gavel.jpgCity officials and community leaders rejoiced today during an announcement of a $30.5 million federal grant to help improve San Francisco’s Alice Griffith public housing development and the surrounding Bayview neighborhood.

The grant was one of six awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of its Choice Neighborhood funding, which targets impoverished areas of major cities.

The money “will help the residents themselves build a more sustainable community” with improvements to housing, retail and transportation hubs, HUD Region IX Administrator Ophelia Basgal said at a morning news conference outside the Alice Griffith Opportunity Center.

Mayor Ed Lee said improving the Alice Griffith housing complex “has been a long, complicated road … with people making promises year after year, decade after decade.”
Lee said the grant “is not just about promise; it shows we have to deliver.”

Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes the Bayview, said, “Now comes the real work.”

She said city officials have to be “thoughtful and diligent in figuring out how we spend the money.”

The HOPE SF plan, one of more than 40 submissions sent in from around the country to the federal agency, proposes to add more than 10,000 new market-rate and below-market-rate housing units in the neighborhood, as well as new parks and retail stores, and invest in jobs, education and community wellness programs.

San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell was one of several speakers who became emotional when speaking about what the funding means for the neighborhood.

“There’s a reason everyone’s been so emotional today, and it’s not the grant, it’s the residents here,” Blackwell said, fighting back tears.

San Francisco Housing Authority Executive Director Henry Alvarez said, “Other than my children being born, this is the best day of my life.”

Other speakers were more cautious about the funding, including Lavelle Shaw of the Alice Griffith Tenants Association, who said his group “wants to make sure we don’t get displaced” by the new development.

The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, vowed to hold the city officials to their pledges to improve the neighborhood.

“Too many nice words have been said,” Brown said. “I’m sick and tired of promises being made and after the day is over getting the short end of the stick.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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