The Mission District has two public housing projects — Valencia Gardens and Bernal Dwellings — and District 9 has others. Residents of public housing often face challenges different than other district residents, and we asked the candidates for supervisor this week what they would do specifically to support those who live in public housing.
What would you do in particular to support the residents of Bernal Dwellings and Valencia Gardens?
Respuestas en español aquí.
Joshua Arce, Civil Rights Attorney
I serve as Secretary of the Board of Mission Housing which manages 260 units at Valencia Gardens. After the 2013 incident [in which a student was allegedly beaten by police], MHDC initiated a series of community meetings with residents and the Mission Station police captain, created a safe watch committee with the help of SF SAFE, provided counseling services to any family that wanted it after the incident, and increased security to keep our community safe.
I am the attorney for the Bernal Dwellings Resident Council, serving 160 households and making sure that residents feel secure in their housing. At Bernal Dwellings, we are working with community based violence intervention programs to address the violence that has affected that community and the surrounding neighborhood.
I’m also attorney for the other two public housing councils in our district, Holly Courts and Alemany. For many years I’ve enjoyed working with residents from these 450 public housing households, drawing inspiration from their stories and resilience in the face of inadequate support from the District 9 supervisor’s office.
As supervisor, I will work for all of our public housing and affordable housing residents in District 9, partnering with groups such as Mission Housing, MEDA, and the Public Housing Tenants Association to continue our work connecting residents with employment opportunities, leadership development programs, and entrepreneurship training.
Melissa San Miguel, Education Advocate
I remember when Bernal Dwellings, which is a block from where I grew up, was a set of looming towers that seemed to warehouse people than actually house them. The Old Valencia Gardens didn’t live up to its name either. The redesign of these buildings, including improved maintenance, for residents was absolutely necessary. However, much more is needed to be done to create the security these residents also deserve. Many community members in these buildings are low-income and people of color, which means we often do not have access to the full education and job opportunities available in addition to facing unequal treatment in front of law enforcement. We should increase programs in these buildings to inform tenants of their housing rights, provide after-school learning opportunities, and expand programming to create pathways to stable jobs and college degrees. We also need to ensure our police force is utilizing community policing practices so that a relationship based on trust is established by community members in these buildings and the police. As violence impacts the residents from the outside, we need to have increased foot patrols by the police, which is why it is essential community policing practices are in place so the increased police presence doesn’t have a negative impact on the residents.
Iswari España, Training Officer with the Human Services Agency
I know that my colleagues will parade their endorsements as a solution.
I do not have to do that, instead I can say that for 16 years I have worked with several residents in these areas. I know that there are [community-based organizations] and city departments providing excellent services to the community but for years they have been underfunded. I would not reinvent the wheel. Our neighbors have shared that they need employment opportunities, access to family resources, child care, funding for afterschool programs, services for seniors. As supervisor I will turn their input into an action plan.
As someone with experience in running programs in social services, I would closely examine the outcome of those services. I would periodically meet program evaluators and program managers to measure outcomes. I would provide legislation that truly supports the neighborhoods not just when something happens.
At this point in the election you can choose from career politicians with the same rhetoric or you can choose a candidate like me, who is passionate about community, someone who is willing to listen and be proactive about issues in the neighborhood. We can do better and we deserve better.
Hillary Ronen, Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Campos
Bernal Dwellings and Valencia Gardens, like Holly Courts and Alemany, are important public housing developments housing some of our most vulnerable residents. Yet these units have fallen in disrepair because of continual underfunding by Congress and mismanagement under former Housing Authority Director Henry Alvarez.
As Chief of Staff of the District 9 office, I fought for greater resources and accountability for our public housing sites. I secured funding in the City budget for violence prevention and family services at Bernal Dwellings provided by Mission Neighborhood Centers. I pushed the Housing Authority Commission to release building rehabilitation funds for Holly Courts that allowed for the complete repainting of the development. In 2013, I called for a performance audit of the Housing Authority that led to the implementation of 43 recommended financial, operational and program management improvements and an estimated savings of $8 million.
As supervisor, I will work with the Resident Councils to ensure that all deferred maintenance issues are fixed and that tenant rights are protected while projects are underway. I will push for community policing so that police officers form relationships with the youth so that incidents like the one at Valencia Gardens never happen again. I will also continue to advocate for increased resources for youth job opportunities and violence prevention resources at all of our public housing sites.
43 Questions is a weekly series — started 43 weeks before Election Day — to question the candidates running for District 9 supervisor. Send us questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.