Mental Health Board Urges Reconsideration of Usage for Former EMQ FamiliesFirst Site

Families-First

By Bob Schelen and Cass Sylvia

There is an existing contract which will use Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) housing funds for a housing project on the site of the old Yolo General Hospital. On May 26, 2015, the Local Mental Health Board approved a motion for a joint LMHB and NAMI recommendation that asks you to review the contract for a potential opt-out. On June 13, 2015 the NAMI-Yolo Board approved the same motion.

Recent updates provided by the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Department and Yolo Housing Authority have identified changes to the project’s timeline where the completion date is extended indefinitely.

Many individuals that are in need of such services cannot wait for housing support, and we urge that you review this project to determine whether the County is able to opt-out of this contract for a few reasons: 1) Individuals with mental illness urgently need this housing with supportive services immediately; 2) Housing costs are increasing and value of the MHSA funds will not be able to meet the cost of housing in the future; and 3) An opt-out provision in the contract may help put pressure on the contractors to expedite the project timeline if they perceive the Board is willing to withdraw their support for the project and use the opt-out provisions to terminate the contract.

It has also come to our attention that a proposal for apartments on the EMQ/Families First site has been proposed to the City of Davis. It seems study should be given to this site for possible use in a “Housing First” model for the mentally ill, homeless and others that need housing in our city and county.

Therefore we would recommend that you request your County’s Administration, that may include staff from your County Counsel, the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Department, Yolo Housing Authority, and Contract Division, to review the contract provisions and submit a report to the Board to consider whether you have the authority to opt-out of the contract and inform stakeholders of these findings, so that they may support you in your efforts for alternative recommendations for a more timely completion of developing supportive housing services using MHSA Funds.

Further, that the Yolo Housing Authority, County of Yolo and City of Davis look into such an effort before approving any private use of the EMQ/Families First site.

This was a letter dated June 26 to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors. Bob Schelen is Chair of the Yolo County Local Mental Health Board and acting unanimously on their behalf. Cass Sylvia is President of NAMI-Yolo and the Elected Public Guardian of Yolo County.

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21 thoughts on “Mental Health Board Urges Reconsideration of Usage for Former EMQ FamiliesFirst Site”

  1. zaqzaq

    Couldn’t the city in conjunction with the county use condemnation procedures to acquire the former Families First property and use if to house the mentally ill and homeless?  That may be more cost effective then building something new.  CR 99 and Covell is far from the city core.

    1. David Greenwald

      Don there are other needs in the community as well. It may be in the end that you are right and this should be converted to apartments, but don’t try to shut down the discussion.

      1. Don Shor

        I urge the council to continue to process the application for private apartment development on the site. That is the most pressing housing need the community has at this time. By far.

        If there is a need for special housing for various interest groups, the council and the various interest groups can work together via a commission and 2×2’s with the county to determine the extent of the need and develop housing goals and begin to find/fund/develop sites for those needs. That need should be considered in the context of the SEVERE shortage of rental housing for young adults in this community. Those needs should not move to the head of the line. They should not sidetrack the first apartment development proposal that has come forward in years.

        1. David Greenwald

          The problem I have is – both in my article and now – you have demanded that the council completely ignore other needs which by the way are more in line with the current facility and usage. As I said, you may in the end be right that that is the best use, but if this is converted to apartments, the need for mental health facility and residential treatment will remain and those will be added costs down the line.

          1. Don Shor

            David, how do you suggest we deal with the 0.3% vacancy rate? The other needs — those you and the authors here, and undoubtedly others who represent other groups — have not been quantified. An affordable housing project was built in South Davis. Was this need addressed then? Were units set aside in that project for those released from prison, or for the mentally ill? What we seem to have now is an ad hoc approach where various people see a private site and want to grab it for their particular interest group, regardless of the proven need or how appropriate the site is for that need.

            If you want to have a discussion about housing needs, as I said: do it in an orderly manner, prove the needs, develop a strategy. Don’t just try to seize the first site that’s come along for private development.

            From Robb’s comments it sounds as though these developers will be making some units available for short-term housing. They are probably willing to accommodate some of these special needs. But first you, and now Cass and Bob, seem to be saying that the entire site should be repurposed for your particular group.

          2. David Greenwald

            Again, all I want is a discussion about how to provide for varying needs in the community. And frankly, we need to engage UCD in a discussion on housing needs and their responsibilities in providing for them.

            “From Robb’s comments it sounds as though these developers will be making some units available for short-term housing. ”

            Because when I bring up these issues with Robb Davis, his automatic reaction isn’t “No! NO! Just NO!” It’s more along the lines of let’s see how to accommodate for a multitude of needs.

          3. Don Shor

            These are not rhetorical questions:
            When the Housing Element Steering Commission met for many months in 2008, were the special needs of particular groups identified and discussed? Particularly homeless and mentally ill residents? The parolee issue has come up more recently, so it wouldn’t have been an issue then.
            When the Cannery project was discussed and approved, was there discussion about provision for housing for these groups?
            When New Harmony Affordable Housing was designed, reviewed, and approved, was there discussion about providing for these groups?
            There are a lot of interest groups in Davis with regard to housing issues. Seniors need special housing units. Young families need housing, so Dan and Rochelle worked hard to get The Cannery built. Students need housing, so UCD builds housing and reserves it exclusively for them. UCD staff needs housing, so UCD builds housing and reserves it exclusively for them. Now you wish to add parolees to the mix, and Cass and Bob wish to add the mentally ill to the list.
            Which group always gets shafted in this process? Young adults looking for rental housing, particularly those who don’t happen to be UCD students. Always.
            So if you want to convene a housing summit, or reconstitute the HESC, that would be a reasonable approach to quantifying and beginning a planning process to provide for the underserved groups that need housing. But to hold up the first private apartment proposal to come along in years in order to have your discussion just ends up shafting that same group again.
            My guess is that when you have adult-age children, or employees in their 20’s who would like to live where they work, this will become clearer to you.

        2. Davis Progressive

          don: i will let others address your questions.   i will make two key points here.  one is that in 2008, it was long before ab 109 or prop 47 which will end up driving the need for housing/ facilities for affected populations.  second, ” if you want to convene a housing summit, or reconstitute the HESC, that would be a reasonable approach to quantifying and beginning a planning process to provide for the underserved groups that need housing. But to hold up the first private apartment proposal to come along in years in order to have your discussion just ends up shafting that same group again.”  that of course ignores that you would be tearing down a facility that is really designed for those types of uses without a full community discussion on needs.  you may end up costing the state, the county, or some non-profit agency millions by doing this.

          1. Don Shor

            you may end up costing the state, the county, or some non-profit agency millions by doing this.

            This is extremely hypothetical, to put it mildly, especially since the housing needs of all these various groups haven’t been quantified. Nor is it obvious that a large facility is a better option than a dispersed model for providing housing. The site is privately owned, if I recall. We have a site that has few (some) near-neighbor issues, good access to transit, and would fill an immediate pressing need. But the proposal is to put that on hold because of these other unmet needs? Seize the property?
            What will it take to ever get apartments built in this town?

        3. Davis Progressive

          it’s not hypothetical at all both prop 47 and ab 109 shift custody to local entities and reduce in-custody time while increasing the need for drug treatment.  yolo county lacks facilities and this is a facility that could be used for such purposes, therefore tearing it down, means some other structure will have to be build – how much will that cost?  do you care?  yolo county is going to be hit harder than most because the da charged so many drug possessions as felonies.

          1. Don Shor

            means some other structure will have to be build – how much will that cost?

            Maybe. Or some other structures may have to be repurposed, such as single-family homes or some other smaller apartment units. Meanwhile we have a privately owned site with a private developer proposing a project that meets immediate needs. I can quantify those needs for you if you like. The 0.3% vacancy rate is a good starting point.

            do you care?

            Yes, but I don’t think this particular group’s need for housing moves them to the front of the very long line of local housing needs.
            By the way, we seem to be mixing the two groups in this discussion: the parolees, and the mentally ill who need residential facilities. Probably rather different housing needs, and not likely best mixed in one unit.

        4. Frankly

          Because when I bring up these issues with Robb Davis, his automatic reaction isn’t “No! NO! Just NO!” It’s more along the lines of let’s see how to accommodate for a multitude of needs.

          That is the problem with scarcity – in this case the artificial scarcity of limited real estate caused by the NIMBY, change-averse, no-growthers – is that you cannot sufficiently accommodate for a multitude of needs.  Instead you need to prioritize the needs.  If Robb Davis is racked with current indecision searching for that silver bullet of compromise that attempts to make everyone just barely satisfied, on this topic it is clear that he will not be able to make everyone just barely satisfied.   Either we prioritize the need for student and low-income housing, or we use our scarce land resources for mental health care facilities.  Someone is going to lose out on their preferred use.  Someone is going to be unhappy.  Knowing that we should just decide and move on.

          Or maybe get up on a soap box and demand and end to the NIMBY, change-averse, no-growther control of land use!  Then at least the folks that support Don and David’s preferred use will be satisfied and only the NIMBY, change-averse, no-growthers will be unhappy.

    2. Biddlin

      As I pointed out elsewhere, Don, subterranean will be the only acceptable way to build new housing in Davisville.

      There will be no end to the excuses for institutionalizing a housing shortage.

      ;>)/

      1. Davis Progressive

        i don’t see this as a housing issue, but rather an issue also on the lack of core services – mental health, drug treatment, troubled children, etc.  to me it is very telling that many in the community simply do not care about these sorts of things.

  2. Tia Will

    I usually am in complete agreement with Don on the issue of the need for increased apartments and student housing. However, I also think that all of the facts should be considered prior to decision making. I feel that it might add to the discussion if either Bob Schelen or Cass Sylvia or anyone else with the knowledge were to provide the actual numbers of how many individuals in need of this kind of housing that we are talking about.

    It is also important when weighing this consideration to realize that there is another major entity that is capable of providing student housing, namely the university, where there is no “deep pocket” advocate for those who are in need of a “housing first” approach.

    1. Davis Progressive

      if we have a housing crisis and i agree with don we do – the university has to become part of the conversation as they are part of the core cause of the problem both in brining in new students and in under-providing housing by about 40% over the average university.

  3. Mark West

    “Again, all I want is a discussion about how to provide for varying needs in the community.”

    We have a known critical need now (lack of apartments) and private money willing to address that need now.  You want to stop the project so that you can discuss spending public money that we don’t have to address a need that may or may not become critical in Davis some unknown time in the future.  This is exactly why we are so far behind in addressing our critical needs, because we have a populace that apparently believes that talking about a problem over and over again is the solution to that problem.  Acting and implementing on what we have already discussed is what addresses those needs, not more talking.

    Approve the apartment project and move on to the next issue.

  4. Tia Will

    I is agree with the concept that we should just move ahead with the apartment complex without a full accounting of needs for several reasons

    1. Needs and priorities change over time as DP points out with the needs created by props 47 and 1109

    2. Land use choices affect not only the people who are fortunate enough to secure one of the newly created apartments, but also those who may not be so fortunate and in some of our less visible, but more vulnerable populations, there may literally be nowhere else for them to go. whether or not you consider the twenty something population of which my partner and I now have four total is a best somewhat subjective.

    3. Potential negative effects on the broader community. When we are deciding who to house we are also deciding who not to house.  I am generally in favor of providing low cost housing in the form of apartments, but i do see the situation as multifactorial and feel that more fact and evidence based discussion is warranted in view of recent changes.

  5. Sam

     
    So the suggestion is to use the current 50 rooms in the current 5 duplexes on the property as mental health facility instead of building 843 bedrooms in an apartment building that is going to add 68 apartments of low income housing? What is the property going to cost to purchase? It might be cheaper to build 5 new duplexes on a smaller site than buy such a large space. I’d be interested to see the numbers.
     

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