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City Housing Authority Director resigns

San Francisco Housing Authority Executive Director Gregg Fortner
tendered his resignation yesterday during a closed session
of the regularly scheduled Housing Authority Commission meeting.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Mike Aldux

September 28, 2007

Mayor Gavin Newsom has accepted the resignation of San Francisco Housing Authority Director Gregg Fortner, according to the mayor's office.

Fortner tendered his resignation yesterday during the regularly scheduled Housing Authority Commission meeting.

The resignation is effective Jan. 4, 2008, the mayor said in a statement.

The mayor said he is initiating a national search to fill the post. City Administrator Ed Lee has been appointed to lead a transition team until a new director is hired.

Newsom said he has been advancing reforms at the troubled SFHA for the last three years, most notably in the creation of HOPE SF, an initiative to rebuild San Francisco's most distressed public housing sites into vibrant, new mixed-income communities.

"I want to thank Mr. Fortner for his service to the Housing Authority. I appreciate his hard work in these very challenging times," Newsom said. "There is much work to be done rebuilding our most distressed public housing, and I am committed to making immediate and lasting change for public housing residents."

For his part, Fortner released the following statement to Fog City Journal following his resignation:

"Over the last two weeks, City Hall staff has expressed to me the Mayor’s feeling that it is time to make a change in the leadership at the San Francisco Housing Authority. I agree.

"Therefore, my last day with the agency will be January 4, 2008 after seven (7) years of service.

"There are many factors contributing to this decision. For me, the proverbial 'straw' was the editorial cartoon printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 1, 2007. The cartoon was offensive to me both professionally and personally. Additionally, the degrading racial imagery contained in this cartoon shows an incredible insensitivity to the struggles and history of the African-American people in this country. Although City Hall apparently has little control over what is presented in the media, recent public behavior by City Officials contributed to a perception that such political satire was appropriate and acceptable.

"Over the next three months, I will work diligently to facilitate a smooth transition to the City’s new direction. During this time, I wish to express my deepest and most sincere gratitude to the residents of Public Housing and Section 8, the Housing Authority Commission, the staffs of Speaker Pelosi and Senators Feinstein and Boxer, HUD officials in DC and here in San Francisco, the many business and community partners working with the Housing Authority, and the numerous public and private entities that have helped us survive the challenging environment in which we must operate. Most of all, I wish to thank the outstanding staff of the San Francisco Housing Authority who have performed far beyond any reasonable expectation in an environment defined by diminishing resources and increased expenses."

In addition to Lee, transition team members listed below will have the following responsibilities:

- Dwayne Jones, director of communities of opportunity (COO) - resident engagement;

- Chief Heather Fong, police department - public safety

- Mirian Saez, director of Island Operations, Treasure Island - property management and operations;

- Doug Shoemaker, deputy director of the mayor's Office of Housing - capital planning and housing development;

- Mohammed Nuru, deputy director of Department of Public Works - maintenance; and

- Todd Rydstrom, Controller's Office - finance

The transition team will be guided by a May report created this year by a panel of national and local experts on public housing, the mayor's office said. The panel made recommendations regarding SFHA financial practices, service provision, public safety, real estate operations and property management.

The report provided strategies for addressing problems created by funding cuts for capital repair funds and decreased operating support from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the mayor's office said.

The transition team will also be guided by the recommendations of the HOPE SF task force.

The report helped encourage Newsom and the Board of Supervisors to commit to investing $95 million towards a first phase of HOPE SF. The first HOPE SF revitalization site is Hunters View, a 267-apartment complex in the Bayview District, the report said.

The city's Housing Authority is the oldest in California and oversees 6,156 units of public housing and 10,129 Housing Vouchers, according to the mayor's office.

Luke Thomas contributed to this report.





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