Documenter: Heather Halsey Martinez

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Fresno Housing Authority joint boards of commissioners approved 128 project based vouchers for four Fresno Housing properties and an additional 42 for a five-story development on Shaw and Glenn Avenues. These vouchers pay for specific units for up to 20 years with an optional extension of up to 20 years. 

  • The commissioners approved applications for Multi-Family Housing Program (MHP) state funding for Sun Lodge, Avalon Commons, La Joya Commons and Step Up on 99.

  • A special meeting is scheduled on Aug. 28 to discuss the hiring of a new CEO. 

  • In closing, Nguyen commented on a Fresno Bee article about elderly residents being priced out of their apartments in Clovis as an affordability contract expires. She said that the situation may not be, “so dire in the immediate future,” and that she thinks GSF Properties should clarify their role in the situation. 

The meeting (in full)

The Scene

The Fresno Housing Authority joint meeting of the boards of commissioners took place on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 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 in-person for commissioners only and accessible via teleconference and Zoom for all members of the public. Meeting recordings are not easily available online. The meeting followed a board workshop on real estate development. 

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)

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

Vacant, Commissioner (open due to the resignation of Terra Brusseau prior to the July 9 meeting)

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)

As the commissioners joined the Zoom meeting, Tiffany Mangum, special assistant to the housing authority’s CEO, asked commissioners to open their cameras. Commissioner Catalano led the meeting. He reminded commissioners not to use the chat feature to avoid any Brown Act violations. 

The meeting began at 6 p.m. Commissioner Ortiz was absent. Commissioners Jones, Christiansen, Vaillancourt, Williams, Yanez, Catalano, Gallaher and Ramos initially had their video on. Henry, Fuentes, Sablan and Kelley were present by phone only and were not seen on Zoom. 

Additionally, the following staff members were present via video: Mangum, Chief Real Estate Officer Michael Duarte, Chief Diversity Officer Marc’ Bady, Deputy Executive Director Tracewell Hanrahan, Attorney Kenneth Price and Interim CEO/Executive Director Angie Nguyen. 

No public comments were made. 

Consent items:

  • Approved minutes of the July 27 and July 30 meetings.

  • Approved application for Multi-Family Housing Program (MHP) state funding for Sun Lodge. 

  • Approved application for MHP state funding for Avalon Commons.

  • Approved application for MHP state funding for La Joya Commons. 

  • Approved application for MHP state funding for Step Up on 99.

  • Approved extending project-based voucher allocation for Glenn and Shaw development

    • Awarded 42 project-based vouchers to UpHoldings, Inc. 

    • These vouchers stay with the project and guarantee payment for 20 years with an optional extension of up to 20 years. 

    • The Glenn and Shaw project consists of 123 units of affordable multi-family housing on 2.26. Located near Blackstone and Shaw Avenues. 

Discussion items:

  • Update on YoVille Permaculture Garden.

    • Nguyen introduced Executive Director of Fresno Metro Ministry Keith Bergthold who approached Fresno Housing to operate the garden on vacant land. 

    • It has been in operation for almost six years and Bergthold said it is flourishing. 

    • Community Garden Manager Christopher De Leon was also on the Zoom. 

      • De Leon said it is a 7.5 acre garden project, which includes 92 community garden plots, a pumpkin patch, hoop house and three farm incubator plots. 

      • He said they have 10 plots still available for anyone that lives in 93706. 

      • A butterfly mural was recently completed on a shipping container that is used for storage. 

      • A 120-fruit tree orchard is planned on the south side of the garden.

      • Gazebos are also planned. 

    • Bergthold invited the commissioners to visit and thanked Fresno Housing. 

    • Catalano said he has been to the garden and that the, “sunflowers were amazing.” 

    • Kelley said it was great to see the community garden flourish and that she would like to come out to a planting day. Bergthold said that they would make sure she gets the calendar. 

    • Catalano said they will plan a community work day at the garden for the commissioners. 

    • Nguyen said it’s been a wonderful partnership and they have done great work converting a dirt lot into something that is useful and eliminates some blight in the area. She joked that she would bring some tajin for the jicama.

  • Update on 2022 agency plans, timeline and process. 

    • Agency Plan has been posted and the 45-day comment period closes on Sept. 13, 2021. 

    • On Aug. 17, staff met with the resident advisory board. 

      • Nguyen said they had participants join via Zoom and on social media. 

    • Policy Analyst Lyric Aguigam presented the update:

      • Sept. 28 will be the final public hearing. 

      • Taking public comments by mail, email or telephone. Office hours are also being scheduled. 

      • The agency plan web page has received more than 1,100 views. 

    • There were no public comments.

  • Update on the HUD Choice Neighborhood Plan for the California Avenue Neighborhood (CAN) in southwest Fresno. 

    • Mangum presented the update: 

      • She said the lead Rhae Parkes was also on the Zoom. 

      • There is a new logo and branding effort that she shared.

      • She said there is a one for one replacement within the neighborhood, which could include a path to buying. 

      • Relocation plan for residents during renovations and updates. 

      • Thrivance did a resident survey to assess household-level needs. 

      • They meet with residents at least once per month. 

      • More than 40 community organizations are involved. 

      • Two-year planning process, currently in the assessment phase. Visioning stage will run from Sept. to Dec. 2021. 

    • Kelley said, “Bravo Tiffany, this is an example of holistic, robust community engagement.” She asked about an implementation grant and Mangum said that is the ultimate goal to apply for the implementation grant, which they are poised to do. “We have the data we need to move forward,” Mangum said. 

      • Kelley said a 60% return rate is wonderful and they’ve never had that amount of data. 

    • Mangum recognized Yanez and that she helped them gather surveys. She briefly turned on her camera. She was seen in front of a thin blue line flag that was hanging on the wall behind her. 

    • Eric Payne, executive director of the Central Valley Urban Institute, asked about the, “pervasive issues,” and if it would be included in the existing conditions report or if it will be seperate. He also asked what they referred to if they were security related or related to organizational outcomes.

      • He also gave kudos on a 60% response rate. 

      • Mangum said that Thrivance did a very comprehensive survey and were here on the ground observing the community and neighborhood. She said Thrivance understands the history of redlining and other social issues in Fresno. 

    • Nguyen said Mangum and Parkes were leading the project, but there were so many others behind the scenes working on the project and moving it forward. 

      • She also said Thrivance was initially not part of the process, but they had a Dignity Institute meeting and as they went along the process they knew that CEO of Thrivance Group Dr. Destiny Thomas needed to be a part of this work. 

      • Kelley said that Thomas is a former City of Fresno planner who left to create the Thrivance Group. The goal by bringing them on is to really hear the voices of the community and include it in the plan. 

The public portion of the meeting adjourned at 6:11 p.m. The commission then moved into a closed session to discuss filling the CEO position. Catalano said they didn’t expect to have anything to report back, but would reconvene for the action items. 

The commission reconvened for open session at 6:50 p.m. They had no actions to report back from the closed session, but Catalano noted that a meeting will be held Aug. 28 at 1:50 p.m. regarding the CEO search. 

Prior to voting on the action items, Hanrahan gave an update on PBVs. 

  • PBVs are tied to a specific unit and stays with the unit even if the tenant moves out. 

  • Tenant based vouchers are tied to specific families and can be used in the private market to find housing. 

  • Rental assistance is tied to the unit for the long term, up to 20 years plus an optional 20-year extension.

  • Fresno Housing does not receive separate funding for PBVs.

  • Goal is to support very-low income and special needs populations, support housing for elderly and families with veterans. 

  • PBVs are valuable for affordable housing developers. Hanrahan said it is because they represent an outgoing stream of federal subsidies and can be used to underwrite the project based on guaranteed revenues. 

    • “We frequently have developers ask us for project based vouchers,” Hanrahan said. 

  • Most recently awarded two to UpHoldings and one to themselves. 

    • The Jane Addams neighborhood was used as an example of showing the use of PBVs to support the Parkway Drive vision. 

      • Repurpose motels and create mixed-use neighborhoods.

  • Kelley asked about the individuals that are very low income that have behavioral health issues and how they are going to mitigate the risk of integrating them with other populations. 

    • Hanrahan said they are making sure that the population has supportive services on site and the department of behavioral health. She said the No Place Like Home properties are mixed the populations as well and it has been shown that the populations thrive in a mixed environment. 

    • Kelley said that she is concerned seeing some site-based shootings and violence and would like to have some round table discussions on how to integrate the populations. 

  • Williams asked how they were going to use PBVs for the, “deconcentration of poverty.” Hanrahan said that they can use them in areas where Fresno Housing, “residents might not otherwise have the opportunity to live.”

    • Williams said to move them is one thing, but to empower them is a different thing. 

Action items: 

  • Authorized 32 project-based voucher (PBV) allocation for Sun Lodge. 

    • Hanrahan asked to add a component to the resolution to include the fact that they received a Project Homekey award for the property. 

    • Yolanda Keiser accidentally raised her hand to make a public comment. 

  • Authorized 15 project-based voucher allocation for Avalon Commons.

    • Hanrahan asked to add a component to the resolution to include the fact that they received No Place Like Home funds for the property. 

  • Authorized 31 project-based voucher allocation for Step Up on 99. 

  • Authorized 50 project-based voucher allocation for Crossroads Village.  

From there, the meeting was open for commissioners’ reports:

  • Jones said August is advocacy month and asked them to take time to write letters to elected officials. She said they should be getting emails about it from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).

Nguyen then updated the commissioners:

  • She said she recently participated in an Instagram live discussion with NAHRO. 

  • The October board retreat is still scheduled, but may change based on state guidance. The October board meeting will also be in person, unless an order is extended then it will be up for discussion. 

  • A COVID-19 vaccine event was held at Viking Village on Ashlan Avenue. She said they will continue to host events every month. 

  • She said staff is testing software for in-person appointments at sites throughout the community and Fresno County. She said they hope the residents will be able to schedule their own appointments with staff that way in the future. 

  • She said they did host a National Night Out event to connect with residents and distributed 3,500 backpacks to Fresno Housing residents.

  • They are partnering with the city to get the word out on the emergency rental assistance program.  

  • She welcomed several new maintenance technicians that the agency has hired and shared that several team members have changed roles within the agency. 

  • Nguyen commented on a Fresno Bee article that had just come out about a situation happening with elderly residents of the Sierra Ridge Apartments in Clovis. 

    • She said GSF Properties is their acting manager at Solivita and Golden State Financial is an owner of Sierra Ridge Apartments. “Yes, GSF is the acting manager of our Solivita property and also happens to be the property manager of Sierra Ridge,” she said. 

    • She said the Sierra Ridge residents aren’t “in no way entitled” for preference at  Solivita. 

    • She said if GSF had done that, it would’ve been considered steering in violation and put them at risk. 

    • It also would have put Solivita at risk and violated wait list regulations for project based vouchers and the tax credit program. “It’s better that they didn’t do that,” she said. 

    • “Part of our mission is to seek opportunities to create and preserve affordable housing and to meet the needs of our community,” she said. 

    • “As an agency we are committed to continue to operate our properties as affordable or subsidized beyond where regulatory periods are applied and that’s one of the benefits of public ownership of affordable units,” she said. “We sadly can’t expect that for-profit developers will always do the same.” 

    • “This is likely not the only property that has affordability restrictions that are expiring, so we’re going to explore ways that we can partner with jurisdictions who monitor this and see how we can get in front of it and plan ahead,” Nguyen said. 

    • She said they have reached out and initiated communication with the owners of Sierra Ridge. 

    • Catalano said it is a real shame what is happening to the residents in Clovis and “miscommunication” with the Fresno Bee. 

    • Nguyen said there wasn’t a miscommunication with the Fresno Bee and she thinks GSF should pursue clarification on the article. She said there is some information that was left out from what was given to the residents so it may not be as dire in the near future. She thinks there is some 

    • Kelley said she hasn’t read the article, but wonders if they could put out a fact sheet on this to the community so they could better understand how affordable housing works. “This is something that has the propensity to have many more negative news cycles,” she said. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m. A special meeting is scheduled on Aug. 28. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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