National Community Renaissance

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 02/19/14, 11:07 AM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Before the unanimous vote to expand the affordable housing at Waterman Gardens, one of its key backers on Tuesday addressed earlier sharp criticism of the proposal and particularly of the often-repeated concern that it would bring increased socioeconomic problems.

“We’re asking detractors if they prefer the status quo or this best practice of what’s happening throughout the country,” said Dan Nackerman, president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino.

The status quo of the public housing southeast of Base Line and Waterman Avenue is notorious in San Bernardino, as online comments calling it a ghetto and worse make clear.

Some of those, Nackerman and council members said, are inaccurate stereotypes. Of the residents living in the affordable housing there now, 75 percent have a high school degree and 8 percent have a college degree, Nackerman said. Forty-five percent have full-time jobs.

One man who lived there in 1959 and 1960, Rikke Van Johnson, now sits on the City Council and made the move to approve the project.

And in terms of crime, it’s significantly lower than the areas directly to its east and west and lower than the Maplewood Homes affordable housing near the corner of Medical Center Drive and Ninth Street, said interim Police Chief Jarrod Burgan.

Nonetheless, the homes were built in 1943 — before the invasion of Normandy in World War II, as Mayor Pat Morris noted — and currently it’s no one’s idea of a model neighborhood.

The reimagined Waterman Gardens is based on crime prevention designs that Burguan said could reduce crime, and Fire Chief George Avery said the new buildings would be “one thousand percent better” in terms of fire safety.

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