Deborah Gibson and Herman Travis have been residents for 13 years at Holly Courts – the first public housing project built in San Francisco. Located in a diverse, single-family neighborhood, Holly Courts sits adjacent to Junipera Serra Elementary School Center and Holly Park.
Before moving into Holly Courts, they lived in Oakland, California. Originally from San Antonio, Deborah came to the San Francisco area at the age of three and Herman moved to the area from Mississippi.
Deborah has been on the Resident Council for Holly Courts since 2009, serving as president since 2015. Herman, who Deborah describes as "the Number 1 Husband," runs the food bank program at Holly Courts and personally delivers food to seniors in the building itself and in the neighborhood.
Before Holly Courts went through the RAD program it had drug problems, mold, mildew, and rodent issues.
The five-phase renovation project started in November of 2015 and the final phase was completed in May 2017.
It takes about 90 days to renovate a unit, and there are 118 affordable family units in Holly Courts.
Deborah and Herman were one of the few families who moved into another Holly Courts unit while theirs was being renovated. Most residents were temporarily relocated to other affordable units within the city.
"As residents, we were concerned about what would happen with our furniture, but it was placed in storage for us."
The anxiety and fears of tenants around the renovation process was eased by using relocation specialists. A relocation specialist met with each family before moving them to minimize the impact of their temporary relocation. Specialists took into consideration where children went to school, the various places of employment, transportation needs, and the specific needs of senior residents.
Residents were updated on the project through biweekly meetings. These same meetings provided the opportunity for developers to get feedback from residents and address issues and concerns before they became problems.
"We were initially nervous about the whole project, but after the work was done, we were very happy."
"Before the renovation, we hated to come back to our unit because it was dark. Now it's light and airy and we love walking into our home."
Some of the greatest changes to come about from the RAD project include the removal of mold and mildew; new floors; new kitchen appliances and cabinets; fresh paint and bathroom upgrades; electrical improvements and increased lighting that has turned the dark units into light and airy spaces; and a new ventilation system.