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Residents, developer, work to build a brighter future

Fri, 02 Jan 2009 15:51:00
Article by:
Elizabeth Jones, president of the Tenant’s Association.
In a remarkable display of tenant and developer cooperation, residents of Westside Courts  participated in a planning session to identify design elements they want to see in their replacement housing.

The well-attended planning session held in December was the third Master Planning Session tenants had participated in. Westside Housing Initiatives, LLC, and Em Johnson Interest/TMG Partners jointly hosted the meeting.

To prepare for the sessions, tenants were taken on a tour of other sites, enabling them to learn more about potential design options. The session, which began at 6 p.m., provided the opportunity for tenants to break into small groups, review designs and identify elements they liked or did not like. Lively discussions took place as tenants carefully and intently reviewed the designs and translators provided support for limited English speakers.

Tenant Association members Cassandra Bennett and Elizabeth Jones have been actively involved in the sessions.
“What they did this time was went over and through Westside Courts. They looked at the exterior, how everything is currently built, what the sizes of the rooms are so that everyone can really think about how they want to see their homes rebuilt,” Bennett explained. “Nobody wants to come back to a room that is smaller than what they left. This is what this is all about so that everyone can come together. From the tours that we’ve had of other buildings, everyone can talk about the parts that they liked and say what they want to see here or even come up with something on our own.”

Bennett, who has lived in Westside Courts for four years, said it was her first time ever going through a process like this.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Bennett said. “It’s a real good learning process.”
 “The residents are very involved,” said Jones, a resident of Westside Courts for 13 years. “When we first started out it was kind of slow, we had the Master Plan and were trying to get everyone to come out, but as we went on they got involved. We did a bus tour with residents. We had about 60 or 70 residents come out on the bus tour. We visited three sites. Everyone just loved a couple of the sites. Everyone had a good time on the tour. Now we are in our third Master Planning meeting and I think it’s going very well.” 

When asked about the relocation process that tenants will be facing, Jones said they hadn’t begun that process yet, but a workshop has been set up in February and they will meet with Supervisor Mirkarimi and Henry Alvarez, Housing Authority Director. Jones said for now, the focus is on planning. They are trying to determine what the residents like and what they don’t like. She said the meetings are getting bigger each time. They also have held community meetings with the surrounding neighbors.

The pleasant and cooperative work meeting was held at the tenant’s community center. It was the third planning session to date. Westside Courts is a public housing site and is located in the Western Addition. The site is scheduled to be demolished, and then rebuilt by Em Johnson Interest/TMG Partners.

 
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