By David M. Greenwald
The council has for some time been receiving complaints about activities on the Pacifico Property from near neighbors. As a result, the council made the decision in 2019 to look at repurposing the site. Given that the site serves people in danger of homelessness, and the fact that they would have to be relocated to another site, it never made a huge amount of sense for the council to take this approach.
Nevertheless, the council put out an RFP in the summer of 2019. As staff notes, “The RFP was intentionally broad – the City was interested in receiving any proposals for the property, as the City Council was curious about all possibilities.”
The city received three proposals—one for a new market rate project, one that would serve veterans, and one that would serve low-income students. The proposer of the market rate plan removed their project from consideration in the spring of 2020.
At this point, staff is recommending that the council close the process without making a selection—they could do a new round of RFP or they could reconsider their decision, as perhaps finding a new management company will put the current usage on firmer ground.
Staff writes that both the city and Yolo County Housing (YCH) “believe it is in the best interests of the City and the property if the City secure a new property management company. YCH has agreed to continue to manage the property through the end of this fiscal year or until the City can secure a new property management company, whichever is sooner.
“City staff concurs that continuing to utilize YCH for general property management is not in the best interests of any of the stakeholders: it takes YCH away from its core mission, it is expensive for the City, the neighbors have expressed frustration, and the residents are caught in the middle,” they write.
Here is the problem that the city faces.
First, we are dealing with one of the most vulnerable populations—very low and extremely low income people, many of whom are at risk of becoming homeless. One question that seems in need of asking—are the housing and the programs at Pacifico helping to achieve the goal? How well are the people who are actually living on the site doing and is that housing allowing them to avoid homelessness?
We will have to deal with near-neighbor effects as well. One problem is that for all the complaints it was never clear to me that the chief instigators of the problem were the ones residing at Pacifico. I have not seen an update to the situation, nor has the Davis Police Department really provided a good analysis of where the problem is coming from.
I agree that the city and management of the site need to do a much better job at minimizing impacts on neighbors, and there should be a plan with metrics and ways to enforce that.
There are legal issues involved in repurposing the site as well. As a letter from City Attorney Inder Khalsa dated January 19, 2021, notes, “The location and access to the site, as well as the cooperative housing layout of the buildings, create physical constraints for development of the Property. In addition, the use of the Pacifico site is limited by certain state and federal laws, as well as financial constraints.”
Any change to the housing would require relocation of the existing tenants of Pacifico.
As Khalsa points out, “There are a number of significant legal hurdles, including changes to the law that have occurred since the City issued its RFP, that would make it difficult for the City to sell Pacifico to a market-rate developer.”
Further, “[T]here is a covenant recorded against the Property that requires it to be used as an affordable multifamily rental housing project, and rented to income-qualified individuals or households who do not exceed very low or low income levels.”
The city would also have obligations to relocate current residents and be “required to pay the tenants relocation benefits.” Khalsa states, “Depending on the specifics of a situation, relocation benefits can be very costly.”
Finally there are RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) requirements, “The Property is currently included in the City’s Housing Element as providing 96 affordable units.5 If those units are eliminated and a project is approved with fewer units by income category than stated in the Housing Element, the City will need to contemporaneously determine whether there is sufficient capacity in the Housing Element to accommodate its RHNA share.
“If there is not, the City will need to ‘identify and make available’ sites to accommodate additional units at each income level, within 180 days of approving the market-rate housing project. The City’s RHNA target more than doubled for the 2021-2029 cycle, from 1,066 units to 2,075 units, of which almost 45% must be affordable to low and very low income households, which will make this process more challenging.”
The bottom line is that there are legal and practical limitations for the repurposing of this property. But, more importantly, there are moral ones.
We have a homeless crisis that has been magnified by economic downturn, exploding housing costs, and a mental health crisis.
We need to be finding more and not less permanent supportive housing to ease this crisis. The impact of homelessness affects everyone—there are public safety and nuisance issues.
All of that points to the solution here to be finding better ways to manage this property—starting with new management makes sense—and going from there rather than attempting to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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