Discrimination not proven against ousted SF Housing Authority director

The former director of the San Francisco Housing Authority was a “discourteous” and “unprofessional” bully, but an investigation conducted by a former city attorney found that there is insufficient evidence that Henry Alvarez committed the racial discrimination and retaliation against former employees of which he is accused in lawsuits.

Alvarez led The City’s troubled public-housing agency from 2007 until April, when his contract was terminated. Under Alvarez, the Housing Authority took a turn for the worse.

Federal budget cuts, payouts for lawsuits and poor management landed the agency on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “troubled” list. The Housing Authority’s handling of Section 8 subsidized housing also received an unprecedented failing grade under Alvarez’s stewardship.

Multiple lawsuits filed against Alvarez — alleging racial discrimination, retaliation against employees and possible violations of the law around awarding work contracts — as well as the agency’s woeful state were among the reasons given for his termination by a new Housing Authority commission installed by Mayor Ed Lee, who has made reform of the agency a priority.

Former Housing Authority attorney Tim Larsen, who is white, alleges in a November lawsuit that Alvarez, who is black, fostered a hostile work environment with racially fueled discrimination.

Former employees Bill Ford and Roger Crawford also have accused Alvarez of discrimination, retaliation and other prohibited conduct.  

An investigation by former City Attorney Louise Renne’s law firm, hired in February to investigate the complaints against Alvarez, found “insufficient” evidence to support five out of the seven claims against Alvarez, according to documents.

The investigation did agree with Larsen’s claims that Alvarez’s behavior was discourteous and unprofessional, “in violation” of Housing Authority rules, and also found that Crawford was discriminated against for his leave of absence, documents show.

Alvarez’s Los Angeles-based attorney could not be contacted for comment Wednesday.

A jury trial in Larsen’s case is scheduled to begin in 2014.


Dire water warnings confront San Francisco and beyond

‘We will face challenges that I don’t think modern California has ever really seen before’

By Jessica Wolfrom
Debate over $150 million San Francisco school district windfall

‘We’re looking at the ways to boost morale’

By Ida Mojadad
Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, San Francisco’s longest serving chief of protocol, has died

‘Her warmth and verve are irreplaceable.’

By Catherine Bigelow