Frederick Douglas Haynes Gardens Housing Complex Tenants Win Last-minute Reprieve

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By Wade Woods

 

After several days of twist and turns, residents of the historic Frederick Douglas Haynes Garden housing complex could breathe a little easier after learning that their apartments would not be put up for sale, at least for now.

 

It all began two weeks ago when Third Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Amos Brown began receiving phone calls that the apartment complex was to be put on the market and sold to the highest bidder.

 

Alarmed and in somewhat of a shock, Rev. Brown checked around and found out that the rumors were true – the apartment complex built by his church over 40 years ago was being put up for sale.

 

It seems that the original Haynes Garden Board of Directors that had been appointed by the Third Baptist Board of Trustees when the complex was first built had changed hands and been taken over by what Rev. Brown called a boughs rogue board.

 

It was this board, headed up by Chairwoman Rochelle Buford-Williams, that was putting the complex up for sale. Rev. Brown called his friend and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to ask for assistance and legal advice.

 

Former Mayor Brown contacted former City Attorney Louise Rene, who quickly offered to help. It was now Sunday and word was beginning to spread to the tenants.

 

Rev. Brown called an emergency meeting at Third Baptist Church on July 26. At this meeting, it was agreed that everyone would get the word out for the community to attend a meeting that had already been called at West Bay Conference center to deal with the problems at the former Yoshi’s jazz clubs.

 

At that point, District 5 Supervisor and Board of Supervisors President London Breed learned of the proposed sale as she was coming back to town from a trip to New York.

 

Ironically, she was in New York with the Mayor’s Director of Housing Olson Lee to study affordable housing in New York. Mayor Ed Lee found out about the sale while he was in New York and had notified his office to find out what was happening.

 

The Monday night meeting turned into a shouting match, with Rev. Brown wanting the agenda changed to include the Haynes Garden sale. Supervisor Breed told the crowd that while she was very concerned about the Haynes Garden situation, she had just found out about the sale and needed time to gather the facts about the events taking place at the housing complex.

 

She called for a meeting with the tenants to take place on Wednesday at the community room at the complex. Rev. Brown announced to the crowd that he was filing a lawsuit to seek an injunction to stop the sale.

 

It was at the Monday night meeting that former Mayor Willie Brown announced the involvement of former City Attorney Louise Rene. On Tuesday morning, Rev. Brown and community leaders held a press conference announcing the lawsuit to stop the sale.

 

Rev. Brown and the community advocate Rev. Arnold Townsend, who had joined the lawsuit, went to court. In the face of mounting pressure, Haynes Complex Board and their Real Estate team announced that they had withdrawn the property from the market, and the Haynes Garden was no longer for sale.

 

On Wednesday, a huge standing room-only crowd had gathered at the Haynes Garden Complex, fearing the worst.

 

Attending the meeting was Olson Lee from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, Supervisor Breed and Rev. Brown. They announced to the crowd that the apartment complex had been taken off the market.

 

The officials promised that the tenants would be allowed to remain at the complex and the city would never let them be evicted. The crowd cheered with relief.

 

But the fate of the apartment complex is still uncertain, and the struggle was only beginning.

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