The council heard more than an hour of public comment on Tuesday, mostly from neighbors and adjacent residents complaining about the ongoing nuisance at Pacifico. Mayor Brett Lee did not even wait for his colleagues – he jumped in with a recommendation for drastic change at the facility.
“My solution would be to change the use of the current affordable project there,” he said, asking staff to investigate the possibility of it being seniors only. His colleagues, while perhaps less explicit on the specific use, agreed with the idea that staff re-examine the usage of the facility to look at a variety of alternative resident categories in order to deal with the problems that are reported on the ground.
“The message is that all of us realize that there is a significant problem we need to address,” Dan Carson explained.
The council listened to more than an hour of public comment – almost all of it laying out in clear terms that there is an ongoing problem.
This was despite claims from both Chief Darren Pytel and Yolo Housing Authority Director Lisa Baker that the problems do not appear that severe.
Chief Pytel told the council, “This particular complex over the years has not been a particular problem.” He said, “The calls for service are not inordinate for this complex.”
But he did note that there is a need to address the wider concerns and some of the issues the neighbors are complaining about. He noted in particular the problems at the Putah Bike Path, the secluded nature of the area and the fact that there are overlapping jurisdictions with the city of Davis and Yolo and Solano Counties in close proximity.
“I can’t discount at all what the residents are feeling,” he said. “There is an increased amount of… disorder.”
The council heard it loud and clear from nearby residents.
Matthew Lang who lives on Evergreen Court complained that, while it says co-op on the sign, “It’s not exactly a co-op.” He thought he was moving next to a co-op, “We were very excited about that. It has not turned out to be what we expected to say the least.
“What I’m really concerned about is what’s happening in the city,” he said. “We are seeing a condensation of units where there is unwealth… There was never really any ghetto. There were never really any bad units.”
He complained that they are consolidating low income housing in one portion of town, “rather than spreading the burden through the entire city.”
John Slater asked that the council to no longer partner with Yolo County Housing and also find new uses for the four buildings at Pacifico.
“There have been a lot of problems with crime, but that’s not my primary concern,” he said. “My primary concern has been the response of Yolo County Housing to these problems.” He said, “They deny that there are problems.
“We have a great neighborhood with the exception of Yolo County Housing,” he said. “You are their landlords, please evict them.”
Eric Johnson disagreed with Chief Pytel that Pacifico does not have a lot of calls for service. He said that on Pacifico there is at least two calls per unit while every other property has one-half to one call per unit.
“When I look at these numbers, there are a lot of calls per actual bed at Pacifico,” he said.
Marty West was one of the few supporters of Pacifico, and she argued, “The problem in Davis is homelessness, not Pacifico.”
Mure Traverso said, “There is a huge number of Oakshade residents, all in the same mindset that we’re opposed to the Pacifico Project.” He argued, “There has been a major uptick in crime in the last two years since the Housing Authority has taken over.”
He said there are more people not here tonight that have concerns over this. He wants better transparency from the housing authority as to what’s taken place there.
Jeff Barteck talked about the unfairness of allowing these problems to go on for so long. He argued that the number of service calls is misleading. “The volume of service calls is much higher,” he said, when the fact that they are only talking about 48 units is taken into account. Moreover, “Even more troubling is the nature of the calls.”
He argued that 31 percent of the Pacifico calls are threatening. “It’s clear to me that… Pacifico is negatively impacting the neighborhood.”
Emily Darrin is the director at an adjacent apartment complex. She said, looking at the last two years, she has “no fewer than 37 incidents involving residents of Pacifico.”
A resident of Pacifico who declared not to identify herself pointed out, “There are not a lot of homes for a single mother of two.
“I understand the concerns of the residents,” she said. “But we’re not all bad, we’re not all ghetto.”
Another woman speaking on behalf of a Pacifico resident said, “They specifically told me that there has been chronic infestations of bed bugs in the complex.
“There might be some good at Pacifico,” she said. “But some sort of changeover of management is needed.”
Kumar Sah told the council, “I have stopped walking or riding my bike” through that area after seeing a person throw a bottle that almost hit another person in the head.
Kristi Friese noted, “The way that Pacifico is being managed, it’s not making our kids safe.”
Jenny with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) said that after observing people at Pacifico, “I felt that they weren’t in a living situation conducive to recovery.”
Mayor Brett Lee told his colleagues, “I have a favorable view of Yolo County Housing,” but he argued, “The big picture is important.
“I don’t believe by changing the use of Pacifico that we’re neglecting people at risk for homelessness or neglecting people in true need for affordable housing,” he said. “In fairness for the neighbors, I think we need to hit the reset and start with a cleaner slate.”
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs stated, “I’m mostly in agreement with (the mayor).” He told the community, “There is no question we’re taking this issue seriously.”
He noted, “The lack of affordable housing… is one of the most vexing local government issue that we’re all facing in California right now.”
At the same time, he noted that while the affordable communities are located throughout the city, and “issues arise in many of these communities,” but “none of them are experiencing the issues that are as acute or widespread as what’s happening at Pacifico.” He said, “We could be doing better, there’s no question.”
Councilmember Frerichs said, “We’re committing to working on and changing the issues and improving things.” He added, “I think it’s time to hit the reset button at Pacifico.”
Will Arnold said, “I am glad the council is taking a proactive approach.”
He said that as someone with a high tolerance perhaps for certain things, when he visited the site, he did see behavior that he found concerning.
He noted that Pacifico here might be getting the blame for things that aren’t necessarily Pacifico’s fault and noted that this makes it less safe for the residents of Pacifico as well.
He said, “That is the conundrum that we have in front of us – how do we help folks escape the horrors that they are facing in their lives … and do so in a way that honors all the folks that are living in the area and are neighbors?”
Councilmember Arnold concurred with his colleagues: “Hitting the reset button is fair to everyone involved.”
Mayor pro tem Gloria Partida noted, “How important it is to manage shared spaces between neighbors” and that the city must do a better job of providing “a safe place for people who otherwise would be unhoused.”
At the same time she pushed back at the notion of a ghetto.
“I grew up in the ghetto, she said. “I’ve yet to see one in Davis.” She said, “I take a little bit of offense at people stereotyping this particular population.”
Dan Carson concurred with his colleagues, noting a significant problem that needs to be addressed. “I can absolutely understand that a family going through on a bike would be alarmed,” he said, noting that “a lot of things are being reported.
“I think there are some clear steps we can take,” he said. “What can we do to make it a calmer and safer environment?”
He added that every organization would “benefit from another set of eyes.”
Will Arnold laid out the need to make physical changes, such as fencing off the area between Pacifico and the bike path to create a barrier.
Brett Lee called for looking at “possible alternative resident categories” and looking at the challenges both positive and negative to making changes.
Dan Carson pushed for third-party management review as “something we could start changing things on the ground right away.”
Brett Lee added, “Near term, near neighbor impacts that we want to review.”
Staff has now been tasked with identifying clear ways to change the conditions on the ground, both in the near term and in the foreseeable future.
—David M. Greenwald reporting