Commentary: Long Troubled by Some of the Comments on Pacifico

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – I have been long troubled by some of the comments made about Pacifico.  The council has taken a relatively balanced approach here and attempted to thread an important line, at once acknowledging the ongoing problems in the area as detailed by neighbors and others since 2019.  At the same time, Pacifico serves an extremely vulnerable population, and not only would shutting it down put many people in jeopardy of homelessness and perhaps worse, there is also no obvious replacement.

The approach taken by council has threaded that needle—cracking down on problems but also continuing to look at the best way to provide services.

In 2019 there was a community meeting at Montgomery on Pacifico.  It was a troubling meeting and some of the comments by community members were quite appalling.  Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by what took place downtown at the same time—the shooting and death of police Officer Natalie Corona.

In 2021, 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 on 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.”

During public comment on Tuesday, I was pleased to hear Georgina Valencia call out some of these comments.

Valencia, a former member of the Social Services Commission and current member of the Planning Commission, said that she lives in South Davis in proximity to Pacifico.

She complained that at some of the neighborhood, commission and Board of Supervisors meetings, “[t]here have been a number of public comments and concerns that frankly, in my opinion, are tantamount to nimbyism.  And I think that’s from my point of view, a real disappointment in some of our community members.”

Valencia said, “This is clearly a good use of an asset that the city and the community own it’s been sitting as already stated for a very long time not being utilized. And this project really offers a good opportunity to support families and really do the right thing for these families.”

She acknowledged, “We don’t know what’s going to happen when we move the first families in there, but my greater anxiety really is with leaving those families on the street.  It’s clearly not the right thing to do. We need to lend a hand and help people.”

What always makes these things difficult is that there were legitimate concerns about behavior and nuisance in the neighborhood.  The city absolutely had to address those concerns.  But in the end, shutting down the facility was going to deprive people in need of critical services.  The city thus had a delicate balancing act between addressing community concerns and at the same time providing critical services to those in need.

In 2021, Police Chief Darren Pytel strongly disagreed with the notion 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.”

“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.

Nevertheless, the council, while adamant about going forward with the CalWORKs project, was careful not to dismiss or disparage the concerns of the neighbors.

Mayor Gloria Partida was part of the subcommittee that worked on this for quite some time, “(We) clearly have heard the concerns of the neighborhood.  I think we’ve come a long way in understanding the problems that led to the discontent in the neighborhood.”

She said she’s hopeful that will enable them to come up with solutions “so that it can be successful for the people that really desperately need this housing.”

She added, “I think oftentimes, our citizens forget, that we have a number of programs in our community that serve members of our community that need services, that need help. And those programs have operated successfully for many, many years in our community.”

Councilmember Dan Carson said, “I am sympathetic to the problems that this neighborhood experienced, especially when I first got involved with this issue after coming on the council.”

He said that “my observation, and I look at the side, every chance I get, is that things have improved considerably and that this agreement will make things better still.”

While Carson added that, while the voices of concern of the neighborhood are valid, he noted that “the voices that are not heard are the voices of those children.  I got to tell you, we’ve got to think about that before the children and their parents get involved in programs like this.”

Last year, Councilmember Josh Chapman 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.”

There is no reason why a well-run program at Pacifico can’t be successful without producing problems for the neighbors.  Ending the programs for these vulnerable populations is not the answer—finding ways for the two to co-exist is the right thing to do.

But the key is to make sure the programs are well-run and properly supervised.

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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6 Comments

  1. Keith Y Echols

    “Troubled by some comments”…….the problem is that passionate social activists believe in the righteousness of their cause/work to a degree that it trumps common social sense.

    NIMBYism IS A RATIONAL RESPONSE.  In many neighborhoods people are so concerned about how things are in their neighborhood that they have a Home Owner’s Association that they pay money into just to make sure that their neighborhood is the way they want it.  So that the neighborhood they moved into is the same boring neighborhood and not one that has houses with permanent kid’s bounce houses, cars on cinder blocks in front yards, 100 glow in the dark pink flamingos in a yard and Christmas decorations up all year round.   People in established neighborhoods get nervous when their new neighbors aren’t a family with 2.5 kids or a nice elderly couple.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that the progressive left wing nuts need to stop demonizing NIMBYISM.  It makes far more sense to work with it and through it than simply be “troubled” alarmed or outraged at it.

    In my not so humble opinion; the solution is MORE affordable housing and shelters.   But the key is to mix all these things together.  The goal should be to have a significant mix of public workforce housing to go with lower income affordable housing and shelters.  That way the faces on  these housing projects are police officers, firefighters, city workers, teachers to go along with the lower income residents and the temporarily housed homeless people.  The presence of established members of the community will help alleviate some of the fears that NIMBYs have when affordable homes and shelters go up in their neighborhoods.  I’d also advocate that homeless people with substance abuse problems be moved to shelter and housing that is located out on the periphery.

    1. David Greenwald

      Here’s how I see it.

      Let’s say there are a bunch of guys who are causing a nuisance in front of a housing program.

      Is it rational to ask the city and the housing program to do something about it? Yes.

      Is it appropriate that the ask be that they shut down the program? No.

      That’s where I think this has gone too far – it’s not enough to treat the problem, they don’t want the housing in their neighborhood.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Is it appropriate that the ask be that they shut down the program? No.
        That’s where I think this has gone too far – it’s not enough to treat the problem, they don’t want the housing in their neighborhood.

        Again, it’s a rational response to a problem.

        What do you think the odds of the problem happening again with that population of residents?

        How much confidence to you believe neighborhoods have in the ability of the city to monitor, maintain and regulate their neighborhoods?

        Back when I had obnoxious neighbors; it took the police an hour to an hour and a half to respond to my noise complaints (an amplified band that could be heard 2 blocks away with bass that vibrated my walls).   2 weeks later the same neighbors had another amped party (again, I called the police…again…hour+ response).  A couple years later other neighbors had an amped band.  So yeah, the police come out to take care of things but it doesn’t really do much to prevent it from happening again.

        I know it’s not PC to say it but affordable and shelter in established neighborhoods looks like a skin cancer growth to residents (don’t get all offended, it’s just an analogy…..remember, I advocate for MORE affordable housing and shelters).  You can treat it but what makes you the most confident that it won’t come back/happen again is by removing it all together…..or preventing it from happening in the first place.  You can have a problem with it….these people that oppose potentially problematic things in their back yards.  But it’s a perfectly rational response.  If you had a neighbor with a dog that would every day escape and get into your lawn and chewed on the patio furniture and crped all over your yard; you’d get upset.  Then if the neighbor promised  fix things and make things better (better fence, leash…etc…) but there’s not perfect solution….so now the dog only gets loose once a month to mess up your lawn.  Is that still acceptable?  At some point; you start wishing that that neighbor would move or had never moved there.   The next thing you know there’s an HOA regulation about dogs.

        So, like I said…instead of having a problem with “it”/them/NIMBYs….work it out.  I gave my idea for a solution for affordable housing and shelters in the future.  I don’t know if it’s possible.   But simply saying there’s a problem with NIMBYs is social justice self righteousness.

        1. David Greenwald

          Do facilities of these sort tend to cause localized nuisance? The research that I have seen, says no. Therefore, there is a faulty premise going on here.

          1. David Greenwald

            Here’s a study on Navigational Centers from SF in 2018 – noteworthy that a navigational center proposal is what triggered this whole thing.

            https://hsh.sfgov.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Navigation-Center-Neighborhood-Impacts-Final-Report-1.pdf

            Conclusion: “An analysis of San Francisco Police Department data indicated that navigation centers have no effect on neighborhood crime. This analysis revealed that the number of crimes occurring near navigation centers was approximately equal to the number of crimes occurring at similar locations without centers.”

        2. Keith Y Echols

          I lived in San Francisco for a number of years.  Being separated from the homeless population makes a big difference in quality of life.  My friend had an interesting theory that the homeless don’t like hills.  He was mostly right; I lived up on a hill and didn’t see any homelessness in my immediate neighborhood but when you walked two blocks down hill you’d get closer to the Haight and lots of homeless transients.  My wife used to walk that way to work everyday and the problem was at the very least a nuisance.

          Let me put it another way.  If you put a shelter in the Tenderloin/Civic Center, Mission, SoMa, Hunters Point, Bay View….etc….yeah, you’re not changing much in terms of population distribution.  So why would there be any change in crime?  How many of those Navigational Centers were located in Pacific Heights, The Marina, Cow Hollow, Sea Cliff, Russian Hill?

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