City Council addresses media reports of neglect and mismanagement by Richmond Housing Authority

Street view of Hacienda public housing development, site of the most egregious lapses in maintenance and sanitary upkeep by the Richmond Housing Authority. (Photo by: Sukey Lewis)

Street view of Hacienda public housing development, site of the most egregious lapses in maintenance and sanitary upkeep by the Richmond Housing Authority. (Photo by: Sukey Lewis)

The Richmond City Council responded to damning media reports of appalling public housing conditions and financial mismanagement by the Richmond Housing Authority.

Tim Jones, executive director of the Housing Authority, admitted that his agency has “fallen short” in its duties, but rejected the reports’ charge that these deficiencies reflect system-wide failure.

“There is absolutely room for improvement,” he said in an emergency item added to Tuesday night’s council meeting.  Measures under discussion ranged from alternative housing to demolition, and leadership changes to federal intervention.

The Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco Chronicle and KQED reported on Monday that the Housing Authority is $7 million in debt and is failing to maintain adequate living standards and security for residents.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in response organized a working group including herself, Council member Corky Booze and Council member Jael Myrick to try and address the issues as quickly as possible.

The public housing residents who turned out Tuesday night confirmed news reports of vermin, leaks, and broken heaters. Speakers expressed their anger and disgust about the living conditions they said they have endured.

After a pipe burst in her home, Jackie Thompson described the raw sewage, rocks and leaves that flowed through her apartment. “There was poop just sitting in my living room,” she said.

Felton Amos, a Nevin Plaza resident, said he has to buy six to eight cans of bug spray every month to combat the roaches in his apartment.

Booze, who is the Housing Authority liaison to the council, took Housing Authority director Jones to task for failing to respond to resident’s complaints and maintenance problems in a timely manner.

“I love Mr. Jones to death, but it’s time to move on,” Booze said. Some public housing residents also called for Jones’ resignation.

Council member Nat Bates suggested that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) take over.  “We don’t have the management level at the housing authority to rectify this problem,” Bates said. “Concerns raised and expressed are not new. We’ve been listening to the complaints for years. It’s no secret and everyone on this council knows it’s not new.”

Jones said that in his opinion the Hacienda apartments—the site of the most egregious sanitary and maintenance failings—should be torn down. “We’ve taken a look at the rehab, and it doesn’t make sense to put that much money into that structure.”

Jones is meeting with HUD in two weeks and said he will make the case for allowing a demolition disposition for the apartments. This approval is the necessary first step before the Housing Authority can begin issuing vouchers, which would allow residents to find alternative housing.

In the meantime, Jones said his staff is reviewing each work order log to ensure that repairs have actually been completed.

City Manager Bill Lindsay, who oversees the Housing Authority, also came under fire. “You’ve got to manage the city. If not, it falls back on you,” said Booze.

Lindsay said he talked to the police chief to ensure that better security protocols are developed. “We need to do better,” he said. “One thing that concerns me is we don’t want tenants to give up on Hacienda. We need to hear about the problems and resolve them.”

The council discussed the item for more than three hours. “We deserve safe, sanitary and decent housing,” said Jaycine Scott, a four-year resident of Richmond’s Nevin Plaza.

13 Comments

  1. Michael Leon Gatewood

    I have lived at Nevin Plaza for 10 years after spending 15 years as a homeless veteran. I have seen how tenants and/or quest have destroyed our building. I have no where else to go, so I have tolerated the conditions here. I understand how this is not a new issue. I spent 15 years in the Air Force and I know for certain that the government inspects their facilities annually. HUD subsidizes this facility and I receive notices all the time about HUD inspections and all I ever see is the building manager inspecting. I can use a change around here, but my instincts and perseverance allows me to just mind my own business and just leave other peoples business along. But that is not how to live. Thanks for the publicity but I have no where else to go, so I put up with the conditions around here. I do want to change my attitude about human beings, I will just have wait and see what really happens to us “SENIOR CITIZENS”.

  2. Michael

    This is so typical of the City of Richmond. The Holy Council sits around (when they are not yelling at each other), then go off on whatever trendy political cause they want to pimp. Meantime, just too “busy” to do their jobs, fire the enept Tim Jones, (Corky’s pal?), and turn the whole mess over to HUD, where it should have gone years ago. Back when it was clear to the Council that the Council itself could not be bothered over such a trivial thing as complete corruption in the Richmond Housing Authority. C’mon, Council Cupcakes, Do Your Jobs. Quit hiring your pals, letting them run projects into the ground while raising their own salaries. Quit trying to be big-time politicians when you can’t even keep your own diapers clean. It gives the City the Reputation of some kind of Gooberville in the South.

    • Edwin

      Are you running for Mayor of Richmond in November of 2014 ?

      • Xerex

        Michael has raised legitimate issues here. While the City Council seeks to save the world, the city is languishing from neglect. Why keep on harping about politicking? These are real life issues that is affecting residents. You know your arguments are poor when you resort to attacks.

        • Michael

          For Xerex;
          I was not making any arguments in my post.There is no other way to describe the politics in the City of Richmond, (historical or present day) that does not devolve into Comic Books.

          If you really want to hear pointless arguments and hours of self-promo attitudes, waste an evening at a Council Meeting. Expect to spend 5 hours or so, and if you do not feel as if you’ve just sat through 5 hours of As The World Turns circa 1960, or reruns of Mr. Ed.

      • Michael

        Not much of a chance, and one wonders if the Mayor has any real power to change Council innuendo, cronyism, in-house bitching, and self-promo.

        The reality of the matter is, do Richmond Voters really want a pragmatic Mayor that will focus on reliable, open-book spending, open meeting decisions, city interest before politics, and firing incompetent bureaucrats and administrators?

        One seriously doubts Richmond Voters ever had that choice. We always get yo-yo candidates and loopy Mayors. Worse yet, about every few years we get another Adminsitrator/Bureaucrat lining their pockets.

  3. Tony Suggs

    Just goes to show that the RPA majority on the Council neglects the problems of their own residents to try and save the world from plastic bags, sugar in drinks, evil banks, Arizona immigration laws and of course the big one, global warming.

    I am sure the residents of those housing units really appreciate all that they have done for them.

    • Edwin

      Well sir, do you know of any RPA members resident of Hacienda public housing development ?

      • Michael

        Reply for EDWIN;
        No, sir, I do not. Personally, I’d recommend all Council Persons live for a month in Hacienda or resign as incompetent, for neglecting their responsibility to govern City of Richmond Administrators, and Fiscal Mis-Management.

    • Jimmy wu

      It’s clear no economic progress was made under the progressive RPA agenda , all the cities around Richmond are growing like Emeryville and Oakland , they processed projects during the recession . What did Richmond do , build a $100 million palace call city hall , while people were in third world conditions in the housing authority , hide a 2012 civil grand jury findings from the mayor and the city council to clean up the housing authority ,, the city manager office ran a private business operation out of the city manager office run by the assistant city manager . I heard the credit card bills are unbelievable from the managers office for trips to Japan , China and Washington DC , that’s why no criticism given by the city manager about the housing authority director . It’s not the mayors fault , she a nice lady , just over her head , while the wool is being pulled over her eyes.

  4. Michael

    Another concern here, this whole series of issues of a corrupt Richmond Housing Authority has gone on for nine years. Where was this newspaper, “Richmond Confidential” when all this was going on?

    I know Richmond Confidential has to do with the UC School of Journalism, but what kind of investigative journalism priority is given by this ” school”, if a major corruption scandal, involving all levels of city government, takes a San Francisco Newsgroup and KQED to uncover it?

    Where was Richmond Confidential? Playing “Cub Reporters?” Making nice with the powers that be? Is that “Journalism”?

    Didn’t reading H.L.Mencken teach you anything? You kids looking to graduate and be big time reporters for the High Plains Farmers Guide? For the Southern Swampers Review? Make up bylines for the Moose Jaw Times?

    Please get real. Your at Berkeley, right? If you can’t come up with an occasional story that your future editors wouldn’t get an ulcer over, or you don’t deserve a freedom of the press.

    The only other option is sucking up to Corporate News for the local serfs. (We hear there’s a big future peddling John Birch at Fox News).

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