Thursday, November 8, 2018
[Marin County] Dick Spotswood: Redevelopment of Golden Gate Village is long overdue
Blog note: this opinion piece references a grand jury report.
Big change is coming to Marin City’s Golden Gate Village low-income housing complex. It’s about time.
The present 300-unit complex is in a sad state. It has deteriorated due to lack of proper maintenance and simple old age. It’s not just a Marin failing. American investment in public housing under both Democratic and Republican administrations has been abysmal. That neglect has now resulted in $38 billion in capital needs to bring American public housing into conditions compatible with 21st century standards.
Public housing is considered a federal responsibility with day-to-day management conducted by local agencies such as the Marin Housing Authority.
Marin City as a home for a predominantly African-American population started as a World War II phenomenon. It initially provided homes for workers at Sausalito’s Marinship at a time of legally enforced residential discrimination. In the post-war era there were moves to build large low-income housing “projects” to provide subsidized homes for a burgeoning population. In 1960, Golden Gate Village opened as one of those federally backed developments.
Theoretically, the first public housing developments were designed as temporary homes until residents adjusted to the post-war environment and moved out. That rarely happened. Instead, the huge housing complexes became governmentally ignored ghettos of folks struggling to enter the middle class but effectively trapped in an underclass.
Society created this failed model and now it needs to deal with the real-world residents of those antiquated projects. The Marin Housing Authority has plans which, with a few important caveats, is a move in the right direction.
The Marin County Civil Grand Jury’s recent report, “Golden Gate Village, The Clock is Ticking,” reminds us: “Doing nothing is not an option.” The jury says it’s not just a lack of funding but distrustful residents. “The people living in this housing project suffer from a unique trauma stemming from multiple sources, including poverty, living conditions in these communities, a high level of unemployment, a mistrust of public policy, and a fear of displacement.”
There’s one fear that needs to be off the table. Current residents, if they continue to meet criteria for subsidized housing, need guarantees that, as the grand jury report said, “no tenants in good standing are displaced from the GGV property while their homes are rehabilitated.” The county has made this commitment, but it needs to be iron clad.
Golden Gate Village’s 380 residents are no different from other Marinites: they resist change. Despite that legitimate emotion, Golden Gate Village needs to go in a different direction.
The 32.5-acre Marin City site has ample room for an entirely new three- or four-building complex with vastly improved apartments. Build them first, and then current residents could seamlessly move into their new homes when construction is complete. Phase two would include complete rebuilding of the old “historic” complex, including 120 new units of both market-rate and affordable varieties. Including a mix of units not only makes the potential $120 million project more doable, but perhaps as important, integrates Golden Gate Village economically, racially and culturally.
November 6, 2018
Marin Independent Journal
By Dick Spotswood