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CDBG COMPLAINT for Somerville MA program year 2010/2011


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These Comments/Complaint were submitted to show the Somerville, MA Department of Strategic Planning and Community Development ("OSPCD") a sampling of barriers that continue to deny individuals with disAbilities equal, fair and usable opportunities to be employed or otherwise participate within these HUD-funded Somerville programs.

The comments in this 7-page document are structured as follows:
page 1: Introduction.
pages 2-4 Housing.
page 5: Creating a More Decent Environment.
page 6: Expanding Economic Opportunities. page 7: Conclusion.

The City's response came after much prodding, and was merely a document of denial, containing misleading information as well. see City's response at:

Published in: News & Politics
  • These Comments/Complaint is submitted to show the City Department a sampling of barriers that continue to prevent residents with disAbilities fair and equal opportunities to be employed or otherwise participate within Somerville's CDBG programs. The comments are structured as follows: page 1 Introduction. pages 2-4 Housing issues. page 5: Creating a More Decent Environment issues. page 6: Expanding Economic Opportunities. page 7: Conclusion.

    3 clarifications are necessary:
    on page 2:
    - the '76.4% of residents non-Elderly' is taken from the City's own tally published in its 2009 Analysis of Impediments report;
    - the 3% SHI percent only includes those units which are listed on the Massachusetts Access Registry (totaling 83 units);

    on page 5:

    the 2 streetscapes projects of Clarendon Hill driveway plus Burnham/Powder House totalled $75,300. The remainder of the ADA Streetscape funding is slated to be applied to the Prospect Street/Somerville Avenue sidewalks in Ward 2.
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CDBG COMPLAINT for Somerville MA program year 2010/2011

  1. 1. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 Overall, the City of Somerville continues to operate and create new HUD-fnded programs that are inaccessible and unusable for the 19.5% of residents over the age of 5 who are disAbled.1 The City of Somerville continues to demonstrate a failure to meaningfully assess critical needs of minority low income residents, and to program HUD funds with activities to meet these crucial community development and housing needs. (See CFR 24570.2 and CFR 24 part 570.) These comments especially note this failure with regard to families with disAbilities, a significant minority in Somerville, and who comprise over 30% of the below-poverty population of Somerville.2 These comments provide only a sampling of issues to demonstrate how, for each of the three HUD National Objectives, the City fails to eliminate barriers to equal opportunity, fails to expand economic and affordable housing opportunities, and fails to examine and eradicate blight and substandard environmental conditions for minority- especially disAbility minority- low- income residents, while using HUD funds. There exists an urgent and unacknowledged need for the City of Somerville to plan for, and accomplish an updated and comprehensive Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan immediately in order to meet its obligations and responsibilities to provide residents with disAbilities inclusive and equal opportunities within all municipal departments, services and activities. This writer has requested the City of Somerville to use CDBG funds to accomplish these critical tasks since 2005, 3 yet the Office of Sponsored Programs and Community Development (OSPCD) has failed to respond to these urgent community issues in any meaningful way, in direct violation of HUD's Citizen participation regulations and intent. Therefore, these comments are also being sent directly to the Board of Alderman leadership in Housing and Community Development Committee and the Chair of BOA Capital Needs Committee with an urgent request: Please place an order to OSPCD to read and respond to this COMPLAINT, in writing, and immediately. 1 2008 ACS. Table S1810. Disability Characteristics. Total population: 75,834 minus population under 5 years (N= 3,968) = 71,866. With a disAbility over 5 years of age: 14,022, or 19.5%. 2 2008. ACS. Table S2201. Food Stamps. See "Disability Status." 3 SEE: feldman Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 1 of 7
  2. 2. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 I. Housing: 1. The City of Somerville fraudulently certifies that it is affirmatively furthering Fair Housing. The fact is that residents with disAbilities, are, for the most part, confined to substandard, environmentally inaccessible housing in poverty-concentration areas of the City; and, the City is failing to investigate the conditions, analyze current data, or create and implement any plan to overcome the overwhelming impediments that greet disabled residents every step of the way4. The City's "updated" 2009 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing (AI) is an insubstantial and ineffective document. It fails to address the critical needs of residents with disAbilities and merely restates stereotypical and inaccurate assumptions, utilizing more current American Community Survey data. The detailed response to the AI questionnaire, which was provided by the all- volunteer Community Access and Inclusion Project, was entirely ignored. That response is found here: with-dis-abilities-2009 This 2009 AI carries forward ignorant claims, such as that: "...most individuals [with disAbilities] have reached retirement and common ailments associated with aging have set in." (page 12, Somerville AI); and continues to restate unsubstantiated misconceptions regarding on-the-ground realities for residents with disAbilities, such as this misapplication of the Census disability questions to define disAbilities as: "Many people with disability status are fully functioning and not necessarily impaired by their disability to gain access to buildings or opportunities for employment." (page 12, Somerville AI) The known facts are that • 76.4% of disAbled residents are not Seniors; • Somerville's subsidized housing inventory (SHI) contains less than 3% accessible, affordable rental units5; • 36% of families on the Section 8 waiting list of the Somerville Housing Authority have at least one member with at least one disAbility6; and • families with disabilities represent at least 16% of the public housing waitlist7. 4 see Census 2000 Data Maps, percent of individuals with disAbilities by Block Group, for a clear visual representation of the poverty concentrations of residents with disAbilities in Somerville, MA, ages 5 - 21, 21 - 64, and 65 and older. 5 Department of Housing and Community Development Chapter 40B Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) as of September 29, 2009 6 City of Somerville Five Year Consolidated Plan 2008-2013, Section One: Housing, page 36. TABLE 27: HOUSING NEEDS OF FAMILIES ON SECTION 8 WAITLIST Of 70,200 families, 23,256 self- identify as Families with Disabilities. There is approximately 10% turnover annually. 7 City of Somerville Five Year Consolidated Plan 2008-2013, Section One: Housing, page 37. Of total 4,221 families, 684 self-identify as families with disabilities. There is an 11% annual turnover. Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 2 of 7
  3. 3. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 Yet the 2009 AI still carries forward the City of Somerville's lack of knowledge and expertise capacity to adhere to UFAS and State Architectural Access code with a sense of helpless resignation, and fails to identify any meaningful action steps to overcome the impediments caused by a dearth of accessible housing stock. Instead, the City of Somerville , using inaccurate and unfounded assumptions, and without any foundational cost estimates or baseline architectural audits or assessments, claims : "Given that much of Somerville’s housing stock was built prior to 1940, and prior to the federal laws requiring accessibility, very few units in Somerville are truly accessible and significant modifications are needed in most buildings to comply with ADA requirements. Since the provision of accessible units depends on new construction, the city of Somerville’s capacity to provide these units is very limited as there is very little developable land in the City and most particularly, during this housing market downturn, a fewer housing development is occurring in the City." The fact is, the City's Building Inspectors and designated ADA Coordinator have continually demonstrated a lack of expertise and knowledge regarding architectural and communications standards, and have continually allowed programs, rehabilitations and renovations to proceed without acknowledging and correcting code and regulation violations and without proactively and progressively monitoring and coordinating municipal efforts to eradicate barriers in a maximally feasible step-by-step manner. 2. When viewed in its entirety, the City's Fair Housing offices, Special Housing Division offices, and chosen CHDO are each violation of the ADA and Section 504, by failing to make their programs readily accessible and usable to residents with disAbilities in the most integrated manner possible. a. Regarding the use of HUD HOME funding, the City of Somerville operates its Special Housing programs and its Fair Housing Commission out of a facility (City Hall Annex) which is not readily usable and is, in fact, inaccessible, for individuals with mobility, sensory and communications impairments. b. The City's chosen Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) is the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). The Offices for SCC are not accessible to individuals with mobility impairments, and the policies and programs of SCC are not operated in a manner that considers the environmental, cultural, social and economic needs of individuals with physical, sensory and communications disAbilities, irregardless of race and ethnicity, who should be afforded equitable representation and employment opportunities at this CHDO. The Executive Director of SCC has evaded repeated requests to discuss these issues directly, face to face, including the request to do a walk-through together to review the barriers that meet an individual using a wheelchair, once they reach the locked door to this organization's offices and find a barely readable sign informing them to "phone staff inside." Thus, this CHDO is in violation of Section 504 and HUD's regulations at 24 CFR parts 8 and 9. Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 3 of 7
  4. 4. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 c. In addition, SCC's completed HOME projects clearly demonstrate a failure to provide an accessible route connecting all accessible elements to primary function areas, public sidewalks and transportation. Below, the Linden Street apartments- 42 units created by SCC in 2002- do not provide sidewalk accessibility. here, we see the lack of curbcuts surrounding this project. Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 4 of 7
  5. 5. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 II. CREATING A MORE DECENT ENVIRONMENT The City has used a substantial portion of its limited CDBG "ADA Streetscape Improvements" programming in 2009 in a non-Low/Moderate Income (LMI) area. In 2009, the city used over $73,000 to improve the driveway for Clarendon Hill Towers, which had just received a loan commitment of up to $23.3 million from MassHousing in order to renovate and refinance the property; and used the remainder to improve 2 ramps and one bumpout in a non LMI area: Burnham and Powder House. This demonstrates a lack of CDBG programming to address the most critical community needs that have been deferred because of lack of municipal resources. Meanwhile, the City continues to neglect the crucial need to Self-Assess and create a Transition Plan for the City's entire inventory of sidewalk facilities; and, with specific relevance to Somerville's CDBG planning, the crucial need to address sidewalks and crosswalk impediments within the NRSAs. For example, recent street reconstructions for both Otis and Cross streets violated the requirements of ADA Standards § 4.1.6(3)(a) and § 4.7 by failing to improve, to the maximum extent feasible, the sidewalks, crosswalks, and other pedestrian amenities. At this particular location in East Somerville, the sidewalks and crosswalks surrounding the Edgarly School, and including the bus stops located outside this public school continue to be dangerous, inaccessible, and wholly unusable for children as well as residents of all ages that have any balance, sensory, and physical impairments. Below photo of curbcut at Cross Street at Brook, showing curbcut with running slope of 13.1% (should not exceed maximum slope of 8.3% and should be a perpendicular, not apex, curbcut). Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 5 of 7
  6. 6. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 III. EXPANDING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES Using CDBG funding, the City of Somerville creates new and inaccessible programs, such as the Design Annex out of Union Square Main Streets (USMS) program, which, in 2009: • constructed a new office space containing a mezzanine level that is wholly inaccessible and in violation of State Architectural Access code at 521 CMR; and • opened its doors without first addressing the lack of an accessible entrance, accessible routes from public transportation to the door; accessible common areas, and usable signage at its facility; and • In addition, these issues were brought directly to the USMS Director, who dismissed and ignored them, using the rational that "people with mobility issues have come here and they haven't complained. Is the City therefore stating a policy whereby it will attend to, and "hear" information, guidance and complaints about lack of accessibility and systemic violations of Section 504, the ADA and HUD regulations at 24 CFR parts 8 and 9-- ONLY if such issues and complaints are brought forward exclusively by individuals with non-hidden mobility disAbilities? Below, Union Square Main Street offices are within this facility at 67-70 Union Square. We see the inaccessible 2-tiered stepped entrance, which has no usable signage to direct people with mobility disAbilities looking to find a way inside. To the right of the building, behind the stacked chairs, is an unusable and inaccessible portable lift which currently has an expired temporary certificate. Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 6 of 7
  7. 7. City of Somerville COMPLAINT. Submitted during Public comment period for HUD Plan PY10/11 This concludes a sampling of how the City of Somerville, using its HUD Entitlement funding, carries out programs that exclude one of the largest and lowest income minorities in Somerville: residents with disAbilities. I look forward to a timely and direct response to each of these issues and stand at the ready to lead the City to do the right thing. Please do not procrastinate another moment. Thank you. Eileen Feldman Union Square (Ward 3), Somerville resident Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project cc: At-large Alderman John Connolly, President Board of Alderman FY 10/11 Alderwoman Rebeka Gewirtz, BOA Vice-President and Chair, Housing and Community Development At-large Alderman William White, Chair, Capital Planning At-large Alderman Dennis Sullivan , BOA Housing and Community Development Alderman Walter Pero, BOA Housing and Community Development Committee Eileen Feldman, Director, Community Access & Inclusion Project. Somerville, MA Ward 3. page 7 of 7