For-sale signs may spell closure for family

More than a decade after a fire took the lives of a grandmother and five children living in a public housing project in The City, the San Francisco Housing Authority is taking steps to pay court-ordered millions to affected family members.

On Wednesday, the Housing Authority — the federally supported agency that oversees government-subsidized housing in San Francisco — will formally ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval to sell three properties originally purchased with federal funds. The money would be used to begin paying off what is now an $18 million judgment.

The 2001 judgment was originally $15 million, the bulk of which consisted of money owed from a 1997 Hunters View housing development blaze that killed six people. There was no smoke detector on the second floor of the apartment.

The San Francisco Housing Authority has since been plagued by mismanagement and a slow response process that led to interest on the judgment increasing the total owed to nearly $18 million.

Interim Executive Director Mirian Saez said the court has accused the Housing Authority of  “stalling.”

Tom Brandi, who represents the families of grandmother Dolores Evans and the five children killed, said he held “cautious optimism” about the Housing Authority’s plan.

“Time will be the best judge of their efforts,” Brandi said. “Our clients continue to remain in shock to disbelief that a public entity can so defiantly thumb their nose at the law” he said.

The Housing Authority plans to sell three properties: 75-77 Coleridge St., 275 Thrift St., and a 2.06-acre parking lot in the Alice Griffith development in Double Rock, Saez said.

The sale of the three properties is expected to bring in $9 million, and proposals to earn the remainder of the money include filling vacant apartments with renters, cutting expenses on trash collection, reducing utility costs and introducing a recycling program, Saez said.

By May 30, the agency will also apply to HUD to sell off the Rosa Parks Annex on Turk Street, Saez said.

“I want to apologize to the family for this taking so long,” Saez said. “For us, this is a huge step to getting a resolution.”

A spokesman for HUD, Larry Bush, said the federal agency is interested in hearing specifics from the San Francisco Housing Authority on the proposals.

“While there is still a lot of work that needs to get done, The City is excited to move forward,” said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

dsmith@examiner.com

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