The following comment letter has been send to the Marin Board of Supervisors, who sit as the Commissioners of the Marin County Public Housing Authority, and who will be meeting on January 9th to deliberate the fate of the Golden Gate Village public housing project in Marin City.
January 7, 2018
Dear Marin Housing Authority Commissioners:
On Tuesday, January 9, you are scheduled to receive CVR’s “Revitalization Feasibility Assessment-DRAFT: Prepared for Golden Gate Village.”
The staff report recommends you (1) accept the Assessment and (2) instruct MHA staff to publish a Request for Qualifications for an experienced developer to submit a proposal and plan for revitalizing Golden Gate Village.
The contract with CVR was signed 4/24/17. It calls for “a feasibility analysis of both of the revitalization options,” referring to “Mixed Income” and “Historic Preservation.” These two options were chosen by a 21-member Community Working Group after a year-long series of workshops and meetings that spanned 2015-2016.
CVR, however, in a poorly written and confusing report and without providing adequate data or financial analysis, dismisses the two options as infeasible. Without getting input from or communicating this change at any of the three community meetings, the consultants veered off and analyzed six new scenarios.
Instead of recommending one of two options, CVR recommends Scenario B: Partial redevelopment (undefined) and green rehabilitation (undefined), using Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Conversion funding (which by their own assessment in Appendix A, p.11-12, is a high risk option with low probability of success).
Scenario B introduces drastic changes with the likelihood of more serious financial problems in the future than the $16M+ in deferred maintenance that started the revitalization (undefined) process.
For example, Scenario B:
- Removes GGV from the control of our local public housing agency and transforms the project into a Section 8 project, which based on current Federal Fair Market Rents-based voucher values, few existing GGV residents could afford.
- Proposes building 124 or more new units and likely more with the +35% state density bonus allowable for low-income housing.However, it doesn’t provide any information or analysis regarding location, size of units, # of BRs, affordability, etc.
- Proposes demolition of existing units to accommodate new construction.However, CVR doesn’t provide details about what, how, when or where demolition would take place.
- Proposes five phases of funding and construction. However, CVR doesn’t provide details about the time frame or duration of each phase, nor does it describe the time and expense to acquire funds requiredfor each phase, nor does it provide a cost benefit analysis or otherwise analyze the risks and rewards or probabilities of success.
- Proposes building new units first (without estimating how much time that will take) and then moving existing residents into the new units, while old units are refurbished or demolished.
- Promises displaced residents “in good standing” the right to return to their refurbished unit within a 2 year period. However, CVR doesn’t define the criteria or conditions for being “in good standing” or who will make that determination.
CVR's recommendation puts you, the MHA Commissioners, in a tough spot.
- You could accept the poorly written report and turn a blind eye to the fact CVR didn't deliver on the terms of their contract and didn't provide adequate data and financial analysis. But is that the prudent thing to do?
- You could ignore the groundwork and options recommended by the 2015-2016, 21-member Community Working Group.But does that promote trust and good will?
- You could, even with so many unanswered questions, accept the staff recommendation to move ahead to hire a developer. But does that instill confidence?
- You could move forward, even though this process makes a mockery of The Guiding Principle to “assure resident participation.” It warrants clarification that holding meetings and talking “at” people is not the same as “participation.” The meeting Friday, January 5, 2018, is an example of consultants working in an adversarial mode.By talking “at” the audience for 40 minutes without allowing questions generated frustration and anger. Then taking a break assured running out of time before questions were addressed.Does that promote collaboration in the future?
People agree that something needs to be done to address the problem of deferred maintenance at Golden Gate Village. But there will only be one chance to get this right.
As commissioners, you have options besides accepting the staff recommendations: You could return the report and call for compliance with the contract. You could direct staff to withhold final payment until the work is done to a satisfactory level. And you could, for now, stop and without exception "take no further action" until a complete and realistic feasibility assessment is completed with genuine commitment to citizen participation.
Your deliberation on this matter is very important, not just to residents of Golden Gate Village, but to all residents of Marin County.Take time to get it right.
Susan Kirsch - Mill Valley