By David M. Greenwald
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.