by Carol Harvey
Meet four courageous Treasure Island whistleblowers
The truth about the radiation and chemicals that poison Treasure Island has been deliberately hidden from view since 1941, when the Navy eminent-domained Treasure Island from San Francisco for the war effort and began using the island as a trash dump. To conceal the extent of the toxicity and the poisoning of many sailors and civilians, recent plans to redevelop the island have required powerful players to shroud activities there in an even thicker fog than the mist that daily crawls under the Golden Gate Bridge.
The U.S Navy, Lennar Corp., Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative services providers (TIHDI) and property manager The John Stewart Co. – even regulators for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) – work together as one on the concealment to erect a media blackout which obscures the extent of Treasure Island toxins that is making current residents ill and which could sicken condo owners to come.
If renters like the following four courageous whistleblowers stand up to this entitled group of power-brokers, they face immediate retaliation. The Navy will cut off the mike on speakers who call them out on their deficient radiation and chemical cleanup standards at Restoration Advisory Board meetings.
If residents insist it is wrong to house people during ongoing cleanup operations that poison neighbors in their island homes, the members of that powerful consortium launch a formidable coordinated attack, harassing truth-tellers into silence. With their combined influence, they wield like a club the unstated threat that terrifies every housed family in America – eviction.
Whether island families live in subsidized or market rate residences, the same powerful hammer is held over peoples’ heads. In San Francisco’s out-of-control housing market with its astronomical rents, complainers know they could well end up homeless on city streets.
Reading the following four stories, you will observe the Machiavellian torture methods inflicted upon defiant Treasure Islanders at every level by the Navy-Lennar-TIDA-TIHDI-John Stewart-City “cartel.”
The smoking gun evidence that exposure of these atrocities is forcefully suppressed and hidden from public view through strict media control is borne out by the fact that San Francisco mainstream reporters have investigated and written in depth about only one Treasure Island whistleblower, Kathryn Lundgren.
The community is kept nicely in line when people observe that the threat of homelessness often moves beyond their neighbor’s torture to actual eviction. Mitchell Herrington and Andre Patterson are former Treasure Islanders who became two such examples.
Reading the following four stories, you will observe the Machiavellian torture methods inflicted upon defiant Treasure Islanders at every level by the Navy-Lennar-TIDA-TIHDI-John Stewart-City “cartel.”
Let the reader understand that each individual and family enters the retaliatory experience with unique pre-existing conditions that determine the varying painful outcomes that follow from the attacks upon them. Mitchell Herrington, Kathryn Lundgren, Andre Patterson and Felita Sample are unique people with diverse life experiences, socioeconomic backgrounds, family and work histories, and educations who came to live on Treasure Island for different reasons and under different circumstances. These circumstances colored the kinds of retribution they faced when they stood up to the powers-that-be compelled by righteous indignation, personal ethics, and the overwhelming need to tell the truth in the face of swift and certain retaliation.
Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI) housing provider case workers counsel subsidized renters like Felita Sample and Andre Patterson. These case workers possess access to every detail of their client’s social and medical histories, including mental status and substance abuse issues. Many case managers are compassionate people who try to help their clients. However, in some cases, this deeply personal information can be, and often is, used to intimidate, manipulate and control these formerly homeless or at-risk San Franciscans.
After Andre Patterson was interviewed by Channel 7 News about radiation on the island, the administrator of his Shelter Plus Care funding manipulated the conditions of his subsidy so that, under the mistaken impression that Andre had refused all housing, a judge evicted him.
Felita Sample and her daughter, Lakrista Jackson
After Felita Sample joined Andre Patterson speaking with the press about the radiation, she experienced repeated acts of sexual harassment from a Catholic Charities property manager. Additionally, Felita’s daughter, Lakrista Jackson, was to receive survivor benefits from a dedicated account after her father died.
However, the Shelter Plus Care administrator used Lakrista’s money improperly to pay the family’s rent subsidy. When a social security worker informed Felita that Lakrista’s money was meant only for Lakrista, the administrator blocked Felita’s rightful refund.
Unlike TIHDI’s subsidized residents, John Stewart Co.’s market rate renters like Mitchell Herrington and Kathryn Lundgren are not burdened by an umbilical connection to HUD housing. However, John Stewart project manager Dan Stone and his minions apply plenty of byzantine arm-twisting mechanisms to torture people like Kathryn Lundgren and Mitchell Herrington.
Mitchell Herrington wanted to open to public exposure John Stewart Co.’s inhumane behavior with “complaints of harassment and poor living conditions and the extent of their unlawful detainer filings and evictions.” He wanted it widely understood that JSCO is “the biggest corporate welfare recipient in the state dealing largely with the public trust and operating as a for-profit enterprise” and that the company gleans vast profits from housing subsidies, SSI and welfare. This poverty pimp dips into the cookie jar while it contributes liberally to political campaigns.
When Mitchell tried to organize a rent strike protesting radiation in and around island housing, his neighbors were set against him. He was maligned and slandered. Rumors that he was crazy were circulated. He was relentlessly hammered. Before his final eviction, he endured 10 attempts to toss him into the street.
Kathryn Lundgren, well-known Treasure Island whistleblower, has fearlessly exposed to the press Treasure Island radioactivity, chemicals, toxic mold and fecal matter pouring from island pipes into her townhouse. During two of John Stewart’s mismanaged mold remediations, which caused Kathryn and her children to suffer serious respiratory problems, workers destroyed her garden along with some precious cuttings given to her by her deceased mother. Irreplaceable personal property, including family heirlooms, were ruined.
The joy of accomplishment in two of her children’s graduations has been severely diminished by extended displacement while John Stewart engages in a foot-dragging mold cleanup operation. This summer (2016), Kathryn was rendered temporarily homeless when breathing difficulties exacerbated by the fungus forced her to sleep outside in a tent.
Throughout these savage bombardments, however, the torture methods inflicted upon truth-tellers remain lockstep, predictable, machine-like, as if prepared, programmed and picked from a list of “take-no-prisoners” warfare tactics.
Many of the holders of the playbook from which these strategies are drawn are people who appear to have a direct financial interest in Treasure Island redevelopment. Let’s name names:
- California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and their developer husbands, Richard Blum and Paul Pelosi Sr.;
- former San Francisco Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom and current Mayor Ed Lee;
- San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim;
- Treasure Island Authority Director Robert Beck, who runs the island;
- Navy environmental remediation coordinator Keith Forman;
- Department of Toxic Substances Control regulator Remedios Sunga;
- John Stewart Co. Treasure Island property manager Dan Stone;
- Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative Director Sherry Williams; and others.
We are presenting here the story of the first brave whistleblower, Andre Patterson. The stories of the other three, Felita Sample, Mitchell Herrington and Kathryn Lundgren, will be presented separately and linked to this article.
Treasure Island whistleblower Andre Patterson is a fully-trained marine
On Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, a brilliantly sunny day, Andre Patterson’s tall figure emerged from his Treasure Island apartment at 1419 Striped Bass St. to go shopping with his then-partner, Felita Sample. Felita lives on Sturgeon Street, a block away from Andre’s former home from which he was evicted off of the island.
The couple encountered an ABC7 TV crew and reporter, Sergio Quintana, who was talking to residents. Andre consented to a video interview by Quintana, who was developing a news piece about Treasure Island radiation. Andre believes that his public disclosures about radiation to the press that day triggered retaliation by island power brokers who engineered his ultimate eviction. (Watch the video at http://abc7.com/archive/9324502/.)
Andre showed Quintana a Navy map illustrating Treasure Island’s radiation-impacted areas. “I told him just how close we were standing to the radiation spots. So, he was like, ‘WOW!’”
“And I pointed out where the USS Pandemonium One was, right down the street here (nearby on Gateview Avenue).” Pandemonium I was a mock-up vessel which, in the 1950s and ‘60s, was used to train sailors to handle radiation by hosing cesium-137 into Treasure Island soil and groundwater.
Andre and Felita also led Quintana a short distance away from their street to a former elementary school yard, a Navy-designated cleanup zone now called Site 31. There they showed the reporter piles of plastic bags full of dirt.
In the 1970s, the mock ship Pandemonium Two and its radiation-washing exercise for sailors had been moved from the former location in the Southwest Solid Waste Disposal Area on Gateview Avenue to a spot near the wastewater treatment plant on the northern side of the island. A Navy driver had told Andre that this mound of bagged soil had been trucked from Site 6, the radiation cleanup zone where the Pandemonium Two had been berthed.
These bags filled with radiation-contaminated dirt can be seen at the end of the video Quintana embedded in his news piece.
Andre Patterson is a highly educated, outspoken U.S. citizen who has spent his entire life in service to the United States. This disabled veteran was formerly a marine door gunner who developed post-traumatic stress after machine-gunning enemy troops from a CH-46 helicopter over Vietnamese jungles.
Andre was raised by a military man who taught him discipline and a precise distinction between right and wrong. This sense of order, control, ethics and responsibility was intensified many-fold by his training as a Marine.
Following his military career, he became a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service.
In 2004, the S.F. Veterans Hospital assigned Andre to move to Treasure Island. Because of his mental disability, “I needed a 24-hour caregiver. So they said it was a good spot for me to move.”
Unfortunately, Andre ended up living in an apartment located dangerously close to 1101 Bigelow Court where on Dec. 11, 2013, environmental expert Don Wadsworth reported to Vicki Nguyen of NBC news that radiation readings at that address registered a million times over the Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for human toleration.
In the nine years he lived on the island, Andre had developed two large tumors, one on his side and one on his back. So, he was justifiably concerned about living so close to radiation.
Andre reported that when he showed the VA staff his tumors from radiation exposure on Treasure Island, they acted nonchalant, “like they didn’t care, you know, ‘cause they put me out on the island with radiation, and they feel responsible. That’s why they was acting like the Navy is (acting) out here. No one wants to take responsibility for what happened to me.”
Before Andre took up residence at 1419 Striped Bass St. on Treasure Island, his San Francisco Veterans Administration Hospital physician signed a form outlining “Caregiver Assessment Criteria.” The doctor’s signature on this form verified that, because of his disability, Andre required and qualified for a two-bedroom apartment.
The nature of his post-traumatic stress required that he sleep in a private bedroom. He needed, therefore, separate quarters to accommodate a 24-hour live-in caregiver.
Andre was receiving his HUD housing subsidy through the Shelter Plus Care program administered by Catholic Charities under the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI) umbrella. Andre believes that after he blew the whistle on Treasure Island’s radiation and chemicals during the 2013 ABC television interview by reporter Sergio Quintana, Catholic Charities no longer wanted him to live in their island housing.
Andre believes that Catholic Charities officials suggested to Shelter Plus Care’s operative, Shane Balanon, that he find a reason to evict Andre. Balanon began a campaign to do just that.
All this transpired after Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) hung fliers on townhouse doors announcing that because of the discovery of radiation and the cleanup required, TIDA was forced to move residents out of their units and relocate them to alternative Island housing. The U.S. Navy’s environmental remediation would enable TIDA and Lennar to redevelop the island, constructing new lucrative high rise condos and various buildings. Tenants were offered $5,000 to $5,500 relocation funds, but Andre and Felita Sample were offered nothing.
Even though they were in the group to be moved, Andre and Felita did not receive this flyer or this offer of $5,000 to $5,500 relocation money. The couple phoned Myrian Saez, the TIDA director at that time.
Saez told them they did not qualify for the relocation money. Saez explained that this relocation money was being offered only to John Stewart market rate renters and not to residents subsidized by the housing provider, Catholic Charities. She urged Andre and Felita to talk to Catholic Charities “concerning what you guys had done to you” and explain “why you weren’t offered $5,000 like everybody else.”
Andre went to his Catholic Charities advocate, Rochelle Franklin, and asked her about this apparently unfair discrepancy. Franklin warned him with words to the effect that, “You better shut your mouth about that relocation money because they are going to throw you out of here behind you taking up for her (meaning Felita).” Andre had defended Felita and her daughter, Lakrista, against island parents and their out-of-control kids who were repeatedly harassing these small females at a bus stop and at other places around the island.
Andre reported that Rochelle Franklin also told him he was considered a “nuisance” for inquiring about the radiation. Andre concluded that, unless he ended his complaints about not receiving the $5,000 dollars, stopped pointing out radiation contamination, especially to the press, and ceased defending Felita and her daughter, Catholic Charities would retaliate by evicting him.
HUD’s Shelter Plus Care program manager, Shane Balanon, in fact, later manufactured a clever loophole through which he could evict Andre from his two-bedroom Treasure Island apartment. Balanon engineered Andre’s eviction by positioning the disabled veteran so that, on a technicality, he became a “single person” who appeared not to need his two-bedroom apartment on Striped Bass Street.
In February 2012, after observing the beginnings of Balanon’s eviction campaign, Andre contacted Balanon and said, “Man, don’t try to throw me out of my apartment.”
“I would never do that,” Balanon replied, “We got to get you someplace else to move you to.”
Andre said, “OK, fine.”
Andre reported that Balanon then “switched horses in the middle of the stream,” offering Andre a one-room studio apartment in an SRO, or single room occupancy hotel, on Folsom Street in the South of Market area of downtown San Francisco. SROs are slum hotel rooms historically rented month-to-month to poor and homeless people.
Andre disclosed that Shane Balanon unlawfully invaded Andre’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights by turning over without Andre’s release his emails and text messages to an assistant named Charles Byrd who then turned them over to the court.
In these emails and texts, Andre strongly urged Balanon not evict him to the single room occupancy hotel Balanon had offered. He declined this SRO living arrangement, pointing out that the habitation amounted to a single room, and that his doctor had put in writing that this former Marine with significant post-traumatic stress issues absolutely required a two-bedroom apartment with a second room separating him from his caretaker.
Andre’s email communication to Balanon at 9:23 a.m. on Feb. 24, 2012, made it very simple: “Shane, I need a 24-hour caregiver. I need a bedroom for my caregiver. The caregiver takes care of me.”
Ignoring the physician’s requirement, Balanon instead made the unilateral decision that Andre no longer qualified for a two-bedroom apartment and offered Andre one room in the Folsom Door Apartments, whose large single room occupancy (SRO) hotel rooms were part of the Shelter Plus Care program.
Balanon wrote Andre, “Per housing occupancy status: A studio suffices parameters to house up to two people. In addition, Folsom Door Apartments provides the largest living space for studios in its Shelter Plus Care program portfolio. Folsom Door currently houses multiple Shelter Plus Care participants with caregivers living in its studios.”
On Feb. 24, 2012, Andre wrote back to Balanon stating, “I will not accept less than what I have now.” Whether Balanon acted with or without intent, it was misrepresented to the court that this was Andre’s complete refusal of a housing offer.
Apparently, Charles Byrd submitted Andre’s emails and texts to the court as documentation that Andre had turned down housing unconditionally.
Andre had not refused the entire offer of housing, but instead had insisted on the doctor-mandated separate accommodations for himself and his caretaker, rejecting the one-room configuration.
In fact, Andre had pointed out to Balanon that Shelter Plus Care’s “portfolio” included “two-bedroom apartments on 19th Avenue and California Street in San Francisco,” noting that he had a friend who had lived there. Andre would have been willing to keep his Shelter Plus Care subsidy and move off the island into one of these two-bedroom units.
Balanon continued to insist that Andre take a one-room studio, saying that a single room was large enough to accommodate two people.
Through this maneuver, Balanon manipulated Andre into a position where it appeared that he was getting rid of his caretaker. This action effectively reduced the number of Andre’s tenants from two to one.
This enabled Balanon to put into writing that “a decrease in the number of people” would require Andre “to move to a smaller unit. Shelter Plus Care will offer a suitable unit, and failure to accept an offer of alternative housing will result in the termination of Andre’s subsidy.” Continued Balanon, “All of the Shelter Plus Care housing meets housing quality standards as described by HUD.”
Balanon’s refusal of a viable living space for Andre’s caretaker would drastically reduce this disabled veteran’s quality of life. When Andre insisted he needed both his caretaker and a space for his caretaker, Balanon simply had Andre evicted.
At this point, Charles Byrd sent Andre a telegram and “served me an unlawful detainer,” an apparent three-month notice to quit. This meant that because Andre had refused Balanon’s reduced-quality offer of housing, he was given a fixed number of months to move out of his two-bedroom on Striped Bass Street.
Balanon’s false allegation that Andre refused all housing, when Andre had insisted only upon a certain kind of housing, gave the court a handy justification for evicting Andre. This judgment caused Andre to lose not only his caretaker, but his subsidy, and therefore his housing entirely. Andre was thus rendered homeless.
Andre, who is physically disabled, was forced to move all his belongings from his apartment by himself. “By the judge saying that I turned down housing, he threw me in the street. And into the street I went!
“I get real upset over that because I’m trying to tell you I had to move real quick, man, and I’m disabled. I had to move out of my apartment by myself, all the furniture and everything. I was sick, too.”
“I helped,” said Felita.
“If it wasn’t for (Felita) and her daughter,” emphasized Andre, “I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. I’m serious.”
These are the types of retaliation methods to turn the thumbscrews on outspoken island residents that are shared by officials in the U.S. Navy, Lennar Corp., Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) and Catholic Charities working through HUD under its umbrella organization, Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI). Shane Balanon, HUD’s Shelter Plus Care funding stream operative, followed this playbook, tricking this former military man into an eviction on a manufactured technicality.
The strategy failed. His Catholic Charities files might have revealed that a take-no-prisoners campaign would merely challenge a Marine.
These tactics catapulted Andre into action. He became more vocal and assertive. That was their big mistake.
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at carolharvey1111@gmail. com.