Potrero Annex-Terrace residents are concerned that Bridge Housing and the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) aren’t responding to problems plaguing the public housing complex. Among the identified issues are empty units being invaded by trespassers without City response; common areas of recently built Block X, a 70-unit apartment building located at 1101 Connecticut Street, that’re beset with noise and uncleanliness, with some occupants lamenting a loss of privacy that was associated with the walk-up units they previously inhabited.
“I had a person experiencing homelessness break into the unit next to me and make a lot of noise,” said Eddie Kittrell, Potrero Annex Tenants Association president. “I contacted the San Francisco Housing Authority. They said they could do nothing. I told them I would handle it. I went over there and confronted the people who had broken in. I told them they could not stay there. I would like for the City to board up units to prevent safety issues. I want the City to address the use of illegal drugs, especially next door to children, noise concerns, and the theft of fixtures like sinks.”
“People unscrew the plexiglass windows to get into the units,” said Monica Ferrey, immediate past president of the Potrero Annex Tenants Association. “I have seen people who got in use sledgehammers to damage the walls of units. When you report the issue to the San Francisco Housing Authority, no one evicts them. This is one of the reasons I moved.”
Neither the San Francisco Police Department nor SFHA responded to the View’s requests for interviews or information.
The break-ins are “…unfortunate,” said Denny Machuca-Grebe, San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) public information officer. “However, HSH is not an enforcement agency, break-ins need to be reported to the SFPD.”
According to Thu Banh Perry, Bridge Housing senior manager of community development, trespassing has long been an issue.
“Bridge Housing has no jurisdiction over San Francisco Housing Authority units,” said Banh Perry.
In 2019 Block X opened with 72 affordable housing units. About three-quarters were leased to existing Annex-Terrace residents, 18 were allotted to low-income households, one to an on-site manager. The building has a community room, bicycle parking, and a courtyard.
Edward Hatter, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House executive director, said Bridge Housing told “a lot of lies, done a lot of misdirection. They promised to totally integrate the community in an impoverished area. That has not happened.”
Hatter heard that some Block X residents are upset because they “…never knew living in stacked housing would be so different. Before in the walk-ups, doors would open to the outside. In Block X, there’s one bank of elevators at the end of the hallway. Seniors have to walk a block down in a shared space in a pandemic to get to the elevator. I’ve heard concerns that kids are riding bikes in the hallway. There are dogs loose and dog excrement staining the hallway floors too. Another issue is that 155 families came from the Annex and mixed with families in the Terrace. Historically the two groups had not gotten along well. There could be steps taken to improve community relations.”
“We didn’t want a dormitory,” said Kittrell. “But that’s what we got. This rebuild, this land, was supposed to be used to create better housing for people who were already residents.”
Uzuri Pease-Greene, an Annex-Terrace resident and former Bridge Housing community builder, said Block X’s design was fully disclosed in meetings prior to construction.
“We knew people would have to walk all the way down the hallway to the elevator,” said Pease-Greene.
“Once Block B is completed, the majority of the Annex residents will be able to move into the Block B building,” said Marie Debor, Bridge Housing vice president of development. “Annex residents have the option to move either to Block B, temporarily relocate into an existing onsite unit, or relocate off-site into a newly constructed MOHCD housing unit. Temporary onsite relocatees would be able to move into a newly constructed unit of a subsequent phase.”
Block B, which is expected to be finished in June 2023, will consist of two five-story buildings with 162 one- to four-bedroom apartments. Amenities will include a 13,690 square foot landscaped courtyard, park, community room, office space, and childcare facility. Residents will have access to parking for 65 vehicles and 210 bicycles.
Hatter is concerned that Bridge Housing didn’t honor its promise that each unit would have washer and dryer hookups.
“They put in mini-laundrettes with three to four washing machines on each floor. Yet we lost a lot of services during the first move to 1101 Connecticut Street,” said Hatter.
Lyn Hikida, Bridge Housing vice president of communications, said an early Block X design included in-unit washers and dryers.
“In approximately 2016, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community, a primary funder of Rebuild Potrero, stated that as a condition of their funding we could not install in-unit washers and dryers because it was too costly. Instead, we would build a laundry room on each floor. We presented this update to the community and received their feedback. As a result, in addition to having a laundry room on each floor, apartments with three or more bedrooms, which are occupied by larger families, have in-unit washers/dryers,” said Hikida.
Hikida said Bridge Housing hasn’t heard concerns regarding dogs for the past eighteen months and has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols throughout the public health crisis.
“We do allow for residents to have service and companion animals. We have a policy that residents must clean up after their pets. If an incident is reported, we clean it up and we remind residents of the policy,” said Hikida. “We’re following Centers for Disease Control and local health guidelines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, [including] enhanced cleaning plus measures such as posting signs and reminding people to wear masks and maintain social distancing. We are absorbing the costs.”
An anti-gentrification organization, United Front Against Displacement (UFAD), has been protesting “long-term intentional neglect” by SFHA and Bridge Housing.
“The rebuild exploits the community,” said organizer Dayton Andrews. “A lot of folks are very upset that they’ll lose front and back yards to be forced to live in a high-rise. They’re worried they will get displaced in the process as people are getting notices to vacate due to demolition, without comparable housing.”
District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton questioned whether UFAD represents Annex-Terrace residents.
“This organization is not from the community. They do not represent residents from Potrero Hill,” said Walton.
However, Walton agreed that Bridge Housing has broken many promises over the past few years. “That needs to change,” said Walton.
“All current public housing residents have a right to return to a replacement unit, regardless of immigration status,” said Maximilian Barnes, director of communications for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). “Additionally, a few years ago, Mayor Breed signed legislation that provides former public housing residents, wherever they may live now, with a priority preference to move back to new homes.”
Ferrey wants more efforts placed on employment assistance. “Bridge Housing and other parties could do more to help members of families look for jobs,” she said.
Walton also believes more could be done to hire Annex-Terrace residents for construction jobs.
“As a former director for Young Community Developers, we always have a long way to go to make sure residents are trained so that they have the skill set to perform the work. Even though we have entered a recovery period, we are still in a pandemic. We may need to make a greater effort to ensure local residents that construction jobs are safe,” said Walton.
According to Hikida, in the past year and half, eight residents have worked onsite, and “since the start of Phase 2 Infrastructure in February 2021, there have been 10 resident offsite hires.”