Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HUD MADE FREEDOM WEST LOOKING LIKE DETROIT

I just read an article from the New York Times and reprinted it on my blog.  It’s an article on a federal court ruling on Detroit’s bankruptcy that resonates with our situation in Freedom West.   All you have to do is to substitute “Detroit” with Freedom West, “federal judge” with HUD, “public pension” with carry-charge increase, etc.  Read my spoof of that article at freedomwestdave.blogspot.com.
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HUD Makes Freedom West Looking like Detroit
By David Tse December 04, 2013

San Francisco — In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Freedom West Homes, HUD  held last Tuesday that this battered co-op could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Freedom West’s obligation to follow its Bylaws and Regulatory Agreement  in full was not inviolable.

The HUD regional administrator, Dom Impresario, dealt a major blow to the widely held belief that the Freedom West Bylaws and California rent control acts make single carrying-change increase untouchable, and his ruling is likely to resonate in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and many other American HUD projects where the lack of carrying charge increases had prevented spending for increase in management fees, ground maintenance, and other services.
David Tse/ his own Images
Protesters from Freedom West, San Francisco City Hall Invasion (1/17/11).

Dom Impresario made it clear that single carrying-charge increases were not protected in Freedom West enforcement situation, even though the Freedom West Bylaws expressly enjoined such increases. “Single annual carrying charge increase was stipulated in normal situation and are not entitled to any heightened protection in a HUD enforcement situation,” he said.

James E. Huckleberry, a lawyer with the firm HUD Specialists Inc., who specializes in HUD housing regulations and was not involved in the case, said: “No previous HUD rulings had ruled that before. It will be instructive.”

For people in Freedom West Homes, the birthplace of the foogy-woogie sound and imaginary co-op living, Dom Impresario’s decision that Freedom West Homes could raise its carrying-charges successively within a three-months period amounted to one more miserable, if expected, assessment of its woeful circumstances. Freedom West has lost a lot of its residents, HUD said, only a third of its regular maintenance staff, and its Management Department closes less than 9 percent of impending cases.

“This once proud and prosperous co-op can’t pay its debts,” said Dom Impresario, who sits in a wildly-ornate office at San Francisco’s famed financial district. “It’s insolvent. It’s eligible for bankruptcy. But it also has an opportunity for a fresh start.”

Appeals were expected to be filed quickly. At least one board director filed a notice of appeal on Tuesday, and other board members and co-op resident representatives said they were considering contesting the outcome as well. But the ruling also allows Charlemagne Johnson, an emergency manager assigned in July by the city to oversee Freedom West’s finances, to proceed swiftly with a formal plan for starting over — a proposal to pay off only a portion of its $200,000 in debts and to restore essential services, like regular in-building maintenance, to tolerable levels.

Mr. Johnson said he intended to file the formal blueprint, known as a “capital need assessment report,” by the first week of May, 2014. That plan could include efforts to sell off part of Freedom West to outside entities, to sell co-op assets (just kidding) and to reinvest in failing co-op services. Mr. Johnson has said his goal is to bring Freedom West, the nation’s largest co-op ever to find itself under enforcement, out of HUD’s foreclosure threat by next fall.

“We have some heavy work ahead of us,” Mr. Johnson said on Tuesday.

Around Freedom West, leaders sounded somber but mildly hopeful tones.  Newly-elected Board President Mohammed Soriano-Bilal said that Tuesday was a day no one wanted to see, but that the co-op now needed to move forward. And Rosie Bennett, the departing board president, whose tenure in office has been consumed by the financial distress and management discords, said it was inevitable that Freedom West would ultimately be found insolvent. “We are now starting from square one,” she said.

Freedom West residents and retirees said they were shaken by the developments, and unsure what to expect. Any carrying charge increases, many said, would be crushing.

“The impact of this is going to be catastrophic on families like mine on fixed income,” said Yat-min Ng, 84, a fixed income retiree who relies on food banks for his daily sustenance and said he received a pension of $800 a month from the government. “Retirees are going to be put out of house and home. They’re not going to be able to afford a car, food or medicine.”

Sam Shamonda, a spokesman for the Association of Responsible Co-op Residents, was blunt in his assessment. “Single carrying charge increase in co-op was a given in San Francisco as well as in the rest of the country,” he said. “If this ruling is upheld, this is the canary in a coal mine for affordable housing benefits across the country. They’re gone.”

In perhaps the most contested portion of the case, HUD made it clear that federal enforcement proceeding trumps California state law when it comes to rent increases, making steep, multiple, and successive carrying-charge increases to all 1,000+ residents fair game for Freedom West to include in its plan of adjustment. But while Dom Impresario said rent increases could not be treated differently from other avenues on revenue increases, he said HUD would be careful before approving any increases in monthly payments before its promulgation.

Experts said the decision seemed unlikely to prompt a rush of carrying charge increase filings by housing co-ops, but was likely to give co-op managements more leverage over shareholders in negotiations before actual increases. Freedom West has included $3.5 million in unfunded liabilities in its larger mound of debt, and the co-op board members say it can simply no longer avoid multiple and successive carrying charge increases.

For his part, Mr. Johnson said he had a difficult reality to present to the co-op residents. “There’s not enough money to address the situation no matter what we do,” he said. “That is clear.” At another point, he said of the carrying charge increases, “We’re trying to be very thoughtful, measured and humane about what we have to do.”

David Tse reported from San Francisco, and Thomas Ruffins from Oakland. Gideon Tesfaye contributed reporting from his Taxi.

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The original NY Times Article

Ruling Makes Detroit Biggest City to Qualify for Bankruptcy
By MONICA DAVEYBILL VLASIC and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH December 04, 2013

DETROIT — In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Detroit, a federal judge  held on Tuesday that this battered city could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Detroit’s obligation to pay pensions in full was not inviolable.

The judge, Steven W. Rhodes, dealt a major blow to the widely held belief that state laws make public pensions untouchable, and his ruling is likely to resonate in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and many other American cities where the rising cost of pensions has been crowding out spending for public schools, police departments and other services.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Protesters outside the courthouse in Detroit. “This once proud and prosperous city cannot pay its debt,” Judge Steven W. Rhodes said.

The judge made it clear that public employee pensions were not protected in a federal Chapter 9 bankruptcy, even though the Michigan Constitution expressly protects them. “Pension benefits are a contractual right and are not entitled to any heightened protection in a municipal bankruptcy,” he said.

James E. Spiotto, a lawyer with the firm Chapman & Cutler in Chicago who specializes in municipal bankruptcy and was not involved in the case, said: “No bankruptcy court had ruled that before. It will be instructive.”

For people in Detroit, the birthplace of the Motown sound and of the American auto industry, Judge Rhodes’s decision that the city qualified for bankruptcy amounted to one more miserable, if expected, assessment of its woeful circumstances. The city has lost hundreds of thousands of residents, the judge said, only a third of its ambulances function, and its Police Department closes less than 9 percent of cases.

“This once proud and prosperous city can’t pay its debts,” said the judge, who sits in United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. “It’s insolvent. It’s eligible for bankruptcy. But it also has an opportunity for a fresh start.”

Appeals were expected to be filed quickly. At least one union filed a notice of appeal on Tuesday, and other unions and pension fund representatives said they were considering contesting the outcome as well. But the ruling also allows Kevyn D. Orr, an emergency manager assigned in March by the state to oversee Detroit’s finances, to proceed swiftly with a formal plan for starting over — a proposal to pay off only a portion of its $18 billion in debts and to restore essential services, like streetlights, to tolerable levels.

Mr. Orr said he intended to file the formal blueprint, known as a “plan of adjustment,” by the first week of 2014. That plan could include efforts to spin off city departments to outside entities, to sell city assets and to reinvest in failing city services. Mr. Orr has said his goal is to bring Detroit, the nation’s largest city ever to find itself in bankruptcy, out of the court process by next fall.
“We have some heavy work ahead of us,” Mr. Orr said on Tuesday.

Around Detroit, leaders sounded somber but mildly hopeful tones. Mayor-elect Mike Duggan said that Tuesday was a day no one wanted to see, but that the city now needed to move forward. And Dave Bing, the departing mayor, whose tenure in office has been consumed by the financial distress, said it was inevitable that Detroit would ultimately be found insolvent. “We are now starting from square one,” he said.

Municipal workers and retirees said they were shaken by the developments, and unsure what to expect. Any cut to pensions, many said, would be crushing.

“The impact of this is going to be catastrophic on families like mine on fixed income,” said Brendan Milewski, 34, a Detroit firefighter who was seriously injured in an arson in 2010 and said he received a pension of $2,800 a month from the city. “Retirees are going to be put out of house and home. They’re not going to be able to afford a car, food or medicine.”

Bruce Babiarz, a spokesman for the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, was blunt in his assessment. “This is one of the strongest protected pension obligations in the country here in Michigan,” he said. “If this ruling is upheld, this is the canary in a coal mine for protected pension benefits across the country. They’re gone.”

In perhaps the most contested portion of the case, the judge made it clear that federal bankruptcy law trumps the state law when it comes to protections for public employees’ pensions, making the pensions of 23,000 retirees fair game for the city to include in its plan of adjustment. But while the judge said pensions could not be treated differently from other unsecured debt, he said the court would be careful before approving any cuts in monthly payments to retirees.

Experts said the decision seemed unlikely to prompt a rush of bankruptcy filings by cities, but was likely to give cities more leverage over pensions in negotiations before bankruptcies. Detroit has included $3.5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities in its larger mound of debt, and city lawyers say it can simply no longer afford its pension plan.

For his part, Mr. Orr said he had a difficult reality to present to retirees. “There’s not enough money to address the situation no matter what we do,” he said. “That is clear.” At another point, he said of the pension question, “We’re trying to be very thoughtful, measured and humane about what we have to do.”

Monica Davey and Bill Vlasic reported from Detroit, and Mary Williams Walsh from New York. Steven Yaccino contributed reporting from Chicago.

Monday, November 25, 2013

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!!!



A special greeting of
Thanksgiving time to express
to you our sincere appreciation
for your confidence and loyalty.
We are deeply thankful and
extend to you our best wishes
for a happy and healthy
Thanksgiving Day

BOARD PRESIDENT:  MOHAMMED SORIANO-BILAL
VICE PRESIDENT:      WILLIAM YI
SECRETARY:                THOMAS RUFFIN
TREASURER:                SAMUEL SHAMONDA


BOARD MEMBERS:
CHONG PARK, KHORLA HENRY, HADDIS ALEMEYEHU, GIDEON TESFAYE, DAVID TSE


TOGETHER WITH THE REST OF FREEDOM WEST RESIDENTS, WE ARE CELEBRATING THANKSGIVING WITH A NEW HOPE THAT WE CAN CREATE A NEW FREEDOM WEST THAT REJUVENATE AND PROTECT US ALL

WE GIVE THANKS TO THE HELP EXTEND TO US FROM SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITY LAND TRUST (SFCLT) AND CONFIDENCE FROM THE MAYOR’S OFFICE OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

WE ALSO EXTEND OUR BELATED WELCOME TO KALCO MANAGEMENT AND THE NEW FREEDOM WEST OFFICE STAFF
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Congratulation to all four winners and other candidates who participated in this year's election because we need everybody to effect Freedom West's revitalization through active residents participation.   We congratulate all 229 Freedom West shareholders who participated for a very respectable 65% turnout rate (higher than the 58% during the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election).

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BOARD OFFICERS ELECTION NIGHT (11/21/13)
Vice President William Yi, former president Rosie Bennett, Board Secretary Thomas Ruffin, President Mohammed Soriano-Bilal,  member Haddis Alemeyehu and Gideon Tesfaye in photo
Shareholders attending, SFCLT observing officers election

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SF CO-OP TOWN HALL at the African American Arts and Culture Complex (11/23/13)


Neighborhood Co-op Directors in attendance, learning California Davis-Stirling Act

Who Da Man? Ate his continental breakfast

explain petition for regulation allowing reverse equity lending for co-op members

Me with Bay Guardian Local Hero, old friend, and SFCLT worker Shanell Williams

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

(11/21) GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE: COME JOIN FORCE WITH US

Dear Friends,

I have met you in social occasions, conferences, community, and other activities, gotten your business card, emails, or only one degree of separation between us.  Many of you are my long lost friends as well.

The housing community I am living in is in great distress now (see attached warning letter from the mayor of San Francisco) and in danger of federal receivership and we need help and advises from all quarters.  Whether you are a technologist, businessman, banker, lawyer, entrepreneur, sustainability experts, or social activists, etc., please follow our struggles because you or your acquaintance could help us.  Our cause and struggle is a microcosm of events throughout the country.  How we solve our problems can serve as abiding lessons for communities of similar situation.

In the meantime our housing co-op is having the most important board director election in our 40 year history.  The result will determine whether our community losing our autonomy and eventual destruction or it will be the beginning of a revival and huge sustainability project that could serve as housing and urban development model for the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the country.  I wish you, my friends, can be a part of this undertaking.

Our community is a 1,000+ resident multi-ethnic HUD housing development in prime property location in San Francisco.  This low income residential neighborhood is facing development pressure from all sides.  Its political dynamics comes with elements that resonate with our constantly changing contemporary American society.  The election process this year was tinged with a mild version Jim Crow voting rule (see 11/11/13 posting) promulgated by, ironically, African-American board members who were up for re-election.  I, a fellow board member who is still serving two more years, put together a team that hopefully, will propel me to the next Board Presidency.  I hope I then can carry out reforms and proactive policies that will save the neighborhood.  Our election and community dynamics does have some racial and ethnic undertone but is no different from many similar multi-ethnic communities throughout the U.S.

I invite you all to join this join this quest with us.  I will tell you the result of the election result this coming Thursday and further narratives in the next mailing.  First, you can click into freedomwestdave.blogspot.com to see pictorial essay that introduce myself and my community.

David Tse,
Fighting Board Director, Freedom West Homes
Engineer, Activist, Social Entrepreneur

(11/19) OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

Our property is separated by a street, south side is FW-I and north side FW-II
Top View of Freedom West Homes
Parking lot on a very valuable piece of land (note construction crane beyond)
Recreation hall in FW-II
Inside Rec Hall, hosting a NAHC lunch
Me blocking a building at FW-II, outside the Rec Hall
Someone parked his scooter

Unit facing the street
Dumpster inside the project
Court side of buildings
Night view
City Hall only two blocks away
Very close indeed (back side)

Tourists look at San Francisco City Hall this a way (front)
Our property is larger than this plaza
Like from here to the City Hall entrance
We can sprint to the California Public Utility Commission, where state energy policies are being made
And the California Supreme Court too and State building behind
Buildings erect in 1974, but we're in prime property

Opposite this building
Across the street and on this lot they're going to build
A residential/retail complex like this.  Imagine the contrast?
All around our neighborhood

New buildings are being built
An architectural gem across from us; and another complex to be built where the trees are
Though the buildings looking shabby outside
Inside looking quite nice and well-kept
We are a multi-ethnic community
With Latino-Americans

some white folks

With young African-Americans

and old-timers
some Chinese,

 but more Koreans


and Ethiopians
Generally we got along well together

But we not not organized as a co-operative

Almost everybody
Just kept to themselves
We have townhouses
And inner courtyards
But now
We're in bad shape
Real bad shape
We Need Your Help
Please......