City failed to resettle displaced Fillmore residents 

A 40-year-old city program designed to land residents in homes after being displaced due to redevelopment has been successful for barely 20 percent of participants, with The City having lost touch with thousands of them.

A largely criticized redevelopment of the Western Addition’s Fillmore area in the 1960s ended up forcing thousands of residents and business owners out of their community, tearing apart a predominately African-American neighborhood.

At the time, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, which led the redevelopment, offered displaced families and business owners a certificate of preference — a document that promises they will have the first crack at renting or purchasing other available redevelopment property throughout The City. Many displaced residents moved to other parts of the Bay Area expecting to return to San Francisco some day.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Western Addition, called for a hearing Monday to figure out the success of the program and hold the redevelopment agency "accountable" for its promise.

"No matter how well intentioned that measure may have been as a way to compensate for those who were wronged or for those who required the compensation, clearly it hasn’t worked well, to say the least, just simply by the empirical evidence," Mirkarimi said.

The Redevelopment Agency issued 4,719 certificates to families and 883 certificates to business owners who were displaced in the Western Addition redevelopment area since the project began in 1964, according to Redevelopment Agency Deputy Executive Director Olson Lee.

Only 1,099 of the certificates to families have put people in other homes, while the agency no longer has contact information for holders of 3,055 certificates. Of the business owners, only 39 resulted in other business locations, while the agency no longer has contact information for 590 business certificate holders.

Lee acknowledged that the agency needs to do a better job in tracking down these certificate holders and said it is working on ways to improve its outreach. The holders have until Jan. 2, 2011, to use the certificates or they will no longer be valid.

"Our goal is to try to contact the people on the list. We will continue to offer the preferences and will continue to do that on every development," Lee said.

"We still have a sizable population who feels that this process of certificate of preferences has been convoluted, has not been straightforward, has been maybe dishonest or maybe it just wasn’t disseminated with the best intentions. So we need to deal with this," Mirkarimi said.

Resident Shantoya Cruze, who was displaced from the Western Addition when she was 3 years old, expressed frustration over the agency’s outreach efforts. "I lived in the Western Addition all my life, never have I once been contacted. … I deserve to have my share," Cruze said.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee continued the hearing until April 23, when the Redevelopment Agency is requested to return with a plan for handling the remaining certificate holders.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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