Saturday, April 25, 2015


I invite all of you to attend a meeting at the downtown office of the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill LLC (SOM) in San Francisco.  Address: 1 Front Street #2400.  I like to introduce the firm who designed the One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower) in New York City and a community developer to the people who are concern about the future of Freedom West.  The hope is that we can submit an alternative plan to HUD at the end of May, aside from the one proposed by The Related Companies whom the Board is exclusively working with.

The meeting will start 1:00pm but it’ll be good if you arrive earlier like 12:30pm so that our meeting can start on time.  These are two good organizations I feel very comfortable with and I hope we’ll all have a good time 24 floors above street level.  You don’t need to be shareholders to attend this event.  Anyone who cares – son, daughters, nephews, concerned friends, etc. – are welcome.  Tell your neighbors.

If we like the meeting, I would like those attend sign a petition to do our own shareholders meeting introducing the team to other residents who couldn’t come.

I consider this meeting as shareholders actions because we believe ordinary shareholders can do things that can affect Freedom West.  Shareholders can make things happen too, not just the Board.  So I hope you can come away feeling empowered afterward.

The last few weeks I have found out our community was in an uproar over the plan presented for Freedom West.  I am just as concerned.  For more than a year I have consulted many outsiders and knowledge experts – bankers, social activists, developers, entrepreneurs, engineers, architects – to learn and to explore ways of ensuring our viability and co-op survival, looking for innovative solutions, and to come up with an alternative plan, with your participation, that is community endurable, politically acceptable, as well as financially and environmentally sustainable.  It’s the best and most comprehensive plan imaginable but a lot of works.

I met the Architect of the New York One World Trade Center Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill LLP (SOM), and realize they have the design expertise, understanding of urban development, innovative approach, and most importantly, excited to work with Freedom West to realize a better community, preserve our independence at the same time create an expanded vibrant neighborhood.  We met up with a community developer who would work with us as partners and committed to bring our visions into reality.  I especially emphasized we must keep our co-op whole, create a senior friendly living environment, and ensure resident-affordability, not “affordable housing”.  We are going to meet these people.

I went nowhere with the Board on my initiative.  So now I’m asking you to come with me to visit SOM’s downtown office. This will give us an opportunity to meet the community developer and the architect. They will have presentation of their experience and opportunity to share our story with them, participation is the most important element in grassroots development process.

In the meeting we will sign a petition to invite the team to Freedom West to spend more time with us and meeting more residents (We want 30 signatures).  This is a Shareholders Initiative and we are exercising People Power.  All these years we allowed ourselves led by the nose but that’s no longer acceptable, neither for any boards nor for us.  Remember, we people must take matters into our own hands.  We must exercise that power or else others would do that for us.

LET’S GO MONDAY at 1 pm 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

(4/22) VOTE REHAB!

This Friday evening 6pm make sure you are around and not doing anything else.  Because if you are gone you may come back with no place to live soon.  Go tell your neighbors about it because likely they are not aware of this vote or how important it is.  It’s 6pm, Friday evening at the Rec Hall, 820 McAllister Street.  Bring your ID because you’ll need it!

I thought about the vote a lot and last night I received a final nudge from nowhere, as probably all of you may have seen the flyer, to make my choice.  I URGE YOU:  VOTE REHAB!!

Milton Marks Conference Center Auditorium

Can't do without food

Who he?
Last night I came back from a workshop at the Hiram Johnson State Building and found this notice taped by the front door.
Surprised by a flyer

Definitely not from the Office

It read:

Freedom West Board trying to force a Secret Agenda without giving you all the facts and details.  … Pretending to be open while not answering all the questions.
VOTE on : Friday:  April 24, 2015
Time:  6 PM
Place: 820 McAllister Rec Hall (typo on flyer, not “520”)
(Shareholders Must Bring ID to vote)


This flyer brought up lots of points.  I can spend an entire blog posting just address each of the line items.  In spite of the “NO’s” printed on the flyer.  The board asked us to vote FOR something, either we are FOR REHAB or FOR REDEVELOPMENT.

I do ask all of you to VOTE FOR REHAB at this moment in time.  I must be truthful to you.  In my hunch, I prefer “redevelopment”.  But I still have problem voting FOR IT because we simply have no good data to support it.  In my hunch also, I feel that voting for redevelopment Friday will signal a point of no return, in spite of the Board saying it’s okay.  I DON’T THINK IT’S OKAY.  We witnessed it very clearly in our Saturday morning shareholders discussions.  Board members couldn’t even give us reassuring answers, for themselves or others.

We heard of a plan for Redevelopment, and that presentation was a short one.  The sense I got from the flyer is that people are very uncomfortable about this vote, even as the Board felt fine about it and like us to vote for redevelopment.

80% of the people never heard of the redevelopment plan.  And of the people who heard it a majority came away scratching their heads.  Nothing was put into writing for us to bring home to think over and to discuss with our family and share with our neighbors.  Shareholders couldn’t even get meeting minutes and relevant documents from the Office.

We must have educated, structured, and in-depth discussion among all shareholders - Ethiopians, Chinese, Koreans, Russians, as well as English-Speaking People - about risks and ramifications of our choices.  Nothing was put into writing for us to read and think over.  Nothing of that sort been attempted and it’s not fair for the people who were in the cloud.

Do board members “REALLY” understand the contractual arrangements they put us into and “REALLY” get what they are asking us to do?  I doubt it.  We haven’t heard any discussions, about relevant issues, pros and cons, risks and rewards at any meetings.  What’s the depth of knowledge they have?  What kind of advice they got and how much they understood?  All we got were one-way announcements to an assemblage of sparse audience of the same few people.  Are we having blinds leading the blinds?

Even I, a shareholder who pretty much on top of everything happening in Freedom West as much as I’m capable of, couldn’t get all the relevant information I felt needed to make a comfortable choice on this vote.  What about the case for Rehab?  That’s why residents and shareholders are feeling being rushed into a Redevelopment vote.  It’s DANGEROUS. It’s NOT RIGHT.  And it’s NOT FAIR for people are not on top of things!!

So even if you like REDEVELOPMENT, I urge you to VOTE REHAB because it’s too risky to vote otherwise.  We need to have more data, more options, more detailed information, and more discussion among all residents looking at elements that were now hidden, unseen, and unforeseen because of this vote.

even if you are for “redevelopment”

Monday, April 20, 2015

(4/20) 2015 Board Election: Elucidate on Open Seats

We had one important event last week and two important events coming up.  Last Tuesday we had a shareholder meeting to nominate candidates for seven open seats for the coming election.  I hope all of you know by now.  This Friday evening (4/24) from 6-7pm shareholders have to decide Freedom West should go the rehabilitation route or redevelopment.  And on the following Monday (4/27) we must vote to give the Board authority to take out a loan for Freedom West II.  Click for information about these three crucial events.

I bcc this email to Freedom West attorney Julian Davis and election inspector Rick Lewis to have them aware of our election process.  They should reply if they disagree with my assessment.

Yours Truly,
David Tse

Tuesday 4/14 Initially we got locked out of the Rec Hall

That's all the people, folks


Last Tuesday election supervisor Rick Lewis and Election Committee Chairperson Johnny Landers presided on the nomination process for the coming June board directors election.  Present were Thomas Ruffins, Sam Shamonda, Renita Mason, Gideon Testfaye and myself, David Tse.

No one else was in the Rec Hall even though this election is so critical because the resulting Board will influence how Freedom West will be like for the next forty years and beyond.  One may find it surprising that no shareholders showed up for such important meeting.  I believe it’s because shareholders are tire of too many meeting notices and they couldn’t separate chaffs from husks.  Ordinary residents need much education, encouragement, and understand to participate.

This election has many questions that need to be answered.  Shareholders knew all election should be held every September with new board officers installed within ten days after the ballot count.  How come we are having it so late?  The nine-members Board should be elected in staggered three-year terms.   How come we have seven seats open where normally should be three?

So it seems more than a bit unusual that potentially we could have only two incumbent board members left after this election, current board president Mohammed Soriano-Bilal and board member William Yi.   We may have seven new faces.


Almost every Freedom West meeting I attended since last August the election question had either come up or bubbling beneath the surface.  The reason the Board gave for the delay was that Freedom West was in a dire situation and we could not afford to have an election distracting us over the important task of talking with HUD and obtaining loans from Century Bank.

The Board then said we will start the election process February this year.  February came and gone we heard nothing.  Certain shareholders (not me) got suspicious that the Board is up to no good and tried to push its agenda without shareholders’ true knowledge.  These shareholders got nervous and wrote HUD about the situation and they believe, this election comes because of the letters and HUD responded.  They believe otherwise no election would be held until September.

The complaining letters was true but I have no way of verifying whether the election was because of HUD.


This is easy because I kept tap of every election since 2010 when we started the Shareholders Uprising and I can clarify it for you even though it looks weird (7 out of 9 board seat?).

Three seats can be easily explained.  Board members Haddis Alemayehu, Thomas Ruffins, and Samuel Shamonda were elected in 2011 and their terms should be termed out last September.  They are still on the Board.

Now how come the four extra open seats and whose board seats then vacated? 

The four board members are Arrhenia Corbins, Renita Mason, Khorla Henry, and Gideon Tesfaye.

The board seats occupied by Arrhenia Corbin and Renita Mason should be open last September because Board President Mohammed Soriano-Bilal and the Board selected these two shareholders in placed of David Tse and Chong Park, both elected board members.

Since they were appointed during the first half of 2014, Freedom West Bylaw (Article 5: Section 5.4) says …person so selected shall be a Director until a successor is elected by the members at the next annual meeting to serve out the unexpired portion of the term.

This means, Arrhenia and Renita will serve only until September 2014. Freedom West Bylaws required them to run on September 2014 during the annual meeting and if Joe Schmo and Mary Sloe beat them in the election, Joe and Mary could only serve out the unexpired portion of the term, i.e. less than three years.

So if the September 2014 election were held, five seats should be open (Haddis, Sam, Thomas, Arrhenia, and Renita).  Of course, it never occurred.

Now the other two openings (Khorla Henry and Gideon Tesfaye).   Their seats will be termed out September 2015, this year.

The Board wisely pushed ahead the September election because it makes sense.  That is because an election cycle normally starts July with the selection of election inspector, then nomination, mailing of ballots, and ballot count.  It doesn’t make any horse sense to have a new board installed at the end of June or beginning of July.  Right away we have to do an election again and one of the directors who just won, let’s say Samuel Shamonda, and if he received the least votes during June, would have to run again, even before his seat got warm.  He and Freedom West will die by election fatigue.

Now you say it’s against the Bylaw to push an election ahead of time.  A way to make this legal is to add a “yes” and “no” box in the June ballot to make a special exemption from the Bylaws, just this time.  If “yes” won, the top seven vote getters in this June election will be directors and the next election will be September 2016.  And God forbids, if “no” wins, only the top five will be board members and Lord have mercy, we have to continue to do election for another three months.  I believe Freedom West people would be sensible enough to check “yes” overwhelmingly.

How could I think of these things?  That’s because I’m a co-op election inspector  -  except I received no pay, just volunteering.  Watch out, Mr. Rick Lewis!  I could eat your lunch.

With that settled, let’s get back to explanation on Khorla and Gideon’s open seats.  Khorla Henry was elected three years ago and her term naturally expires this year.

Why Gideon Tesfaye’s, especially since he just got elected during the last held election, September 2013, itself got delayed for almost two months to November 2013?  That is because he was elected for the seat held by Jamila Al-Mansour, who was elected the same year as Khorla Henry. 

Why was Gideon Tesfaye holding Jamila’s seat?  That was because in 2013, four positions were open, the three normal ones plus the one vacated by the resigned board member Jamila Al-Mansour, elected in 2012.  Among the four winning candidates, the one with the least votes (Gideon Tesfaye) filled Jamila’s remaining two years term, which expire this September.*  Also see 11/16/13 blog post here.

In summary, this election is to make up for the five seats that should be run last year and the two seats this year that got pushed forward by four months, for a total of seven open seats.  It makes perfect sense.

One more thing, for this June election the Board would have to clarify how many years the seven winning members will serve.  I could tell you now.  The top three vote getters will serve three years.  The remaining four will be either two years or one.  I’m not going explain lest confusing you.  We have had enough confusion already.

Next blog I’m going to explain the Friday Rehabilitation/Redevelopment vote for you.

*2013 Election Package (October 16, 2013 Cover Letter 3rd paragraph)

The 3 candidates for election to the Board of Directors, who receive the highest number of votes shall be elected to three year terms on the Board of Directors.  The candidate who receives the fourth highest number of votes shall be elected to a two year term.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Better Late than Never

Hi Freedom West Friends and Residents,

The past week the City concluded the celebration of the Asian Lunar New Year with the San Francisco Annual Lunar New Year Parade.  I just use this occasion to give everyone in Freedom West a belated Lunar New Year Greeting.  This is especially pertinent because half of the residents in Freedom West is Asian.

For most every year I also send Christmas and New Year greetings to everybody.  This year I hadn't so I use this instant to make up my slip-up.  Since 2015 is a crucial, or may be even the final, year for our Freedom West's existence , we need some good luck sayings to inspire ourselves to carry us through this critical juncture.

I had been much re-missed in 2014 in informing everybody about Freedom West.  I hope this is the start of which I could come out of my funk and overcome my inveterate writer's block.  I hope in the coming months I could educate you, give you hopes, and to inspire you to do what is necessary to keep us together as a community and that as a result of our struggle, we can set ourselves as good examples to others as what can be possible in a very difficult situation.

It is also co-incidental that this day that I put out this blogpost, Wednesday (3/11) is a lucky day.  That is because this is the third day of the week on the eleventh day of the third month of the year.  As people familiar with the Chinese language know, "Three" () rhymes with "birth and being alive" (生) and the number eleven (十一) rhymes with the adverbial phrase "certainly number one"(实一).  That means Freedom West will come out the year not only "alive and well", but we will be "the best and number one" and our initial struggle for survival will turn out to be the "birth" of a new era.  Click for photos and our good luck blessings.  
My favorite, Muhammad Ali, will fight for Freedom West(taken last Friday at State Bldg)
And like Ali, Freedom West will be "Number One"

Berkeley Campus
Egghead David Tse
Last Friday I went a two-day conference in UC Berkeley attended by sociologists, anthropologists, management scientists, and behavioral economists.  I'm that kind of people who like to think about deep academic matters like energy, economic, environmental, and foreign policies, and in this instance, sociology and human behavior. 
Would Freedom West people come to these conferences with me?
You can say “Guanxi” is interpersonal behavior and social networking with Chinese characteristics.  I figured if I were to be able get Chinese money to help Freedom West, I better understand it better to establish "guanxi" with Chinese bankers and potential investors.  The conference had gone fair and well until a good friend pulled me out of that academic funk to go back to The City so that I may establish real guanxi, or social relationships with San Francisco politicos to rescue Freedom West. 
Forced Departure from my Conference back to SF
So here I was, Friday afternoon, attending a Chinese New Year celebratory event inside the California State Building. 
California State Building at Golden Gate and Larkin
Foods that got me fat
Ladies in Manchu court garbs
Fiona Ma and Mrs. Qipao.  I wanted Fiona in the middle, but she placed me there instead.
Phil Ting told me talk to the executive director of ChinaSF.  I'd talked to her about Freedom West long time ago already.  She needed us come up with a plan so that she can promote us to investors.
Assemblyman and former SF Board President, David Chiu and his parents.  I met them at my church's Friday night fellowship two years ago.  They live in Massachusetts, where I had my formal education.
Red will give Freedom West good lucks
The character "Fortune" over the banners of Fiona Ma, Phil Ting, and David Chiu.You can translate Phil Ting's Chinese name to be "Standing-Right" Ting and David Chiu's as "You-Better-Believe-I-Bring-Fortunes" Chiu.  I don't think they'll appreciate me bestializing their names.  No more Guanxi from them now.
The Boys and Girls Club Community Center next to Freedom West, construction near completion

Hope my attending this event, draped in red for luck and fortunes, could confer the same to you and everyone else in Freedom West and to our Co-op.

Still, the next day I went back to the Berkeley Conference to establish more guanxi's
Could these professors help Freedom West?
I told this former diplomat about Freedom West

Greetings from the Desert
Freedom West Will Receive Saudi Oil Money?
Happy Lunar New Year, Korean Style.  Korean residents will be more involved.
Freedom West will soar in 2015
Even these Korean Pop stars said so.  Wish us lucks in every way.
Wish you great fortune for the Year of the Ram
This year Freedom West is going to have great fortune.  We will get extraordinary amount of money to renovate our community, pass our REAC inspections and get to be a superb housing cooperative.

Freedom West will be SUCCESSFUL in 2015!!
身體健康 Wish Everybody living in FW Good Health
Gong Hay Fat Choy: Congratulate Us on Our Great Fortunes
青春永駐 Stay Young Forever
Freedom West will be full of energy and vitality
生活愉快 Wish You a Delightful Life

The Chinese have their lucky 4-worded adages for the New Year that begins with the character number one to ten.  We are going to use them on Freedom West.

One Sail Flows with the Wind
Freedom West will carry propitious wind in our journey.
This year will be plain sailing

Two Dragons Soar Though The Air
Freedom West I and II will fly high to show San Francisco how to get things done
Three Suns (rams) Shone Magnificent

Everything starts afresh for a Freedom West Renaissance
(or three girls flying high?)
Four Seasons of Peace and Tranquility

The Good Lord Will Keep Us Safe and Sound throughout the year

May Your Family Be Blessed

Five Fortunes Arrives at the Gate
five blessings descend upon this home (namely: longevity, wealth, health, virtue, etc.)
Six Six Smooth Running (6 6 rhymes with smooth going).  That means Freedom West will do things well and runs without a hitch
It also connotes Freedom West would have no problem passing HUD REAC inspections and all kinds of tests people place upon us
Freedom West will celebrate future successes
Seven Stars Alight in Heaven
 Stars will be aligned for Freedom West Residents and Shareholders, with God guiding our ways
Awe-inspiring all Eight Directions
 No One Can Stop Us
Eight Countenances Looking Impressive: We will learn how to be a good cooperative
Nine faces looking exquisite.  We will be clever and nimble in establish social relationships "guanxi" with developers, HUD, the City, neighbors, and with one another.

Perfect Ten: Everything's Perfect
Just like these girls, Freedom West will be perfect in every way