After a nine-year battle, the revitalization plan developed by the Golden Gate Village Resident Council, and its group of experts, finally received the green light.
The Marin Housing Authority’s seven commissioners voted unanimously at a meeting on March 22 to pursue the resident council’s plan of renovation only for the neglected 61-year-old public housing complex in Marin City.
It is a huge victory for Golden Gate Village residents, who adamantly opposed the Marin Housing Authority’s plan to demolish some of the existing buildings on the 32-acre property and replace them with two new high-rise towers. The housing authority severed ties last year with the private developer that came up with that ill-conceived plan, which would have jeopardized Golden Gate Village’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are a few reasons the commissioners, which include all five members of the Marin County Board of Supervisors and two people living in public housing or holding a section 8 voucher, changed course and accepted the resident council’s plan, according to Barbara Bogard, a Golden Gate Village volunteer. As a member of the strategy team that helped shepherd the 175-page plan across the finish line, Bogard has watched the process from the front row for the last five years.
“This never would have happened under Lewis Jordan,” Bogard said, referring to the former Marin Housing Authority director who was a proponent of new construction. Jordan resigned in December.
The resident council plan also largely satisfies the requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which threatened in August to take over or defund the Marin Housing Authority due to repeated “failing or near failing physical scores” at Golden Gate Village.
At HUD’s direction, the housing authority submitted a corrective action plan, which included a timeline for the revitalization. Based on the timeline, the housing authority had until March 31 to choose a preferred plan to remedy the deferred maintenance issues at Golden Gate Village.
Much of the credit for the unanimous vote goes to Marin County Supervisor Stephanie Moulton-Peters, who represents Southern Marin. Moulton-Peters joined the Marin Housing Authority Commission in November and quickly got up to speed on Golden Gate Village residents’ needs and wants for the revitalization project. It was Moulton-Peters’ recommendation of the resident council plan that led other commissioners to also accept it, Bogard said.
“I am proud that we have reached this milestone; there are more [milestones] to go, but centering the residents of Golden Gate Village is the right place to start,” Moulton-Peters wrote in an email to supporters of the resident council plan.
Under the now-endorsed plan, all 300 units at Golden Gate Village will be renovated, with no new construction. The preservation of the historic buildings, grounds and landscaping is another key component. The plan also provides a path for residents to build equity in their homes and receive job training opportunities during the revitalization.
There is still work ahead to implement the plan, but five to six members of the resident council and its strategy team will finally have seats at the table, along with an equal number of representatives from the Marin Housing Authority. This newly-formed committee will oversee further development of the resident council’s plan.
Current obstacles include financing, where residents will stay during the renovations and “overhousing,” the HUD term referring to people who live in units where the number of bedrooms exceeds the size of the family.
“We have plans for all of those hurdles and are happy to bring in our experts,” Bogard said.
The president of the resident council, Royce McLemore, has lived in Golden Gate Village for more than 45 years. McLemore said in an interview that she’s been working on the revitalization plan since 2007. It started as a vision, but as McLemore recruited volunteers, including an architect, attorney, real estate developer, certified public accountant and activists, the resident council’s idea was fleshed out in a viable plan.
“We just kept going through the process, sticking with our plan and repeating it,” McLemore said. “It’s a long time coming, but a real change is on the horizon for Golden Gate Village.”