With the faint scent of sunscreen lingering in the light breeze, she greets and hugs her fellow walkers. On a sunny day in Potrero Hill, Uzuri Pease-Greene gathered with her eager neighbors ready to take a stroll through the hilly public housing community.
Walking as a group is just one of the community outreach programs put together by Rebuild Potrero, one of Hope SF’s projects.
Rebuild Potrero will ultimately rebuild the entire public housing community, however they are starting with getting the community involved in healthy living programs.
“You can’t just reform a neighborhood by changing just the housing,” said Emily Weinstein, the community builder for Rebuild Potrero. “They also have a community service component to Hope SF that begins with community building.”
Weinstein implemented programs from walking groups and zumba classes to community garden projects and sober living groups. She is also working to connect residents with GED programs and job skill building workshops.
“Even if people don’t participate it’s a visible sign of change,” said Weinstein. “The social environment change can start now.”
Being encouraged to get involved, residents are starting to notice a change in the community.
“When you have a group of people trying to make a difference, it is a little more respected,” said Uzuri Pease-Greene, the junior community builder for Rebuild Potrero and public housing resident.
There used to be a lot of violence, said Pease-Greene. The young people didn’t have anything to do, there was a lot of truancy, gunshots, and there was no unity.
“Now that has gotten a lot better,” she said. “A lot of that has to do with the rebuild.”
According to the Rebuild Potrero website, they have six goals: to create a safe and secure community; to create a healthy, green, sustainable community; to provide well designed and well managed housing; to provide well designed community services and usable open space; to preserve Potrero’s positive attributes: place and views; and to build a strong community.
The plan is to create mixed income communities, said Weinstein. There will be an equal share of public housing, tax-credit financed affordable rental housing, and market rate housing.
Currently Potrero Hill is “a wealthy neighborhood with a pocket of extreme poverty,” she said.
The public housing units are in a state of disrepair, Weinstein said. They were never meant to be permanent. There are health issues, mold, and none of the units are handicap accessible.
This rebuild would also provide more employment opportunities to help stimulate the unemployment level that hovers around 70 percent, she said.
“Residents are for the most part on board,” she said. “But there is a certain level of apathy because residents have been promised changes time and time again.”
Although community members are generally excited for the change, some still have concerns.
Resident Monisha Mustapha hopes to see changes in the way that builders communicate with the residents. Although there have been community meetings with the builders, they sat by the walls and watched the community members communicate, she said. She wants to see the developers actually sit with and talk to residents about what they hope to see come out of the rebuild.
“Now because of the community building meetings, I am friends with people who live here that I probably would not have crossed paths with before,” said Mustapha. “So that has made a difference, but has that made a difference in the community at large? Not so much.”
Long time resident Maggie Lee Short hopes to see “more places for the children and families to go, more recreation, more beautification and more people working together to keep it beautiful.”
Active with the community building programs, she can earn gift cards at the end of each month for participating. If a resident attends four events they earn a $25 gift card or if they attend eight they earn a $50 gift card to Safeway.
“They have zumba tonight,” she said with a laugh. “I might take my great granddaughter. She is three. She likes the music and like to jump around.
Even the community’s youth is getting involved in these programs.
“Zumba is the best one!” said 18 year-old resident, Tahrio Sanford. “It’s tiring but it’s the best one.”
Though the process is long, Sanford is excited by the changes the rebuild will bring. The programs are good progress, she said.
Walking together is just one step in the community building process. Although building wont break ground for another three to five years, the residents are becoming more active in their community. By working together these residents strive for change.
“Instead of one person doing it, its a lot of people doing it together!” said Sanford.