Community Leaders Rally Behind Housing Director Henry Alvarez

Henry Alvarez

Rev. Amos Brown

By Lee Hubbard Black religious and community leaders are supporting San Francisco Housing Authority Director Henry Alvarez, who has headed the agency since 2008 and was recently mentioned in a lawsuit by two his employees. One lawsuit says Alvarez practiced reverse discrimination and passed over Tim Larsen, a white attorney with the Housing Authority, for promotions within the agency. The suit also stated that Alvarez told Larsen to “Stop being so Anglo.” Another Housing Authority attorney, Roger Crawford, says in his lawsuit that Alvarez violated the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act by retaliating against him, trying to fire the lawyer  when he returned to work from leave. Both Larsen and Crawford were unavailable to comment on allegations at press time. Alvarez also declined to speak. According to Rose Dennis, spokeswoman for the Housing Authority,  “Our position is that it’s a personnel matter and that it’s confidential. We have no comment on the case.” However, Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, had a lot to say. “I support Alvarez 10,000 percent, and you will see that rank and file Blacks and Black leadership support him as well,” said Dr. Brown, who is also head of the San Francisco NAACP. “He came in and helped to change the culture of mediocrity and non-performance in many areas within the San Francisco Housing Authority.” “You have someone who’s white, someone with specious, fallacious allegations, filing a suit that he was discriminated against,” said Brown, who is African American. “It’s a joke. How can he be discriminated against?” Some Black leaders from the business and faith communities in San Francisco consider the attacks on Alvarez to be a power play within the Housing Authority by disgruntled employees with an ax to grind. “The attacks on Henry Alvarez are a continued attack on African Americans in San Francisco,” said Fred Jordan, businessman and head of the Black Chamber of Commerce. “Alvarez has been supportive of African Americans in San Francisco, when there is little support left for us, so we have to stand by and support him.” Alvarez came to San Francisco to head the Housing Authority, after leaving a similar post with the city of San Antonio.  He was selected by a panel that included Ed Lee, who was then the San Francisco City Administrator. At the time, the San Francisco Housing Authority was an agency that was beleaguered and plagued with mismanagement and cronyism. Supporters of Alvarez argue  he has helped to create jobs in public housing, helped to train residents in the trades, provided scholarships to youth in public housing to attend summer camps, helped increase public housing occupancy from 93 percent to 96 percent and oversaw the completion and construction of various public housing units throughout San Francisco.
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