Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Summary

  • The Housing Authority is examining its contract for safety services with the Fresno Police Department. It surveyed just 225 residents (26% of total residents) who indicated a preference for the current contract to be maintained, while also expressing a desire for activities that enhance individual and community health. Based on these results, staff presented two options to the commission for consideration: one would be maintaining current levels of policing costing $318,000 annually, while the other would decrease its policing to hourly patrols and save $100,000 annually that would be invested into complimentary services provided by community-based organizations.

  • Approved unanimously an application for Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program and entered into a MOU with SunRun. Staff has created a list of 25 program-eligible properties and residents could save an average of $500 per household per annually. A typical project has a SOMAH grant request of approximately $600,000.

  • The commission moved forward its search for a new CEO by approving the new job description and 2021 salary range of $225,000 to $298,000.  The Housing Authority is working with executive recruitment firm, Gans, Gans & Associates, to find, screen and hire the new CEO. 

The Scene

The Fresno Housing Authority joint meeting of the boards of commissioners took place on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. The joint board meeting packet states that due to executive order N-25-20, the meeting will be held electronically and accessible via teleconference and Zoom. Some meetings are also viewable on CMAC.

The Fresno Housing Authority is governed by 14 commissioners, seven of whom are appointed as city commissioners and seven as county commissioners. Five of the city commissioners are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Fresno to serve four-year, staggered terms. Two are appointed to two-year terms from among residents receiving housing assistance from Fresno Housing. Similarly, five of the county commissioners are appointed by the Board of Supervisors, and two are residents receiving assistance from Fresno Housing.

City Commissioners:

Adrian Jones, Chairperson (also Marriage and Family Therapist at North Star Wellness Group)

Caine Christensen, Vice Chair (also Director of Student Support Services for Fresno Unified)

Terra Brusseau, Commissioner (also owner of The Central Valley Group)

Sabrina Kelley, Commissioner (also Community Relations Consultant and Foundation Officer for Wells Fargo Bank )

Stacy Vaillancourt, Commissioner (also Chief Administrative Officer for Saint Agnes Medical Center)

Sharon Williams, Commissioner (also retired Fresno Juvenile Hall counselor)

Ruby Yanez, Commissioner 

County Commissioners:

Cary Catalano, Chairperson (also owner of Catalano Fenske & Associates)

Nikki Henry, Vice Chair (also CIO for Fresno Unified School District)

Joey Fuentes, Commissioner (also trainer and mentor at Fresno’s Main Event boxing)

Valori Gallaher, Commissioner (also Caruthers School Boardmember)

Edugiben Ortiz, Commissioner (one of two resident commissioners)

Sophia Ramos, Commissioner (also registered nurse)

Stacy Sablan, Commissioner (also owner of Sablan Legal Services)

Christiansen and Henry were absent from the meeting. Williams joined the meeting late at 5:18 p.m.

There were two requests from the public to speak during the meeting. Donyell Wilkins expressed concerns about safety and recalled a conversation he had with an 86-year-old resident of Legacy Commons about a shooting that occurred recently. “How many shootings have to happen here in Parc Grove before that initiative is taken,” Wilkins said. He said that speed bumps were needed to slow down drivers. 

Mark Cummins called into the meeting to express his concerns about safety as well. He agreed with Wilkins based on his experience living at Parc Grove. He said they have upgraded the lighting in the area, but there are still some areas that remain dark and he was also concerned about drivers’ speed and a lack of speed bumps. “At some point a child will get hit,” he said. “It is unfortunate, but it is reality and aggressive speed bumps would slow down the traffic.” He also asked the board to consider placing more security cameras in the area with noticeable signs that the property is being aggressively monitored.

Fresno Housing Authority Interim CEO/Executive Director Angie Nguyen said they will look into addressing the issues raised by Wilkins and Cummins. Catalano asked for an update on the items from her in the future. 

Consent Items

  • Approved unanimously minutes of the March 4 and March 23, 2021 meetings.

Nguyen updated the commission on outreach efforts to residents and community members, as well as recommendations regarding the police services contract and partnerships that promote safety:

  • They reached out to 860 households out of 1,500. 

  • 33 percent of survey respondents replied that they wanted to keep Fresno Housing’s police services contract as-is. 

  • “Based on the responses that we received from the residents, they wanted to keep the police services in some way shape or form,” Nguyen said. “They were open to other things in the way of infrastructure or security, but they weren’t really willing to let go of the police services just yet.” 

  • Based on their conclusions from the survey, she presented two options to enhance resident safety by maintaining current levels of service by the police department or reduce and change current levels of safety services and utilize the “savings” for complimentary empowerment strategies to be provided by community-benefit organizations:

  • Option 1: Renew the contract to cover the cost of two dedicated full-time officers (currently $318,000), coverage 7 days/week, 10-hour shifts, keeps consistency of two officers and maintains frequent communication with property staff, additional investment to partner with CBOs who actively engage in strategies that cultivate safety

    • “They are exploring alternatives to heavy policing of our black and brown communities,” Nguyen said. 

  • Option 2: Alternative police contract services for hourly officers, save $100,000/year to invest into partnerships. Reduce coverage from 10 to 8 hours daily. Concerns because officers would vary and not be dedicated, would only be officers who sign up for overtime shifts. It would also limit the services and reporting. 

  • Investment in CBO partnerships include trauma-informed practices, advocacy and leadership, interventions, restorative justice practices, alternative activities and healing.  

  • Changes would include commitment to platoon schedule, consistent foot patrols, participation in the selection process, engaging with residents in addressing safety concerns and creating alternatives.

  • Next steps are to consider the options, staff will continue to work on them and will come back to the commission in May to request action. 

  • As a community resident, Williams said, “We know we need that protection and we would like to see them on foot more than drive through.” She also expressed concerns about part-timers not assigned to their communities would not be invested and interested in their communities. 

  • Fuentes said he also agreed with Williams about maintaining the contract and he’s seen the officers dedicated to their communities engaging with residents and playing basketball. “A lot of kids don’t know anything about cops growing up, other than what they see in the news, involved in a shooting or something like that nature,” he said. “They get to establish a relationship with an officer and they get to realize that they are normal human beings just like everyone else.” 

  • Kelley said she went through the data with Phil Skei, Fresno Housing neighborhood initiatives manager, the day prior. “I am concerned about how the data was collected,” Kelley said. “I feel like there are some gaps in how it was reported.” 

    • She said that based on the data, more than half of the population are in the, “I don’t know,” to, “somewhat disagree,” or, “neither agree or disagree,” categories. “Which tells me a different data story,” Kelley said. “It tells me maybe there is room for an alternative strategy here that still allows for us to protect our vulnerable populations, but look at how do we take this opportunity, while we’re looking at this issue, how do we operationalize equity by really paying attention to how we deliver surveys.” 

    • She suggested they interview some residents from the surrounding neighborhoods because it may be that secondary violence is coming into their communities. 

    • She said they were also lacking data on the efficacy of the police officers’ presence to reduce violence in their communities. 

    • “If we’re investing over $300,000, which is a hefty tab for safety and then we’re not moving the needle on residents’ safety,” Kelley said. 

    • She suggested they have a round table discussion with residents and to look more equitably at high violence areas to see what would be the best use of funds. 

  • Yanez said she lives in Del Sol Fairview and supports continuing the police contract because the residents that she knows feel safe when they see the police officers on site. 

  • Special Assistant to CEO, Tiffany Mangum said they did receive a letter from Eric Payne of Central Valley Urban Institute. Payne was also in the meeting and expressed his concern with continued police investment and would support option 2 instead. 

    • “In the spirit of George Floyd and countless others who have died as a result of over policing we honor their memory,” Payne said. “We urge you to take swift and decisive action in response to the ongoing police killings and other violence against the residents in which you serve.” 

    • “I am requesting that you terminate your police contract.” Payne said. “We firmly believe administrative reforms are urgently needed on a range of policing issues.” 

    • Payne said he spoke with Greg H., a resident of Legacy Commons who said they need alternatives to policing, including early interventions that start with youth. 

    • “Our goal is to scale back police presence in historically Black and Latinx neighborhoods, communities of color and areas with high houseless populations in order to reduce the fear, ongoing trauma, violence and oppressive conditions, which impede people’s daily survival,” Payne said.

    • He said Fresno Housing has a budget of $7.8 million in unrestricted reserves and requested that $1 million in new money be transferred to resident services and programs in four areas: workforce training, youth programming, tenant associations and COVID-19 recovery funds. 

Chief Real Estate Officer Michael Duarte then updated the commission on upcoming real estate development activities:

  • Duarte said Project Homekey 2.0 received $750 million in the 2021-2022 budget

    • Goal is to acquire housing 

  • 2021 9% tax credit opportunities: 

    • Round 1-The Arthur on Blackstone and Esperanza Commons in Mendota

    • Round 2 outlook-potential applications:

      •  Citrus Gardens-rehab of 30 former USDA units

      • Avalon Commons-new construction of up to 105 units in two phases

      • Sun Lodge (formerly Days Inn)-conversion of Homekey motel into permanent housing, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. Would include 63 units and 114 beds. 

      • Step up on 99 (formerly Motel 99)-conversion of Homekey motel into permanent housing. Would include studios up to three-bedroom units. 

      • “It’s kind of a unique opportunity…there’s no anticipated competition at this time,” Duarte said of the competitive environment for this funding. 

      • July 1 is the deadline for the first round of funding, so Duarte said they will update the commission in May and June. 

  • Catalano thanked Duarte and the team for getting the tax credit. 

  • Kelley asked how investors receive federal tax credits. “How do they benefit the agency and how do they benefit the resident?” she asked.

    • Hanrahan answered her question and said the equity that comes back to the housing authority allows them to build more rentals. 

    • Duarte said it gives them the ability to charge a low rent for the properties. “That’s how we’re able to keep the rents affordable,” he said.  

  • Mangum noted that another letter from Payne had been received on this topic. Payne said the Fresno Housing Authority has an obligation to abide by all federal state and federal law when evaluating properties for development and acquisition. He referred to Assembly Bill 686 and that they must analyze housing inequality and undertake steps to undo it. “We are committed to tearing down our community’s own racist housing systems and policies,” he said. “We call on the Fresno Housing Authority board of commissioners to use their authority to reject and direct Fresno Housing Authority leadership to get back to the work of tearing down barriers to equity and an urgent call for officials to vigorously implement the state’s requirement to affirmatively address Fair Housing.” 

The public portion of the meeting adjourned at 6:14 p.m. The commission then moved into a closed session to discuss property negotiations regarding 2127 Inyo Street, Fresno, CA 93721, as well as the hiring and compensation of a new Housing Authority CEO.

They reconvened for open session at 7:22 p.m. and had no actions to report back from the closed session. 

Actions

  • Approved unanimously the job description for the new CEO. 

    • Simone Gans Barefield of executive recruitment firm, Gans, Gans & Associates was at the Zoom meeting. 

      • Their agency has worked with more than 95 housing and redevelopment authorities, nonprofits, cities, counties and corporations and has filled more than 135 positions.

      • She said they speak to many different stakeholders to understand the organization and the ideal candidate for the position.

      • On average, they present five to eight candidates to the ad hoc committee for initial interviews via video. 

        • Interviews with final two to three candidates will be held in Fresno and include site tours, public presentation and interviews with the commissioners and other stakeholders.

    • Chief Business Officer Emily De La Guerra  said the commissioners appoint the CEO and approve the compensation.

    • Payne of CVUI commented during the meeting and referred to a memo regarding the CEO search, which was sent to the board in February 2021.

  • Approved unanimously revised 2021 salary schedule and the CEO compensation range. 

    • The interim CEO salary is $225,000 and the incoming CEO salary range will be $225,000 to $298,000. 

    • Catalano said they did do a national review of salaries and they thought this salary schedule was based on good data nationally and locally. 

From there, the meeting was open for commissioners’ reports. Yanez said that she was excited for Thursday and she was holding a meeting with her neighbors in Southwest Fresno. 

Nguyen then provided a report to the commission. She said that as a Project Homekey grantee they received a letter recognizing the agency at a, “soiree in the bay sometime in October.” She also reported they have two recently hired employees, Juanita “Nita” Perry and Glenn Elizarde. She also noted three promotions. She said they are also working with the Fresno County Department of Public Health to host a COVID-19 vaccination event on April 29 at Parc Grove Commons for employees and residents. 

Nguyen also said they would be reaching out to the commissioners to gauge their interest in meeting in person for their next meeting in May. She said it would be in a larger meeting space and could be a hybrid meeting, still available to commissioners and the public via Zoom. 

Catalano noted that there was a bat in his office during the meeting. He thanked Nguyen for her outreach to cities throughout Fresno County. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at Documenters-admin@thefresnoland.com with “Correction Request” in the subject line.

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