Moved to Marin City tenant over rat infestation

The Marin Housing Authority has agreed to provide an emergency Section 8 housing voucher to a Golden Gate Village tenant with rats in his apartment.

Tierra Foster said she sent her 10-year-old son to live with his grandfather over Christmas because his walls smelled of dead rats.

“I’ve been requesting to move for months,” Foster said in late December. But in the last three months the problem has become worse. Yesterday, they found a large rat dead under my bathroom sink. I have dead rats in my walls and my house smells really bad.”

She said the housing authority initially offered to shift her to an adjoining public housing building where one of her brothers lives, but she declined the offer.

“That unit has cockroaches,” said Foster, who said some of his neighbors in the 21-apartment building he vacated have told him they also have rats in their homes. “I don’t want to go from one issue to another.”

The housing authority has been battling the insects for years. The issue was front and center during Supervisor Judy Arnold’s 2018 re-election campaign in 2018. Arnold’s challenger Tony Schauer made living conditions at Golden Gate Village an issue. A video on Schauer’s campaign website featured a picture of a dead mouse in a trap.

Following the departure of director Lewis Jordan this month, the housing authority’s interim director Kimberly Carroll wrote in an email that she had looked into the situation and “found that this unit has a long history of repairs and issues.”

“Our maintenance staff have tried to respond to the many repairs that have been required in this unit, however, we have determined that a more comprehensive approach is needed,” Carroll said. “To that end we have relocated the resident so that we can do the necessary exploration and work out a more comprehensive renovation plan with a vendor.”

“Our pest control vendor is not reporting an increase in rodents, and we are continuing to address all of these concerns as they have been reported to us,” Carroll said.

Jordan told supervisors at a 2018 housing authority meeting that the authority has spent about $18,000 on pest control since mid-April 2018 and destroyed seven rats and 15 rats.

After that meeting, Carroll said the authority changed pest control vendors from Applied Pest Services to ATCO Pest Control. Last week, Carroll said the authority pays ATCO $70,000 a year for pest control services.

“We also have some reports of cockroaches in this 300-unit complex that we address with this vendor,” Carroll said.

ATCO uses Marin County’s “integrated pest management” approach, which prohibits the use of most pesticides and other chemicals harmful to the environment.

Instead of using venom to help control rats like Applied Pest Services, ATCO distributed about 304 baited snap traps across the 32-acre Golden Gate Village property.

Initially, the Authority paid ATCOs to monitor the traps on a weekly basis. An ATCO representative with an authorization asset manager removed the dead worms from the trap and reset them.

“Marin Housing Authority turned it back to monthly. We still have 300 traps there, but they are being checked once a month, not weekly,” ATCO commercial and property management supervisor Jeremy Noland said on Monday.

“Half the time they aren’t checking all the traps, they need to properly seal the holes in the walls,” said Royce Macklemore, president of the Golden Gate Village Resident Council.

Noland said that when the ATCO detects holes in the walls inside or outside the apartment, it notifies the housing authority so that it can make repairs. ATCO also applies an eco-friendly essential oil made from rosemary, peppermint and wintergreen — made from rosemary, peppermint and wintergreen — around the perimeter of buildings to repel rodents and other crawling insects.

Noland said the rat population in Golden Gate Village hasn’t grown significantly until recently, based on the number of rodents caught in the trap.