Family of teen shot in Alice Griffith still waiting for Housing Authority help

The Alice Griffith housing project has been plagued by violence, include the Dec. 29 shooting of Aireez Taylor, 15.
Mike Koozmin/SF Newspaper Co.

Aireez Taylor, a 15-year-old Mission High School student and a resident of the Alice Griffith public housing project in Bayview, was shot seven times on Dec. 29.

It happened around 6:30 p.m. She was with several friends at a house just a few blocks from her home in Alice Griffith, also known as Double Rock. They were standing on the porch talking, her mother, Marissa, told the Guardian. Then two men armed with guns hopped out of a parked car. One of Aireez’s friends, a 17-year-old boy who lived at the house with his family, saw them coming. He ran for the door and was shot once in the foot. Aireez, fleeing after him, was shot seven times.

Residents of Alice Griffith interviewed by the Guardian described an intensification in the violent crime at and around their community in recent months. Several attributed the violence to a conflict between African American and Samoan gang members. Whatever the cause, the shooting of a 15-year-old girl stands as evidence of the ongoing danger in San Francisco’s public housing developments. Aireez’s father, Roger Blalark, said that his daughter wasn’t the intended target of the shooting. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he said.

But for Aireez, who survived the attack, the wrong place at the wrong time is her home in Alice Griffith. Her parents have applied for emergency relocation with the San Francisco Housing Authority, but after two months—and amid the recent scandal surrounding Director Henry Alvarez and federal reports that have rated the agency as one of the worst in California—they are still waiting for the agency to locate and repair a unit in a new housing development. In the meantime, Roger and Marissa continue to fear for their daughter’s life. “What if they find the guy and ask her to testify?” asked Roger.

Aireez made a steady recovery from the gunshot wounds inflicted upon her in the December attack. But the trauma of the event has not been as easily healed. She spent three weeks at San Francisco General Hospital. During that time, an unknown intruder tried to snap a photo of her as she lay in her hospital bed, Roger said. Later, a man claiming to be her father came to inquire about her, while Roger himself was at her bedside.

A police officer met with Roger and Marissa on the Monday following the attack. Aireez reportedly had not seen the shooters. An investigation is underway, though no arrests have been made and the police have no suspects, according to SFPD spokesperson Gordon Shyy.

The journey home from the hospital was a return to the place where she had nearly been killed, a community where the shooters presumably were still at large. “She gets shakes, every time she comes home,” said Roger. “She has to come by the corner where she got shot.”

SFPD Bayview District Captain Robert O’Sullivan said that relocation is an important part of protecting the victims of violent crimes. Ultimately, the choice to relocate a tenant rests with the Housing Authority. “There needs to be an assessment done when something like a shooting occurs in public housing,” said O’Sullivan. Alice Griffith, he pointed out, has a significant number of people in a relatively small space.

“It’s always something that is in the front of people’s mind, anyone that has a stake in this, in investigating or assisting—is this going to be a risk for this person or their family in continuing to stay here?” O’Sullivan said.

Marissa and Roger applied for an emergency transfer on Jan. 2. There was paperwork to fill out, then the Housing Authority had to search for a vacant unit that could accommodate a family of their size. Housing Authority spokesperson Rose Marie Dennis said that she could not give out confidential information regarding specific tenants, but confirmed that the majority of the Housing Authority’s holdings are studios, one-, or two-bedroom apartments.

Roger and Marissa needed something bigger. A unit that could accommodate their family was finally located in another housing development by the third week of January. Marissa was initially told that the unit would be ready in two weeks. But two weeks turned into five, and now six, and Marissa still doesn’t know the status of the unit or when it will be ready for move in.

Dennis told us the Housing Authority tries to accommodate all requests for relocation, and prioritizes tenants with emergencies. Victims of a violent crime that request a transfer are moved as soon as possible, she said. But the process of relocating a victim is often hindered by a variety of factors, including Housing Authority’s ability to allocate resources toward fixing up vacant units. The length of the wait is a matter of resources and cooperation between all the parties involved in preparing the new unit. Once a suitable place has been found, teams of custodians and craftsmen and women must work to clear, clean, and repair the unit. Preparing a unit for move in costs on average $12,000, she said.

The problem is not that there aren’t empty units. According to Dennis, vacant housing stock is in a constant state of flux, with the current occupancy rate estimated to be 96.3 percent. Since the Housing Authority manages a total of 6,476 units over 45 development projects, that would indicate that as many as 240 units now lie empty. Dennis said that some units are kept vacant by the Housing Authority for a variety of reasons, while many others are only made available as the agency finishes the repairs and renovations necessary to make the units livable by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) strict standards.

Roger and Marissa’s experiences would appear to dovetail with recent media scrutiny that suggests the Housing Authority has reached a critical state of dysfunction. The agency made the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s list of troubled agencies after it received a 54 out of 100 on their latest evaluation. Scandal has dogged the agency’s leadership—three lawsuits alleging discrimination and retaliation were recently filed against Alvarez, who was also accused in a lawsuit of steering contracts to political allies. And it’s long-term capital outlook is looking increasingly bleak, as buildings accumulate decades of wear and tear and infrastructure becomes obsolescent. Stuck with a federal budget that remains constant, the Housing Authority is put in the position of maintaining outdated infrastructure that would, in the long run, be more cost effective to replace, said Dennis.

But Dennis nevertheless assured the Guardian that the agency addresses emergencies as quickly as possible—irrespective of larger, structural financial deficits. “We get bogged down in anecdotes that aren’t reflective of what’s ahead of us,” said Dennis. “We don’t have time for politics, that really doesn’t add up to positive change.”

So what is positive change for the residents of San Francisco’s public housing? With Alvarez on leave, Mayor Ed Lee has stated his intention to revamp the agency’s leadership and has appointed five new commissioners to oversee the city’s public housing.  “Being on a constant treadmill of troubled lists and repair backlogs that are structurally underfunded is not working for our residents or our City,” Lee said in a press release.

Lee spoke of a “better model” through HOPE SF, a massive redevelopment plan that began under former Mayor Gavin Newsom and which hinges on public-private partnerships. Alice Griffith is one among several sites that is being rebuilt as part of HOPE SF, with construction scheduled to begin in 2014. The plan is to create mixed-income neighborhoods where 256 new affordable rental units are interspersed in a larger community of market-rate homes.

But in the meantime, the day-to-day reality of the violence and dysfunction faced by tenants continues. “It’s not about tearing down the projects, you got to revitalize what’s already here,” said Roger.  

Roger knows that a relocation won’t necessarily solve their problems. He worries about the persisting presence of gang members at the new housing development, about the fact that he will be trying to protect his family in a community that he is much less familiar with. At Alice Griffith, Roger has connections within the community. He helps direct the Run, Ball & Learn Program, which provides basketball and tutoring programs for community youth. So they wait.

“They’re gonna have their own process,” says Marissa. “In the meantime we’re still sitting here.”


"Several attributed the violence to a conflict between African American and Samoan gang members."

I don't think so.

This is an ongoing turf war between Double Rock n the Oakdale Mob. Da Mob going through some heavy rejiggering/reengineering right now what w/the youngins comin up through the ranks.

All these shootings gonna continue until all is settled, you feel? Until then, hold onto your panties. When the new leaders are fully on top, peace will reign. You can mark my words. Dig?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

the system is broken, but not the way the article suggest. the people in low income housing are given this entitlement for life, there is absolutely no incentive for these people to work, they work they lose their housing. 2- gangs flourish in this environment, and more than likely the boy shoot in the foot was a gang banger and so was the girl. ,3- by moving gang bangers from one subsidized housing unit to another does nothing more than encourage these thugs to continue their illegal behavior.

I will make a wager to Dylan Tokar that he can not name one housing project in San Francisco that is not controlled by one gang or another. the second wager I will make to Mr. Dylan Tokar is please name on housing project in San Francisco that is controlled by a white gang, there are over a dozen black gangs, a half a dozen Hispanic gangs, even to a small extent Asian gangs, but when is the last time the Guardian reported a drive by shooting connected to a white gang.

S.F. stupidvisors and the liberal media encourage this behavior by not reporting the facts, by continuing to allow and encourage low income housing at the expense of the middle class. No wonder the middle class is taking their children and moving to the suburbs like Millbrae, Marin, San Mateo where gangs are not tolerated.

85% of all violent crime in SF is commited by either blacks or Hispanic yet the liberal media remains silent on certain issues;

Posted by Guest oldfart on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 8:20 am

That white gang would be the SFPD.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 8:33 am

Not that it matters what race they are, as your racist categorization implies.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 9:16 am

Well true, Hell's Angels aren't as white as they used to be, and actually they are a club not a gang so you are mostly right old fart

Posted by pete moss on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

skin head in the city in ten years.

They were as dumb as any member of any other gang, and just as pointlessly violent.

I suppose the options for them are fairly limited in SF.

Posted by matlock on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 1:00 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

The SFPD is run by and for white men.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 9:40 am

Marcos, are you a liberal who rants and raves without know the facts and make accusations just to stir the pot?

The population of SF is 7.5% black and 14% Hispanic , yet blacks make up 10% of the police force and Hispanic 15%.

Using your logic Muni is run by and for Blacks since a majority of muni driver are black.

You still have not commented on the fact that 85% of all violent crimes in SF are committed by blacks and Hispanics but only 25% of the population is black and Hispanic, numbers don't lie, liberals, progressives and gang bangers do.

Posted by Guest oldfart on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 10:09 am

treat every case equally. There are cops of every race. Maybe 50 years ago it was 100% Irish and Italian, but not any more. Your stereotypes are dated.

SFPD is under mayoral control and therefore subject to electoral oversight. You have the police force that you deserve and voted for.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 10:11 am

the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 03, 2013 @ 10:51 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... oh, the HOUSING AUTHORITY is repeatedly dysfunctional ... what a SURPRISE. Would that be like the dysfunctional Department of Public Health that BROKE FEDERAL LAW . Now years later the LAWBREAKING ACTIVITY starts again on 8/15/2012 and then again on 12/19/2012 . By the way the RESTRAINING ORDER does NOT exist ... watch the SHERIFF 11/27 videos ... too bad HE couldn't instruct his minions and I again HAD THE LAW BROKEN but what is the CONSEQUENCE?

What is the CONSEQUENCE ... it is the same as the VICTIMS of the HOUSING AUTHORITY (no justice, no hope, no humanity) just idle meaningless words. Go to youtube ... watch the videos and NOTE who I have been to. Do you expect anything to happen to the DIRECTOR of HOUSING? Do you expect anything to happen to the DIRECTOR of PUBLIC HEALTH? Do you expect anything to happen to the SHERIFF who on 11/27 (see youtube videos) TOLD ME to go back to the GUILTY (DPH) and then what happened on 12/19? Did the SHERIFF even followup on his INCORRECT HARMFUL advise? Watch the videos to see how far I have gotten seeking ACCOUNTABILITY ... the same distance the VICTIMS at the HOUSING AUTHORITY will get ... more meaningless words and they will retire UNTOUCHED.

Would you care to see my paperwork or videos concerning SFPD, David Chiu's Office with the false CIVIL GIDEON or maybe the DEADEND paperwork from the SF BAR ASSOCIATION? Keep drinking the KOOL AIDE while they continue to spin and collect $$$$.

Yes, another day of HARM for US and PAY for those who are SUPPOSE TO BE responsible ... what a FARCE.

The bigger FARCE is that the MAYOR dissolved the HOUSING AUTHORITY ... what about the HEALTH COMMISSION or the LIBRARY COMMISSIONER that was found guilty of OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT or what about the FOUR SUPERVISORS found guilty of OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT by the SUNSHINE TASK FORCE # 10048 ??? Yes, the illusion continues ...

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 7:44 am

can I have a new house too?

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 8:31 am

Hi, thanks for sharing

Posted by used handphone on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

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