[This is part two of an ongoing series about Golden Gate Village. Find part 1 here.]
Once the award-winning jewel of public housing in America, Golden Gate Village in Marin City now suffers from major neglect, leaving many residents living in deplorable, unsafe conditions.
Two dueling proposals aim to resolve the deferred maintenance issues at the historic 60-year-old property.
One involves a wrecking ball.
On Saturday, the Pacific Sun obtained a Marin Housing Authority (MHA) report titled “HUD Demolition/Disposition” for Golden Gate Village. The new physical needs assessment report, written by AEI Consultants, is dated March 8, 2021. Inexplicably, the MHA withheld it from Golden Gate Village residents for almost three months.
Critics of the MHA are concerned the new “demolition” report will serve as the basis to raze all 29 buildings on the 30-acre property. Though the MHA has repeatedly denied it, Golden Gate Village residents have asserted for years that the MHA is working toward a complete teardown of Golden Gate Village to enable the redevelopment of the prime real estate located just five miles from San Francisco.
The agency did not respond to a request for comment by the Pacific Sun’s print deadline.
MHA’s publicly stated plan, prior to the release of the “demolition” report, was to destroy only 16 of the 300 residences in the complex and to renovate the remaining units. Any renovations now appear to be in jeopardy.
The “demolition” report updates the 2020 “HUD Needs Assessment.” The new version corrects 28 errors, mostly financial irregularities, which were pointed out in a December letter by an attorney for the Golden Gate Village Resident Council.
Another major difference between the two reports is reflected in the statements regarding the overall condition of the property.
“Adequate funding has not been identified nor is it anticipated in future years to correct the extensive backlog of deferred maintenance requirements which will result in the property condition degrading from the current Fair status to Poor status,” the new report states.
This is a drastic departure from last year’s report, which said, “Assuming the level of maintenance currently being provided at the subject property is continued and deferred maintenance specified herein is corrected, the property should continue to retain its ability to perform and compete in the local market in the future.”
The MHA’s failure to perform maintenance may result in the demolition of Golden Gate Village and the displacement of 700 predominately Black residents, many of whom have lived there for generations.
Community gentrification and displacement rank among the residents’ worst fears, according to Royce McLemore, 78, president of the Golden Gate Village Resident Council. After all, they live in one of the most expensive, not to mention racially segregated, counties in the state. Where else in Marin could they afford to go?
“Given current housing trends in Marin it is unlikely that residents would be able to relocate in the County if Golden Gate Village is gone,” said a 2018 Marin County Grand Jury report on Golden Gate Village.
Most residents want to remain in their homes and have Golden Gate Village completely renovated, according to a recent petition they presented to the Marin Housing Authority. More than 61% said they do not support the MHA plan to demolish three buildings. They clearly would not endorse the complete demolition of the property.
Instead, the residents favor the Golden Gate Village Resident Council’s vision, including the deep green revitalization of all the buildings, job training, and a route to home ownership through a community land trust.
The job training aspect of the plan provides residents with the opportunity to work on Golden Gate Village’s deferred maintenance. A similar on-the-job training program took place during an earlier renovation of the complex, according to McLemore.
“They turned it into a training program in 1977 and 1978, when they did the first major renovation of Golden Gate Village,” McLemore said. “Residents developed skills and were actually trained as journeymen. And this is where a lot of people got their trade – working on Golden Gate Village. It can happen again.”
Another component of the Resident Council’s plan is establishing a community land trust (CLT) to enable affordable home ownership in perpetuity. In a CLT, the owner of the land is a nonprofit, community-based organization that provides renewable, long-term leases to homeowners. The homes are inheritable and the buildings are mortgageable.
With the assistance of a coalition of architects, lawyers, consultants and other influential community members, the council’s vision is taking shape. Golden Gate Village, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, qualifies for historic preservation grants. Local, state and federal funding is also available. Unfortunately, the MHA has not applied for these renovation funds.
A fundraising effort on behalf of the Golden Gate Village Resident Council is underway to pay for a green physical needs assessment, one which will consider the property’s historic designation and define the nuts and bolts of the renovation plan. The goal is to nail down the costs for the Council’s plan, because the renovation cost estimates outlined in MHA reports have varied substantially over the past two-and-a-half years.
The MHA has ignored the vision set forth by the Golden Gate Village Resident Council, opting instead to partner with a private developer based in New Jersey, The Michaels Organization. Interestingly, the contract between Michaels and the MHA expired in February 2020, yet they have continued to work together. Has the MHA avoided a new contract until they could justify razing Golden Gate Village?
“Discussions between MHA, Marin County, and the Michaels Organization are ongoing,” MHA Executive Director Lewis Jordan said in an email last week, prior to the release of the new “demolition” report. “Though we have no updates at this time, MHA’s goal in the GGV revitalization is, and has always been, to improve the living conditions and lives of the residents of Golden Gate Village. As MHA has done in the past, they will continue to be transparent and inclusive in their community engagement with the GGV Resident Council, the residents of GGV, and the public by sharing information and incorporating feedback as plans move forward.”
Unfortunately, Jordan’s rhetoric offers no insight into the future of Golden Gate Village. However, McLemore received an email from the MHA saying they want to discuss the “demolition” report at the upcoming Resident Council meeting on June 14.
“I was told a few years back, by one of the elders in our community who is now deceased, ‘everything has always been a fight for Black people in Marin County,’” McLemore said. “There’s going to come a time when the County wants this land, and you’ll have to be prepared to fight for it. Well, they came and now we’re fighting.”
Next up in the Golden Gate Village series: the history of the property and the controversy surrounding the MHA. Read part 1 of the series here.