After spending a small fortune on attorneys, consultants, a strategic plan to dispose of Berkeley's 75 public housing units, relocation specialists, several meetings with tenants opposed to the sale of their public housing, and several years of planning to privatize and sell Berkeley's public housing units, only around 1 or 2 persons representing developers appeared at a Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) pre-proposal bidders conference, to express an interest in buying Berkeley's public housing units.
On the cool crisp damp morning of Wednesday, May 18, a group of public housing tenants and community activists appeared at a pre-proposal bidders conference being held downtown Berkeley in the Koret Boardroom, of the Ed Roberts Campus building, to say no to the plan to privatize Berkeley's 75 public housing units. The conference was originally designated for developers that have questions about the sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units.
Public housing tenant Rose Flippin said, "I made it to the pre-proposal conference, and either no one wants to buy Berkeley's occupied public housing units, or it's already a done deal. I counted around 15 people that appeared and did not support the plan to sell Berkeley's public housing. In comparison, only 1 or 2 developers appeared to ask questions about the sale of Berkeley's public housing. It all seemed like a dog and pony show, where they just seemed to go through the motions to meet HUD's regulations for disposing of the public housing units. Consultant Chad Wakefield was there, and relocation project manager Kathleen Sims seemed confused when she was asked questions about public housing tenants being relocated. There was not a spot in the meeting to have public speakers or comments, and the BHA was surprised people appeared that were not developers. I am so excited that Eleanor Walden and members of the community appeared at this meeting to speak out against the sale of our public housing. It felt like the cavalry had finally arrived. Usually it's just us public housing tenants appearing at these meetings. I could tell that the people that appeared at todays meeting shocked and frightened the BHA, Tia Ingram, and the others involved in the scheme to privatize and sell our public housing."
The pre-proposal bidders conference was organized by the BHA and Scott Jepsen of EJP Consulting, and was meant to be a conference for all of the non profit developers and for profit developers that had any questions in regards to the proposed sale of Berkeley's 75 public housing units. A tour of Berkeley's public housing units was planned for directly after the meeting. In a recent notice, the BHA urged all developers interested in buying Berkeley's public housing units to send at least one representative from their organization to the May 18, pre-proposal bidders conference. Developers must submit their proposals to buy the 75 public housing units no later than 3:00 PM July 11, 2011, and the selection of the highest ranked respondent is scheduled to occur on Aug. 1, 2011.
Berkeley activist Eleanor Walden was among the people that appeared at the 9:AM conference to speak out against the proposed sale of Berkeley's public housing and said, "I am opposed to the sale of Berkeley's public housing. Only around 1 or 2 developers appeared at the conference to ask questions about the sale of Berkeley's public housing. Oddly, the BHA suddenly wanted to shut down the meeting, and claimed that it was time to tour the public housing units. I told them no way, and that they needed to keep the meeting open to answer the publics questions. The BHA's staff and consultants that organized the conference were stunned that more people appeared at the conference to ask questions and speak out in opposition to the sale of Berkeley's public housing units, than there were developers interested in buying the units." Eleanor Walden was there as a representative of the Berkeley Gray Panthers, and is a former Berkeley, Rent Board Stabilization Commissioner.
Walden additionally said that among those that organized the pre-proposal bidders conference she believed that Scott Jepsen of EJP Consulting appeared, BHA Board Member Carol Norris, of ICF International was there, including Kathleen Sims, project manager for the relocation plan, and Tia Ingram, BHA's Executive Director.
Public housing tenant Ann Marie Dent made it to the conference and said, "I was told by the relocation project manager Kathleen Sims, that if I stay in my public housing unit after it was sold that I would have to pay a lot more in rent, and that I need to move." On May 12, Ann Dent also said, "I do not want to move. I do not think it is right. I do not think it is fair. I am disabled with lupus. The last thing I heard is that it would take around a year for them to evict us, according to David Solis of the BHA. I have been a public housing tenant in Berkeley since 1995 or 1996. I love my neighborhood, and with my disability it would be impossible for me to move from here."
On May 12, public housing tenant Anna Smith said, "I have lived in Berkeley's public housing since 1992. I like where I am living at. I want to stay where I am. I have a family, and my grandchildren are in school. I have no where to go. Last thing I heard is that nothing is to happen to us for at least a year."
Carol Norris and Scott Jepsen are full time consultants for an industry involved in gentrification projects that displace the poor from their housing, all across the nation.
Tia Ingram, Carol Norris and Kathleen Sims could not be reached for comment for this story.
Lynda Carson may be reached at email@example.com