Last Night's RHA Meeting: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire


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blogimage.jpgEvents surrounding the Richmond Housing Authority heated up last night during a fiery meeting where the City Council voted to provide Section 8 vouchers to residents of the Hacienda.

The tumultuous meeting began with a presentation by Mike Petragallo of Sterling Co.'s Inc., an independent inspector, who said the majority of Hacienda complex had some type of "discoloration,” the elevators did not work, and a leaky roof caused significant visual water damage to the top floor. During questions, he concluded the Hacienda is "on the low end" of aging public housing complexes in the greater bay area. RHA Director Tim Jones discussed progress in responding to work orders brought up in earlier meetings. He reported Contra Costa County Vector control attempts to tackle roach, mice, and bed bug infestations in some units. To the ire of the audience, Jones revealed results of a public housing residents survey reporting that only 55 percent of residents who called in work orders said their problems had been resolved.

More than 30 residents spoke at the meeting, many complaining of problems not just at Hacienda, but also Nevin and other complexes. Lisa Fishman, a resident of the Nevin public housing complex, produced a letter from her doctor saying that she suffered a litany of symptoms from black mold in her apartment. Several residents complained of unsanitary and dangerous living conditions. Wesley Ellis grilled the Mayor and some members of the Council for only visiting Richmond Public Housing recently when the cited problems have existed for years.

The Council voted to immediately issue Section 8 vouchers to residents and for staff to return to the council in two weeks with a plan on how to successfully relocate residents.  Evacuating and relocating the residents would costs around $500,000. Jones mentioned the city could initiate a 90- to 120-day application process with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds public housing, to try secure vouchers and funding instead of dipping into the city treasury. But council members, prompted by dozens of frustrated residents who came to the meeting, opted to move immediately. City Manager Lindsay made clear the city funds used would likely not be repaid by the RHA.

The city council did not pass a “no confidence” vote against RHA director Jones and Staff Manager Kathleen Jones. Lindsay thought the item encroaches on his authority over personnel matters.

Butt held a lone view that residents should be surveyed and asked if they wanted to move. He felt the blame fell squarely at the feet of HUD for the RHA shortcomings. Charles Smith, a Richmond resident, chastised the councilmember for his blog comment that occupants of the Hacienda expected “maid service.” Butt later stormed out of the chambers before the votes after several disruptions from audience members raising his voice to the Mayor for failing to run an orderly meeting.

City staff will return in two week with a plan on how to relocate tenants. Jones will give a further report on his progress to address the issues facing the RHA.

Radio Free Richmond

Showing 15 reactions

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  • commented 2014-04-04 14:14:30 -0700
    I was just reading these comments and I am a resident at the Hacienda. Don’t speak if you’ve never experienced it! I’ve never had to love with bugs, mood or mice until I got here and if I knew what I know now I would have rather been homeless! Not saying I’m not grateful for being blessed with a roof over my head BUT noone shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable in their own house! I keep a clean house no food no where except where it suppose to be at and I’m always cookingeveryday have to kill a roach or two not to mention these microscopic bugs that fly, jump, and you can see them dropping from the ceiling! While watching television you can see them flying, you can feel them all over your body, jumping in your eyes, nose, face and in your hair! Don’t speak when you really don’t know what your talking about ! If they do tear this place down all the bugs and roadins are gonna go to everyone who love within a10 block radius surrounding this place then the city is gonna hear from them as well so will you people say that their houses and apartments are not being kept too? City needs to own up to their responsibility and get us the ! hell out of here QUICK!! Of they would have been doing their work instead of sitting on their assess doing nothing but acting like each of them are running things, and spending the money on themselves this might have been avoided a long time ago! I had to leave my other apartment downstairs because of the spring bud from the moisture in my apartment from leakage and then I was on the 2ND flour but when it trained it also trained inside my apartment, moved me upstairs too the 4the flour and they’re in here! Its bullshit!!!
  • commented 2014-03-16 09:40:28 -0700
    Back atcha, Anonymous poster guy. I live my life in Richmond. I already read that article.

    The facts remain: no money, polarized government, yellow journalism.
  • commented 2014-03-16 00:18:15 -0700
    1. Get a life. Do something other than this.
    2. Read this. Even our congressman says the blame lies right here, in Richmond.
    http://www.contracostatimes.com/west-county-times/ci_25347322/finger-pointing-grows-over-blame-richmond-public-housing
    3. See #1.
  • commented 2014-03-15 16:10:07 -0700
    Throw mud until some sticks, is that your game? I not only don’t work for Tom, but we disagree on some serious points. Could you link to this proposed demolition, O Anonymous commenter who, unlike Tom Butt, hides their name?

    Your perceptions are flawed. I think people deserve a clean place to live, and obviously, some people manage to keep the roaches and rats down quite nicely. If anything, their efforts are neutralized by those who don’t keep their spaces clean. You wish to give those people a pass on cleanliness because they’re poor or disabled?

    HUD is not an outside agency, it’s the sole funder, except when Richmond gets desperate and dumps, as far as I know, $7.5 million into the Housing Authority from City funds.

    This is an old game, give responsibility without authority. Richmond is supposed to scrimp by with whatever HUD deigns to allocate, while HUD spends their money on staff to investigate and complain that units are not up to a standard the funding can’t meet. It’s like most government agencies, overstaffed and incompetent, but the real blame lies with a Congress that won’t appropriate funds because the House is the home of TeaBaggers and idiots.

    I gather since you think HUD doesn’t matter (outside agency?) that all the blame lies with the City.

    Once again, a link to the demolition order eight years ago?
  • commented 2014-03-15 13:37:16 -0700
    He is an architect. He knows this building was supposed to be demo’d a long time ago. It’s easy to blame the problem on an outside agency, and I would posit that it is only part of the problem. The biggest part is local, and you seem to feel that being broke means you DESERVE living with vermin. No private landlord would be allowed to get away with that; why should the city landlord be allowed to? And please, if you work for Tom Butt, recuse yourself; if you don’t, you should. You seem to parrot whatever he says.
  • commented 2014-03-14 20:00:35 -0700
    The forensic architect is Tom Butt. He’s hardly peripheral, unless you’re implying he has to live there to understand the situation.
  • commented 2014-03-14 19:42:52 -0700
    Yes, the cleanest places MIGHT be infested, but the likelihood is much greater is food’s all over all the time.
  • commented 2014-03-14 19:17:27 -0700
    As to your other comment – perhaps. But since that’s already been done…
    You’re a little behind on this.
  • commented 2014-03-14 19:11:47 -0700
    Sorry, I only managed 100 units at a time. With any rental unit, maintenance is an issue. One of the excuses used was the tenant refused to let them in to perform pest control. They don’t have to LET you in; you give notice that you WILL be doing this on a certain day and you go in. This qualifies under EMERGENCY. Another falsehood is that cleanliness prevents roaches. Nope, not true; the cleanest places can be infested. Whether a single family home or a multi-family dwelling, certain things need to be done or you are – get ready for it – a slum lord. I’ve rented to people who were not poor/disabled and they can be pretty entitled; in fact, more so. Do you really believe that the reason you are poor makes you a second class citizen, and should be prepared to live in a subhuman, demeaning, demoralizing fashion? Just be grateful there’s a roof, even if it’s leaking and about to collapse? Yes, social systems are underfunded; they are also MISUSED. In Richmond, it wouldn’t be the first time.

    And for the record, unless you’re running the show like Tim Jones, being the maintenance super isn’t the same thing.
  • commented 2014-03-14 19:06:39 -0700
    Of course, if a forensic architect of some standing were to declare Hacienda quite solid, needing only a million or so dollars to bring it up to standard, you’d believe her, right?
  • commented 2014-03-14 19:01:40 -0700
    We’re talking past each other. HUD can’t be liberal with funds they don’t have, and IF you’d read Butt’s newsletter carefully, you’d have noticed that much of the conditions at Hacienda can be traced to human factors. Granted, many of the residents at Hacienda may be there because they’re incapable of paying normal rents, but there may also be good reasons for the low income besides disability. That’s where the maid service comment comes from. If you’re getting a good deal on your home, why would you not be careful with it, keeping it clean? I’ve actually been a maintenance supervisor for such a complex, 200 apartments, low income. I think I know what Tim Jones goes through every month. Dumping him wouldn’t solve a thing. It’s just poorly aimed frustration with a national problem: underfunding of social systems. And that’s caused by the drumbeat in the media that’s convinced the citizenry that the poor want to be that way. It’s only half true. You figure out which half.
  • commented 2014-03-14 18:38:29 -0700
    Like so many people, you confuse understanding and agreement. HUD takes a long time to research anything, and they are pretty liberal vis-a-vis acceptability. This has to be an absolute HOVEL for HUD to say it’s a mess. The Hacienda was scheduled for demo years ago; what happened? It’s been eight years. Enough already.

    And yes, I read Mr. Butt’s account. Unlike you, I don’t accept the word of someone who is peripheral to the situation. Instead, I spoke (yeah, I took the time) to talk to people who live there, AND read the federal assessment reports, way before this hit the news and finally got your attention.
  • commented 2014-03-14 18:27:11 -0700
    So you think the city is at fault for the declining and insufficient funds from HUD, and you think the city should burn through all its Section 8 vouchers (and Section 8 landlords are famously weird) and irrevocably use half a million dollars from city funds? Why not use the funds to repair the roof? Duh. It’s the craziness of the mob at the lectern scaring the commissioners. I gather you don’t subscribe to Tom’s newsletter, where it’s laid out in exquisite detail for those who think before they act.
  • commented 2014-03-14 17:42:18 -0700
    Butt is angry because he didn’t get his way. Mobocracy? You and Buttcus are upset because of the PROCESS, but not angry about the precipitating facts? Tell you what – go live in any of these places, open ended, no termination date in sight. See what happens then.

    Sometimes the mob is right.
  • commented 2014-03-14 13:15:25 -0700
    Mobocracy strikes again. Give the people the power of the purse directly and they’ll vote themselves bankrupt.

    Butt is angry because there’s no respect for lawful order, and no respect for elected officials. His exit is a very bad forerunner of a descent into anarchy in Richmond, which will destroy all the gains we’ve made in financial status (bond ratings), police effectiveness, street repair and lighting, and attracting new business.

    Cutting off your nose to spite your face. Stupid. What a bunch of bozos we’ve got disrupting the city.
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