of substandard to reach the “standard performer” level. Like all housing authorities, it has struggled with high maintenance costs for aging properties while federal housing budgets have failed to keep pace with local needs.

However, San Francisco failed to apply for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants over the past seven years. The HOPE VI program funneled over $100 million to San Francico to remake public housing in North Beach, Hayes Valley North and South, Bernal Dwellings and Valencia Street. Housing authorities compete for grants that average about $20 million each year.

Former mayor Willie Brown was the last San Francisco mayor to submit an application for HOPE VI funding; former mayor Gavin Newsom declined to submit any applications for the seven years he served as San Francisco’s mayor – which was unprecedented in the history of the program.

Newsom named a Task Force to recommend steps to address the challenges facing the Housing Authority which recommended that he apply for HOPE VI funding to begin remaking the worst developments but Newsom never implemented their recommendation.

Instead he announced that San Francisco would develop $100 million in financing from its own sources. He also had earlier announced that he was taking some of San Francisco’s weathiest donors on a tour of public housing sites to encourage their involvement. No results were ever announced and no tour was ever reported.

Tenderloin As Ground Zero

While the Bayview-Hunters Point area is ground zero for failed public housing, San Francisco’s Tenderloin is at the center of the failed assisted housing developments.

The failed complexes include Maria Manor at 174 Ellis, Marlton Manor at 240 Jones, Padre Apartments at 241 Jones, Freedom West at 621 Gough, and Abel Gonzalez in the Mission at 1045 Capp Street and the Bayview’s Britton Courts at 1250 Sunnydale.

San Francisco’s new Housing Element submission calls for the city to delay enforcement of code requirements unless there is a safety issue.

“Code enforcement on hardship cases can present particular housing challenges. In some cases, compliance with full requirements should be deferred to the extent legally permissible if all life safety hazards are abated. In particular, the City should extend the period allowed for code compliance to avoid displacement of low- or moderate-income households until replacement housing can be found,” according to the Housing Element.

The city acknowledges that its code enforcement program is based on complaints but so far has failed to implement strategies to coordinate information on housing quality standards.

In the 1990’s, HUD and the city’s Department of Building Inspection jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share information on inspections that each agency performs. The intent was to ensure that San Francisco officials had the benefit of HUD property inspections and that HUD became aware of city inspections that turned up health and safety concerns on HUD funded or assisted properties.

However, CitiReport has learned that the agreement was never implemented and current officials take no steps to coordinate information from their inspections.

San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency has used its funds to buy a number of buildings in the Tenderloin and then create tenant-based ownership nonprofits. Some of those developments rated the highest scores in HUD’s recent inspections.

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Buck Bagot March 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Great stuff, Larry. Keep it up. Good point about non-profit owned buildings. But Brittain Courts in Vis Valley is owned by Mercy Housing CA, and still got a substandard score.

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