Could a CalWORKS Proposal Work for Pacifico?

By David M. Greenwald

Davis, CA – The city has been looking at ways to revamp and repurpose the Pacifico property for several years now, following community complaints about nuisances on the current affordable housing site as well as the city’s own concerns about Yolo County Housing.

While the city put out a RFQ (request for quotes) to see what interest there would be, they declined to act on any of the proposals.  Yolo County has now approached the city with a proposal to master lease the two vacant buildings for a CalWORKS Housing Support Program.

According to the county’s proposal, the units would be used as short-term—two to three month—housing units for CalWORKS families, “which will eliminate the costly and non-family friendly motels that the County currently utilizes for this population.”

This would enable the county to assist families “in quickly obtaining permanent housing and to provide wrap-around supports to families to foster housing retention.”

According to the county, “The program provides 100% State funding to local counties to assist homeless CalWORKs families with rent, bills, credit repair, home needs and just about anything else to stabilize a family in crisis. Recipients are also provided case management, food, medical, cash, childcare, education, mental health and substance abuse supports through regular CalWORKs (CW) program. Once the family is stable, the program assists them in attaining self-sufficiency.”

Currently the county has similar master lease programs in West Sacramento and Woodland, but does not have a location in Davis.

The county would do a five-year master lease which would enable them to fully utilize both of the vacant buildings.

This would generate “a stable source of revenue for the City to be able to put back into the property as a whole and to provide funding for other affordable housing/homelessness programs in the community.”

Currently, Pacifico is a city-owned affordable housing development.  Two of the four buildings are currently vacant and have been vacant for the past decade. They require rehabilitation prior to occupancy. The remaining two buildings are rented to low income individuals/households.

When the Pacifico property was originally developed in 1999, it was to serve as affordable housing—a cooperative housing project aimed at students, with rents restricted.  Ten years later, finding a lack of interest by UC Davis students and an unsustainable vacancy rate, the property was foreclosed and the city took ownership.

With the city in ownership, Yolo County Housing (YCH) took over the management of the property.  Currently the project has 33 occupied rooms, residents are at the very to extremely low end of the income spectrum and many are at risk for homelessness.

According to staff, “YCH and the City both 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.”

In January, staff sought additional council direction on how to proceed with the search and selection of a qualified property management company for Pacifico.

One of the concerns was the cost of running Pacifico.  The other was that two of the buildings required rehabilitation.  One of the big advantages of this proposal is it actually provides revenue to the city, provides short-term housing for homeless families (one of the original designed uses) and better utilizes current vacant Pacifico Units.

While there have been considerable neighborhood concerns about the current use, staff characterized the response as mixed.

Some had concerns “about the proposal changing the character of the broader neighborhood and frustration about current residents and lack of oversight at Pacifico.”

However, “others were cautiously optimistic that the CalWorks proposal would fill a need and could be beneficial if managed appropriately.”

Neighbors expressed concerns about about traffic and additional people stemming from support services, as well as increased density on the site.

In addition staff writes: “While the majority of their concerns centered on current issues with their own living quarters, they asked whether the site was appropriate for children, particularly given the existing layout of the buildings; whether there would be adequate supervision, service provision, and maintenance with the proposed program; and whether the proposed use would take resources and attention away from addressing needs in the two occupied buildings.”

Staff points out the master lease “would provide a consistent revenue stream for the property, which would not only stabilize the finances of the property but could also be used to assist with maintenance and/or service needs for the other, currently occupied portion of the property, while maintaining very low rents.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Alan Miller

    The whole place sounds like a money suck.  Has anyone ever done a history as to how this place got built, under what subsidies and pretenses, and with a building layout so poorly designed that so few wanted to live in that there were vacancies during a time of near-zero occupancy?  That takes some real try, almost like someone got to pocket a whole lot of government money to build something that sounded good on paper and in sound bites for grant-purposes, but had never been tried, and somehow the taxpayers of Davis continue to foot the bill for the mistake.  This should all be documented so that it never happens again.

    If these two buildings are used for this new program, do the old buildings remain in their current use?  Considering all the trouble reported there, is that a good environment for children?  And I assume the states rehabilitate the vacant buildings?  Are they even worth ‘saving’ ?

    I remember the early days of Pacifico, with students out on the balconies and lawn, with a cool cooperative feel.  A friend lived there and liked the place.  Oh how the mighty Pacifico has fallen.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Has anyone ever done a history as to how this place got built, under what subsidies and pretenses, and with a building layout so poorly designed that so few wanted to live in that there were vacancies during a time of near-zero occupancy?

      There are a number folk folk who have pieces of that history… different perspectives, each from their own involvement… mine was technical… site plan, utilities (not a real issue, today)… the ones who truly know, including the developer (dec.) are either dead or retired… not everything was put in writing, and given records retention policies, even those that did exist, are not easily accessible, and may have been destroyed… not a “cover-up”, but it has been a very long time.

      I know of no one who had ‘source information’, nor anyone who has even bothered to try in the recent past (5 yrs)… before that there was no apparent need to “build the record”… and report out on it…

      I recommend the view that “it is what it is”, and “where do we go from here?”… I see nothing productive in trying to reconstruct the past in this case.

      I will say that I and others questioned the viability of the project from the get-go, but were not in a position to influence the process, except on purely technical (utilities, circulation) grounds (and those were fine).

      Saying this as someone who ‘was there’, but only to a limited extent…


      1. Alan Miller

        Could you at least say:

        Did developers of project get grant money to develop an idea for ‘affordable’ design that wasn’t tested for financial viability?
        What your viability concerns were?
        Why you don’t think understanding the past might help us keep from repeating it?

  2. Bill Marshall

    Did developers of project get grant money to develop an idea for ‘affordable’ design that wasn’t tested for financial viability?

    Don’t know for sure… they got credit for ‘affordable housing’ requirements… up to others to view that as a ‘grant’ or ‘subsidy’… not my area at that time (or, since)… one hint might be that the City has ownership of it… might have been a loan or other mechanism…

    What your viability concerns were?

    I personally, thought the marketing was too restrictive (students, particularly foreign students)… as I recall, it was a Japanese entity that proposed it to the developer (McDonald?), and served as a ‘sugar-daddy’ in either financing, or guaranteeing financing… hint… “Pacifico” might have multiple meanings, might mean ‘peace’, might mean cross-Pacific ocean, might mean a lot of things…

    Why you don’t think understanding the past might help us keep from repeating it?

    I still think it would be wasted effort… the developer, shall we say, was a ‘unique individual’… very quirky, many ways… but my sense was he ‘meant well’, and I had no negative dealings with him.  He also developed Sharps and Flats (McDonald was a pretty good musician), and the bulk of the property known previously as Waggener Ranch… the foreign (not disparaging, but was somewhat unique) entity involvement was ‘different’… the whole development ‘world’ has changed since then… not sure the past would have any bearing on the present.

    Alan, I have laid all my cards on the table… no gaming, no bluff, no agenda, no regrets.  Hope you have known me well enough to respect that… if not, can’t help you… your issue, not mine…

    Only sources I can think of is in the agendas, staff reports, minutes of that time… those are the only records that I can think of that may still be retrievable, and I cannot guarantee that.

    Frankly (although I’m not), Alan, I don’t give a damn, about the older (origins) history… I do care about the future… said as someone who loves history, and the notion it can be informative… in this case, I believe there is no instructive information to be gained… except, perhaps, the most recent history… THAT could be VERY informative… but wasn’t there for that… so can’t speak to that, credibly… so I’ll Rhett it alone… need to end, as the Butler is trying to get my attention…

    1. Alan Miller

      Wouldn’t want you to ignore the Butler . . .

      Thanks for the slice of history from your view, that was helpful . . . and gives insight as to just how complex and odd that situation was.  Maybe it does serve little purpose to understand that site.  It seems very unique – it’s not like we have such costly city-owned failures such as that all over town.

      OK, I’ll set the sights on the future.  What a challenging place.

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