Opportunity Missed / Shared Responsibility

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By Tia Will

This piece is solely my opinion. Your opinions are appreciated and welcomed.

We frequently hear the term “throw away society” used to describe American culture today. Wikipedia provides the following definition: The throwaway society is a human society strongly influenced by consumerism. The term describes a critical view of overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items.

I suggest that our city, our leaders, our community, & our citizens have acted in exactly this way with regard to the site that previously housed Families First and will soon be the location of the Sterling development. In 2013, longstanding problems involving neglect and failure to supervise pre-teens and teens adequately at the EMQ/Families First site located on 5th St between the Post Office and Police Department spiraled out of control per police reports. The result was accusations of rape, loss of license for the facility, and a costly law suit. These events resulted in the vacancy of the facility for the past 4 years.

The facility had the capacity to house up to 60 adolescents suffering from mental health challenges, some severe. It consisted of an attractive cluster of relatively new buildings still in good
shape with many years of potential use. And yet, on my walk this morning, I found them in a state of partial demolition. I knew this was going to happen. I have loosely followed this story, have made comments on the Vanguard, but truthfully, unlike the adjacent residents who spoke against the Sterling project more forcefully, the loss of the facility did not strike me emotionally until this morning.

With regard to other projects, I have been asked by some: “Where were you when…?” The answer is nearly always the same. I was too wrapped up in other projects or my own life to pay more attention. With regard to this site, I have sincere regrets. One might wonder, “Why speak out now? It will not change anything.” With regard to the Sterling project, that is accurate. I am speaking out now, in my personal version of “What Happened” hoping that I will not make the same mistake again, and more importantly, hoping that others may become more aware of what they can do the next time we have an opportunity not to waste what we already have.

So, what could I personally have done?

  1. I could have spoken out at City Council or written letters to the Vanguard & Enterprise. I could have submitted articles. I could have tabled at Farmer’s Market to increase awareness and gain support for an alternative plan.
  2. I could have spoken at the county Board of Supervisors as I have done with other issues in the hopes of generating support for a collaborative project.
  3. I could have developed an idea based on other community needs and pitched it to organizations in town such as the interfaith community, our downtown business owners, the university, the city. We have many community needs such as housing for homeless, students and young adults transitioning from foster care, temporary housing for victims of domestic abuse, temporary housing for those undergoing addiction treatment, currently although not predictably this site could have provided emergency shelter for those displaced by natural disasters, not just student housing (although this site could potentially have housed up to sixty students by previously stated standards).
  4. As a member of the Yolo County Health Advisory Committee and the county’s Maternal Child and Adolescent Health Advisory Board I could have spoken out in either of these venues for an alternative proposal which could have been presented to the Board of Supervisors and City Council as an alternative promoted by those groups.
  5. Applied for a position on a City commission.

A current city leader expressed to me frustration about unsuccessful efforts to find an alternative proposal for this site. I do not know what efforts were made, how often, how intensely, or how far reaching. What else could our city leaders have done? I do not know. All I know is that just like my own efforts, their actions proved inadequate. The result has been the “throwing away” of an attractive and sound resource that was available to our city. I see this as a terrible waste of both the physical structures and the opportunity to house a needed program. Is it all bad? Of course not. I recognize that student housing is a true community need. But perhaps as noted at this week’s Vanguard conclave, available sites on campus might have been more appropriate given the already available space not requiring destruction of a usable facility.

Would my potential actions or those of city leaders have made any difference? Maybe not. Perhaps regardless of more intense efforts to utilize this site we would still be bulldozing those buildings today. However, I also know that our lack of action as individual citizens and community leaders guaranteed that this would be the outcome. I hope this will not repeat itself as we look to the upcoming Core Area Advisory process and the ongoing redevelopment of our city in general.



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About The Author

Tia is a graduate of UCDMC and long time resident of Davis who raised her two now adult children here. She is a local obstetrician gynecologist with special interests in preventive medicine and public health and safety. All articles and posts written by Tia are reflective only of her own opinions and are in no way a reflection of the opinions of her partners or her employer.

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22 thoughts on “Opportunity Missed / Shared Responsibility”

  1. Howard P

    Good thoughts, wrong example… many knew about potential problems with Families First before they moved from So Davis… many believed (for same or very different reasons) that the Fifth Street site was wrong place for that kind of use… but FF was politically connected, and those voices were ignored.

    It should have never been there.  THAT was the ‘waste’…

    What you see as a “waste”, I see as correcting a serious error, on many levels…

    Your overall gist is pretty much spot-on, but as I say, wrong example.

  2. Jim Hoch

    I’m not sure why transitioning a site from housing 60 people to housing 10 times that number is “throwing it away”.  I have not been following Sterling but I believe the current numbers are 570/70?

    I question whether the people who are eagerly expecting to move into Sterling would agree they are the trash.

     

    1. Tia Will Post author

      Howard

      Thanks for adding the background. Regardless of previous errors, the loss of the buildings is still a waste in my opinion, and I will stand by that portion of my comments.

    2. Tia Will Post author

      Jim

      I question whether the people who are eagerly expecting to move into Sterling would agree they are the trash.”

      While I welcome alternative points of view, I question your motives for writing such an inflammatory comment suggesting that I had said something so far from the truth of my message as to be absurd. Perhaps you missed ( or chose to ignore) my comment that student housing is a real need for our community along with a number of other needs.

      1. Jim Hoch

        “The throw–away society is a human society strongly influenced by consumerism. The term describes a critical view of overconsumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable items.”

         

      2. Jim Hoch

        Sorry Tia, busy this morning. If you want to use trash/waste metaphors in discussing housing and the people who live in said housing you are going down a hazardous path.

        1. Howard P

          “Residential treatment” was never a major part of Families First motivation… have you spoken to any families that had kids there, and heard about the “outcomes”?

          Smell the coffee… ‘theory’ is one thing.. ‘practice’ another… please don’t confuse the two…

          The problem with the convalescent home has much more to do with changes in building codes since it was built… not the need or ‘market’…

    1. Howard P

      The term “residential treatment“, is questionable as to what FF actually did…  they paid staff little, had high turnover of staff, but from whatever source of funding, they were collecting $108,000 / yr per person ‘treated’ (using Ron’s numbers).  I believe it was always a ‘politically correct’ scam.  That the politicians bought into… big time… a ‘non-profit’ whose principals never divulged their pay

      I saw one example of the physical abuse with 3 “staff” doing a pile-on of a 14-15 year old, lying on the bikepath, bleeding from the mouth, a ‘counselor’ sitting on him (literally) and having a ‘smoke’, and when I questioned what was going on, I was ‘threatened’… seconds later, called PD on my cell phone…

       

      1. Ron

        Howard:  I don’t think anyone is arguing that Families First was well-run.  However, the need for these types of services still exists, and probably the underlying government funding, as well.

        Unfortunately, it seems that Families First was allowed to “cash out” their holdings for maximum value, facilitated by a zoning change approved by the city.

  3. Don Shor

    There is a boarded-up convalescent home right around the corner that’s been vacant for a couple of years now. I’d bet it would house just about as many people as the Families First facility.

    1. Howard P

      Good concept, but building code upgrades that would be required might be a big crimp in that… which is the main reason it hasn’t been re-habbed/reopened after the fire…

      When it was built, asbestos was an ‘ok’ product for flooring and insulation… all would have to be removed/sealed today… then there are requirements for fire sprinkler, “green” things, etc. Am betting the site will need to be carefully razed, with a do-over before it can be ‘re-purposed’…

  4. Ron

    From article:  “The result has been the “throwing away” of an attractive and sound resource that was available to our city. I see this as a terrible waste of both the physical structures and the opportunity to house a needed program.”

    That’s for sure, and matches what I’ve said from the beginning.  I also noticed/observed the beginning stages of destruction of the taxpayer-supported facility.  (I previously suggested that David photograph and document its destruction, but it seems that he’s not interested.)

     

    1. Don Shor

      (I previously suggested that David photograph and document its destruction, but it seems that he’s not interested.)

      And evidently you aren’t either. Do you own a camera or smart phone?

      1. Ron

        Howard:  We’ve covered this previously.  I previously looked up the source of funding for Families First.  It was a little unclear, but it seemed that it was entirely supported by taxpayer money (for each resident). I recall figures between $9,000 – $15,000 per month, per resident (depending upon services received, while at the facility). (I believe this was also discussed separately, on the Vanguard.) That money did not come from the residents, themselves. It came from government programs.

        Is this yet another one of your pointless “trolling” questions?

        1. Ron

          Or – do you believe that some mysterious “external” private funding allowed the organization to pay the mortgage for that facility?  (With nothing expected in return?)

          Honestly, find something better to do than engage in meaningless arguments. (Other than being the Vanguard’s full-time “resident troll”.)

        2. Ron

          I should clarify that I looked up the sources of funding, but I recall the actual numbers per resident being posted in the Vanguard (perhaps in the comments section).  Someone also mentioned the base ($9,000/resident per month) figure to me, after a meeting at the facility itself.

          Again, it seems likely that the source of funding to pay off the facility itself came from taxpayers, via the “rent” paid by residents.

          I would guess that the ongoing government sources for this money have not “disappeared”.  And yet, the city (and owner) were “somehow” not able to find an organization that could continue accessing these (or similar) funds to continue operations.  Instead, there seemed (from my perspective) to be a focus to “cash out” the facility, for maximum value.  (Regardless of “need”, or even sources of funding that might have allowed a similar, but better-run operation to continue.)

          But hey – it wasn’t student housing, so I guess such needs came in second.

  5. Tia Will Post author

    I tried for some shots for this article. Unfortunately, I was on foot with the sun in exactly the wrong position to get good shots in time to post the article. Yes, it was my choice not to go back later in the day.

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