The council on Tuesday – faced with neighbors who wanted to demolish Pacifico and build a new facility, housing a different population – took a decidedly middle ground in their approach seeking a new RFP (Request for Proposal) and seeking to repurpose the existing building potentially to hold other populations, but declining to identify the target population.
While I certainly sympathize with the concerns of neighbors who believe they have been subjected to a prolonged period of nuisance to which the city has been slow – until the last six months – to respond, at the same time I continue to be troubled by the language and rhetoric coming from some of the neighbors.
Back in February we called out neighbors for using racially tinged term such as “ghetto” to describe this area. Here we remain concerned that many neighbors have decided the city needs to demolish this building. Where the residents would move to under such a scenario is unclear. Remember, these are folks that are really one step away from homelessness – they are, in short, the most vulnerable of all residents.
“The only real solution that (neighbors) are feeling is that they be removed,” the mayor pro tem stated. “That’s not really a viable solution.”
The neighbors suggested low income seniors or even students would be more suitable for this location – but, then again, they have simply shifted the “less desirable” category for a lesser desirable category.
Once again I appreciated Will Arnold and his willingness to call out the neighbors here.
To those who argued against the fence, he pointed out that he lived in a house with a fence, “because I have a reasonable expectation of privacy where I live.”
He said, “The idea that we’re going to come out here and say fences aren’t necessary, these folks don’t deserve a fence, they shouldn’t have any privacy, I ought to be able to look in and see what they’re doing because they’re a menace – that doesn’t fly with me.”
Will Arnold also noted that, while he can afford not to live in a place like Pacifico, and he lived in a place “not unlike Pacifico” in college in Eugene, “would I want to live in a place like that today? No.” “Did I think it was uninhabitable?” he asked, “just because it’s not the way you would want to live, doesn’t mean it’s uninhabitable.”
He said when he spoke to residents they said, while they aren’t that crazy about the configuration, their main concern is “they’re very happy to have a roof over their heads.”
He said one of his beefs with his tenure on the council is with “the hyperbole that gets used when what we’re trying to say (is) we can do better by folks… but instead we say it’s uninhabitable.”
Will Arnold said this is not a place that’s uninhabitable, but it is a place if you can afford not to, you might not want to live there.
Despite the well considered thoughts of Mayor Pro Tem Partida and Councilmember Arnold, it is not clear that the council’s ultimate solution is that much different from the proposals of the neighbors.
As I mentioned in my column a week ago, I am not convinced that we have exhausted the possibilities for making the facility work for the current residents. Nor am I convinced that the current residents are the problem here.
To reiterate my points from a week ago – most I think went unanswered in the discussion on Tuesday – I am still not satisfied that the problems cited by the neighbors are population-based rather than management and location based. So I think the first step before making changes should be to make that determination and exhaust administrative and management remedies.
Second, Pacifico is serving a population where there are clear needs. So the second question should be – if not here, where?
The answer to that cannot be Creekside and a host of other already planned affordable housing locations because clearly they were planning for those AND Pacifico, not those INSTEAD OF Pacifico.
So, Will Arnold said the right thing noting about someone who is not in the desirable category (students, veterans, seniors, etc), “if you don’t check one of those boxes, now all of sudden there’s another place you’re not allowed to live.”
Councilmember Arnold said, “That’s not good for those folks whose alternative is Putah Creek.”
But the policy he appeared to enact seems to do exactly that – consign these current residents to homelessness because, once again, Creekside was created with a target population in mind that would be in addition to those housed at Pacifico.
My third concern listed last week was if not this population, which populations? There are clearly many populations that are in need of affordable housing. The council punted on this question for now – rightly so, but at some point they will have to make a difficult choice.
The council clearly feels the need to hit the reset button here. I’m not convinced that the problems here are endemic to this population. As I said last week, I would feel a lot better about hitting a reset and changing the population if we had better data and answers to the source of the problem to begin with.
Moreover, if we do change the population, we need to find space also for the current population. I don’t think that issue has been adequately addressed to date.
—David M. Greenwald reporting