The sprawling, 54-building Potrero Terrace-Annex public housing complex is being mismanaged by the private company in charge of day-to-day operations, according to a review of the firm’s performance by San Francisco city officials obtained through a public records request.
The firm, Eugene Burger Management Corporation, was out of compliance in all five metrics tracked in January and failed four of the five metrics in February, according to a report from the San Francisco Housing Authority of the firm’s contract serving public housing units in the Potrero Terrace-Annex and Sunnydale.
In January and February, Eugene Burger also failed all 95 site inspections at the complex, for issues like abandoned vehicles and overgrown vegetation.
The company took over units in Potrero in four batches, beginning in February, 2022, and ending in September, 2022. The report, the latest review available, was obtained earlier this month.
Mission Local first became aware of problems at the housing complex when a fire broke out in January, killing a man who had been squatting in a vacant unit. Subsequent reporting revealed an inadequate response to concerns about squatters from both Eugene Burger and the Housing Authority.
Now, a performance evaluation and interviews with Potrero Terrace-Annex residents reveal that Eugene Burger routinely fails to address maintenance requests, habitability issues, and safety problems at the complex, leaving residents forced to make repairs themselves.
“I’m kind of like a handyman now,” said a resident named Marvin, who declined to give his last name. “It’s kind of like ‘do-it-yourself’ now.”
“You have to call [Eugene Burger] every day,” said Coleone Boone, another resident, saying that residents have to be “eager” to have their maintenance requests completed.
One resident, Maria, who has lived in Potrero since 1999, said that when she complained of mice to Eugene Burger, she was told not to worry, as mice weren’t dangerous.
“Mice don’t bite,” she says an employee told her.
At the time of the fire, and in subsequent reporting on Eugene Burger’s failure to secure vacant units, the company declined to speak about its management, saying it was “outside of their contract scope.” The firm referred Mission Local to the Housing Authority, and continues to decline requests for comment.
The Housing Authority maintained that Eugene Burger was working to secure the units.
“People are really talented,” said Kendra Crawford, director of housing operations for the authority, at a community meeting in February, explaining the pervasive squatting at the complex to residents. “If they want to get in, they’re gonna get in.”
But in fact, the Housing Authority was fully aware that Burger was failing to take care of residents and the property, as it reviewed the management company in January and February.
Earlier this month, the Housing Authority declined to comment on the results of the performance scorecard, but commented on Eugene Burger’s maintenance.
“The management, inclusive of maintenance, is the responsibility of [Eugene Burger],” read a statement. “The Authority is no longer the employer; as a result, no information about credentials of their employees are available to us.”
Failed site inspections
The review paints a sordid picture: In January, 2023, Eugene Burger failed to mitigate issues threatening the “life or safety” of residents within the mandated 24 hours, or to keep units up to the federal government’s Housing Quality Standards, described as the “minimum quality criteria necessary for the health and safety” of residents.
Eugene Burger failed to comply with most
of the Housing Authority’s expectations.
Abated threats to “the life
or safety of residents”
within 24 hours
Rents collected and
Rents charged with
“no more than 5% errors”
Units meet the Section 8
Housing Quality Standards
Eugene Burger failed to
comply with most of the
Housing Authority’s expectations.
to “the life or
safety of residents”
within 24 hours
with “no more than
Units meet the
Section 8 Housing
Chart by Will Jarrett.
The standards include a wide range of metrics: functioning windows, lead-based paint, working appliances, and more. It is not clear which specific conditions were out of compliance.
The report said that units were compliant with the standards in February, though zero units were inspected that month.
The report found that in both months, management was unable to address life-threatening issues in the mandated time frame, or to categorize life-threatening issues as “emergency” requests.
The company also failed to deliver mandated monthly reports to the Housing Authority and did not respond to the authority’s initial complaints from January, despite repeated reminders.
Of the 95 site inspections performed during January and February, the site was found to have overgrown vegetation 100 percent of the time, excess trash 46 percent of the time, and abandoned vehicles 50 percent of the time. The company cured falling or tripping hazards and backed-up sewage 100 percent of the time, and removed dead trees or branches 98 percent of the time.
Eugene Burger still received an overall score of two out of three for its management of the grounds, and continues to collect more than $200,000 annually in fees for its management.
From public housing to private company
The public housing in the Potrero-Terrace Annex and Sunnydale were the last two public housing sites wholly owned and operated by the Housing Authority, before Eugene Burger took over management last year.
The Housing Authority is no longer a property manager or service provider, but rather a “high-performing contract management and performance monitoring organization,” according to its website. The city’s public housing is now managed by an assortment of both nonprofit and for-profit management companies.
Though the transition to privatization has helped the Housing Authority clean up its finances, it seems it hasn’t cleaned up its properties.
“Private management is not efficient if people are suffering,” said Lamar Merritt, a construction foreman who worked for the housing authority in the Potrero Terrace-Annex for 31 years, including during the monthslong transition.
He was laid off, along with all of the other maintenance workers, at the end of September, 2022, when the transition to Eugene Burger was completed.
Their absence has created an untenable situation for residents.
The performance reports show that delays and lapses in maintenance were common. In February, Eugene Burger failed to address a third of the 193 work orders submitted by residents within a week, the authority said. The authority previously had a standard of a maximum of 114 work orders per month, with 99 percent addressed within a week.
Though two-thirds of requests are closed within a week, the average open request has been unresolved for 41 days.
Mold, mice, and more
The slow response times have allowed mold, mice, roaches, trash, and other issues to go unmitigated on Potrero Hill.
One resident, who has lived in Potrero for 11 years and asked to remain nameless, said that when her toilet stopped and she put in a request, nobody came for two months. Her back window is broken and doesn’t lock, and someone has put up a makeshift ladder and has been entering her unit. She reported this to the management, but no one has come to fix it.
She also has mold in her apartment, she said, which has yet to be addressed despite complaints to management. Other tenants have also complained about mold, she said, and it has been painted over, but not properly cured.
Two women said that they’ve had mice and roaches in their units, and that there has been no regular pest management since Eugene Burger took over in September. They said that the authority used to have pest management visit the complex twice a year.
When Maria — who says she was told “mice don’t bite” by a Eugene Burger employee — complained about a leaky roof, she was told there was no roofer at the moment. When a resident moved out of her building, the unit wasn’t boarded up by the management, despite issues of chronic squatting. A neighbor boarded up the unit himself.
“I’m afraid of fire,” she said, referencing the January incident.
“The new management is none,” said Marvin, describing leaks, garbage piling up, and calling his unit “the roach factory.”
“I don’t like ‘em, ‘cause they don’t do nothing,” said Marva Milton, another resident, who complained of the piles of trash, untended grass, and a streetlight that doesn’t work, which means that she has to walk around with a flashlight if she goes out at night. Two other residents said that trash left outside of receptacles used to be collected every day, but is now picked up just once a month.
“They need to do their fucking jobs,” Milton added.