Richmond public housing residents can again express concerns

Residents of Richmond's 'uninhabitable' Hacienda will soon relocate
The Hacienda housing complex
An emergency meeting regarding allegations of Richmond public housing mismanagement will be held Wednesday at the Hacienda development.
Announcement of “emergency meeting”

Richmond public housing tenants have yet another opportunity to sound off about their living conditions this week.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Councilmembers Nat Bates and Corky Booze will host a public forum in the community room of the Hacienda (1300 Roosevelt Ave.) in order to “discuss and identify concerns about residential living conditions.”

Bates and Booze have called for major changes at the Richmond Housing Authority, including the possible firing of managers, following a scathing investigative news series that exposed deplorable public housing conditions, particularly at the Hacienda and Nevin Plaza developments.

Others on the Council, joined by City Manager Bill Lindsay, have defended the authority. Councilman Tom Butt said he personally inspected the Hacienda and concluded the news articles were sensational and based upon old information.

Nevertheless, city officials agree there are major problems that need to be addressed immediately. Lindsay has pitched a comprehensive plan in response to the news investigation, part of which is facing approval by City Council Tuesday.

Council might direct staff on Tuesday to hire an independent investigator to inspect all public housing units in the city, and to provide feedback on how the Housing Authority has been responding to work orders. Longterm, Lindsay’s plan could include tearing down the Hacienda and relocating residents to developments that will undergo significant renovations.

The 150-unit Hacienda was a focal point in the news series by the Center for Investigative Reporting, in partnership with the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED. The series exposed public housing problems such as bug and rodent infestations, leaky ceilings,  plumbing issues and lax security.

Bates said he hopes Wednesday’s meeting will provide another forum where citizens rather than lawmakers can control the dialogue surrounding this issue. Bates said he’s also invited his City Hall opponents to attend.

“We’ve invited the press, the staff, which include the city manger, the mayor and anyone else,” Bates said. “We even invited the [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] to come in.”