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Third Baptist Church sues to keep 104 families in their affordable F.D. Haynes Gardens homes

July 28, 2015

by Jason Overman

Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church and president of the San Francisco NAACP, denounces plans by a nonprofit formed by the church to develop and operate affordable housing at Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens to now sell the development to speculators. He spoke at a news conference and rally outside Superior Court on Tuesday, July 28. – Photo: Paul Chinn, SF Chronicle

Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church and president of the San Francisco NAACP, denounces plans by a nonprofit formed by the church to develop and operate affordable housing at Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens to now sell the development to speculators. He spoke at a news conference and rally outside Superior Court on Tuesday, July 28. – Photo: Paul Chinn, SF Chronicle

San Francisco –Third Baptist Church in San Francisco asked a San Francisco Superior Court judge today to stop the landlord of the Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens – a 104-unit Fillmore development that is home to mostly Section 8 tenants – from selling the building to speculators.

The temporary restraining order request, filed in court by attorneys with Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP, asks a judge to provide injunctive relief against what appears to be another case of affordable housing at risk in San Francisco. An especially inflammatory email between two real estate brokers dated July 21, obtained by attorneys for the plaintiff, show that the currently affordable apartments are listed for sale and rents are expected to rise.

The email, from Joe Levy at Marcus & Millichap, a real estate brokerage, says the 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom units – each with one bath – are poised to fetch between $3,000 and $7,000 per month.

“Protecting San Francisco’s stock of affordable housing – in District 5 and citywide – is one of my top priorities,” said Board of Supervisors President London Breed. “The people of San Francisco must stand as one against those who seek to convert our limited affordable housing to market rate housing.

“Without a process that includes the residents and the community, the sale of this property should be stopped immediately! I’m working with Mayor Lee and the Mayor’s Office of Housing to address this situation. I want to send a strong message that this type of behavior is not acceptable in my district nor anywhere in the city.”

Third Baptist Church in San Francisco asked a San Francisco Superior Court judge today to stop the landlord of the Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens – a 104-unit Fillmore development that is home to mostly Section 8 tenants – from selling the building to speculators.

In 1958, when the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, after whom Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens is named, was pastor, NAACP President W.E.B. DuBois spoke at Third Baptist Church. Several large Fillmore churches were lost when the district, called Harlem of the West, was bulldozed to push Blacks out of San Francisco, and as a gesture of reparations, each was allowed to build a new affordable housing development in the neighborhood. Now that San Francisco is again determined to rid itself of Blacks, those developments are being taken over and lost to the Black community. Third Baptist Church is fighting back.

In 1958, when the Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, after whom Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens is named, was pastor, NAACP President W.E.B. DuBois spoke at Third Baptist Church. Several large Fillmore churches were lost when the district, called Harlem of the West, was bulldozed to push Blacks out of San Francisco, and as a gesture of reparations, each was allowed to build a new affordable housing development in the neighborhood. Now that San Francisco is again determined to rid itself of Blacks, those developments are being taken over and lost to the Black community. Third Baptist Church is fighting back.

The church’s suit asks a judge to stop or slow the building’s landlord – Third Baptist Gardens, Inc. (TBG) – from selling the property to unknown real estate speculators. TBG, a separate entity from the church, is a nonprofit corporation that was started by the church in the 1960s – ironically, to improve housing affordability and prevent displacement.

Unlike much of San Francisco’s at-risk affordable housing, the Frederick Douglass Haynes Gardens is home to mostly Section 8 tenants – approximately 80 percent – who receive federal subsidies to help them afford the cost of their rent. It’s considered historically significant, too, to San Francisco’s African American community, who disproportionately face the harms of gentrification and displacement.

Attorneys for the plaintiff say that, as recently as yesterday, the property’s tenants weren’t even aware of the pending sale. “Adding insult to injury,” attorney Jonathan Holtzman said, “the property owners hadn’t told the tenants that they might be at risk of losing their homes.”

Despite the development having been started by the church over 40 years ago, the complaint alleges that the property’s landlord, TBG, has engaged in deceptive business practices as of late, risks violating its articles of incorporation, and jeopardized both the church’s longstanding interest in the property and the interests of its low-income tenants, many of whom are people of color.

London Breed

London Breed

Beyond secretly listing the property for sale – in a 10-day timeframe, while ordering a broker to deny that the property has been listed – the complaint alleges that TBG has summarily ousted board members and that its executive director has hired family members for paid positions in an effort to consolidate power.

“Protecting San Francisco’s stock of affordable housing – in District 5 and citywide – is one of my top priorities,” said Board of Supervisors President London Breed.

The case is yet another clarion call for action to solve San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis and end the mass outmigration of Blacks from the city they’ve called home for many generations.

“Our clients are asking TBG to make a full and public accounting of the circumstances of this secret proposed sale,” attorney Louise Renne said. “Because there are two tragedies with this case: one of these 104 working families who are at risk and the larger issue of protecting San Francisco’s affordable housing safety net.”

Jason Overman can be reached at overman@barcoast.com. Bay View staff contributed to this story.

8 thoughts on “Third Baptist Church sues to keep 104 families in their affordable F.D. Haynes Gardens homes

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    Why would anyone be allowed to remain in section 8 housing for decades? Who wouldn't like to pay $222.00 per month for a three bedroom unit in San Francisco. Section 8 is not a legacy program its not benefits for life. I wonder how many people live with the approved resident that are able bodied adults. I am all for programs that help someone get a leg up but section 8 is stepping on people to keep their leg down. I had to leave San Francisco I could no longer afford to live there it was a difficult decision. I have worked at the same job over 20 years and could not get any assistance to live in San Francisco and frankly should not get any. I had to move to Sacramento why do people on Section 8 get to choose to live in San Francisco. We should only offer these programs in areas where at some point in the future they can get on their own feet. There should be a maximum limit of time one can participant in this program and decades is far to long. I know I am going to get flack from those that think it is the states job to house them and that if they cant get free rend, they should have subsidized rent or rent control in the same apartment for 34 years. Wake up San Francisco is an expensive and beautiful place to live, but not everyone can live there.

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