By David M. Greenwald
I don’t disagree that there are ongoing problems in the area around Pacifico as detailed by a number of neighbors over the last few years, but the link to Pacifico itself has always been somewhat dubious. Just as important is the fact that Pacifico serves an extremely vulnerable population, and shutting them down creates a situation where there is not an obvious replacement.
On Tuesday, Chief Darren Pytel as well as newly-elected Councilmember Josh Chapman and Mayor Gloria Partida have done a good job dispelling some of these persistent rumors.
“I do hear the concerns of the citizens living in that area,” Mayor Partida said, and empathized with their experiences and how traumatic that can be when they feel their safety is at risk.
But she also pushed back on the notion that it has “been a terrible hotspot of all things lawless.
“We didn’t hear about any of those instances and any of those problems until the Yolo County social services decided they were going to put a navigation center on the site,” she said. “Suddenly everyone came forward.”
I was at the meeting at Montgomery Elementary’s packed library that night, two years ago, when citizens, many of them extremely angry at the navigation center proposal, hijacked the meeting from county officials and used it as a pulpit for general complaints about Pacifico—and also its vulnerable population.
It was an appalling meeting, though it was quickly overshadowed by what took place elsewhere that night. While we were at the meeting, we first got reports of shots fired on Fifth Street in downtown Davis, a lockdown and shelter in place order and, finally, later that evening, the tragic news about the death of Natalie Corona.
Gloria Partida referenced that night, noting that it was a “terrible juxtaposition of neighbors that were up in arms about how dare we try to put this center that is going to help people with mental health issues in their neighborhood and at that very moment there was a person with mental health issues that shot and killed this beautiful wonderful promising police officer.
“We didn’t hear anything about any of the issues that had gone for ten years until there was this possibility of there being this center on the site,” she said. She acknowledged this was not a good place for that center to go. “That doesn’t mean it’s not a good place for a well run and managed location for people who need housing.”
Probably the most powerful rebuke to the neighbors came from Chief Darren Pytel who forcefully pushed back on the idea that Pacifico is a crime hotspot or is driving crime increases in the city, or even in South Davis.
Chief Pytel noted that some “are trying to say that everything that is occurring in South Davis, everything bad that’s occurring is because of Pacifico.”
He said, “That’s not really necessarily true—certainly the calls for service at Pacifico don’t bear it out. Nor are our contacts with actual residents at Pacifico bearing that out.”
He said there were increased calls for service at Pacifico, but “quite honestly we are dealing with increased calls for service all over town.”
He said he doesn’t discount that there is increased crime and disorder, “because there certainly is,” but “it’s really not Pacifico that’s really the root of the problem.
“I’ll be the first one to be concerned about increasing crime rates in town, but I don’t think this complex is the driver of it,” he said.
Is that convincing enough to dispel the notion that Pacifico is a big problem spot? It seems like we should be driven by data rather than the loudest voices in the room—especially when the vulnerable here, the residents of Pacifico, are themselves relatively voiceless.
Again0—I don’t want to dismiss the concerns about the neighbors. We definitely need to take steps to make sure that they are not experiencing safety risks and trauma. But it should be data driven.
Here Chief Pytel addressed the issue of drugs.
“We really aren’t getting any calls about overt drug use,” he said. “We’re certainly not arresting residents who are engaged in drug sales or things like that.
“We do have a pretty significant drug problem in Davis,” he acknowledged. “The price of methamphetamine dropped. We have a lot of meth users. We are dealing with a lot of heroin. This complex is not popping up on our radar as being one of the problems in town in terms of either sales or users.
“We’re not tracking anything going on there,” he said. There are no hotspots or reports of issues there. “I don’t think that the drug problem there is quite honestly different than a lot of other places that are seeing use.”
What I don’t think I fully understand is that, to a person, the council seemed to agree with the need to address the issue of housing for these vulnerable populations, and they acknowledged that they are not believing that Pacifico is driving the problem of crime. And yet their fix is not only to move for new management of Pacifico, which seems like a good move, but also to issue another RFP which could repurpose it—which may not be feasible or even necessary.
Why wouldn’t we see first if new management doesn’t produce a better outcome? Also if we are not convinced Pacifico is the driver of problems here, why would we expect new management to improve the situation? Or even a repurposed Pacifico?
That is the part I can’t wrap my mind around.
I agree with Josh Chapman’s comments as well, He said this is a much larger issue than just Pacifico, and he spoke to the obligation of those in the community to look after and care for vulnerable populations. He said that responsibility needs to be balanced against issues of safety for the neighbors.
He said the narrative has been spun in such a way as a choice between providing housing for at-risk members of the community and safety for the neighbors—and he believes we can have both.
“That isn’t a choice that I want to make,” he said. “I think we can do both.
“People who experience homelessness experience trauma, and it’s important to get them housed,” he said. He noted a 30 percent increase in homelessness, with 190 people unhoused. “To me it’s just not the time to pull that back.”
But again, I am wondering how the council action jibes with the world of each of the councilmembers.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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