Opinion: Salvation Army Homeless Project at City Review Board

By Anna Marie Gott

Last Monday the Salvation Army held a Community Meeting for Eastside residents to introduce their plan to convert 15 S Alisos Street into a shared 14 bed “Housing First” permanent supportive housing facility . Their goals for the meeting should have been to: introduce themselves and the project, listen to residents, dispel fears and address the neighbors’ concerns by making changes to the project. They should have also addressed the possible need for a conditional use permit (CUP) which would only permit the facility to operate under certain conditions .  Instead I believe their only goal was to hold a meeting and say they did so. Why? The project is scheduled to be seen at the Architectural Board of Review today, Monday, October 7th – without any changes or a determination on the need for a CUP.

Any goals the Salvation Army should have had beyond merely holding a meeting were not achieved. Despite a lengthy 23-minute introduction by the Salvation Army, which included a substantial explanation of its guiding philosophy and the model they use of “Prevention, Intervention and Integration”, the organizers failed in every respect to sufficiently explain the project or listen to residents. Residents came to the meeting with questions concerning: the review and approval process, zoning and operational requirements, the need for a CUP, and technical details such as background checks and lease agreements. They left with their key questions unanswered and a growing concern that the Salvation Army, a multi-billion charity, was not listening to them and did not care about how this project would affect them and their neighborhood. They also came away with the feeling that the City, with the exception of their Councilmember, Jason Dominguez, did not care about how this project would affect them.

To say the meeting was utterly mismanaged and poorly run would be an understatement. It was, in my opinion, like watching a car in slow motion take an unexpected turn, careen wildly out of control and then flip repeatedly down a hill until it landed in a mangled burning heap of metal.  – In other words, the meeting was nothing short of a giant dumpster fire.

One of the most important things the Salvation Army failed to do was to describe the homeless population they planned to provide housing for.  This population was clearly described in a letter of support for the Salvation Army’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) Grant Application, yet the Salvation Army could not artfully or consistently describe the population or explain how they intended to serve them. This left residents angry and confused.

To be clear, the letter submitted by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara (HACSB) in support of the project, and included in the HEAP Grant Application, stated that:

“Occupants of the proposed units will be selected through Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County’s Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry System, and in accordance with the core practices and components of California’s Housing First Policy.”

The Housing First Policy is designed to help the hardest-to-serve, chronically homeless population, a substantial number of whom are mentally ill. This population frequently comes directly, or nearly directly, off the streets and they are given permanent housing –  “without preconditions or any barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements.”

Once residents fully understood this, their concerns justifiably escalated. Other key aspects of the Salvation Army’s plan failed miserably in describing: the management plan for the facility, which does not include on-site managers but drop in social workers, and the terms of the lease agreements which would help to protect the quality of life of residents if the project is approved.

But perhaps the biggest concern for neighbors was the Salvation Army’s statement that NO CUP would be required. This was stated even though just hours before the meeting George Buell, the City’s Community Development Director, finally acknowledge in writing that no determination had yet been made regarding a CUP. The Salvation Army was informed of this. – This reversal is substantial and comes after almost one month of my demands that the City explain how the project could be excluded from requiring a CUP. 

In the end, Councilmember Dominquez, summed up the project, articulated the differences between the proposed project (in a residential area without any on-site 24/7 oversight) and others run by the Salvation Army (in an industrial area with on-sight 24/7 oversight and 1.6 miles from the nearest residential neighborhood) and he strongly suggested that the Salvation Army make substantial changes to gain the support of the community or face years of pushback, appeals and possible lawsuits. He also suggested that another Community Meeting be held with greater technical details for this location and that residents suggest other locations.

Instead of taking this sound advice, the Salvation Army has decided to move forward with the project unchanged.  The project will be reviewed on Monday, October 7th, by the City’s Architectural Board of Review (ABR) unchanged. Residents are urged to attend the meeting and to submit emails to the Architectural Board of Review in advance of the meeting: 

Date:   October 7, 2019
Time:  6:25 Arrival
Place: 630 Garden St.
           David Gebhard Public Meeting Room
NOTE: Spanish translation will be available during the meeting.

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Written by SBCountyLocal

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  1. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t understand housing first, and why it’s needed here. When homeless try to navigate the maze of ‘services’ offered here, they’re often turned away or presented with extremely high barriers to hit. Thus they stay homeless. Housing first (we have none here, except Wilbridge in San Roque), moves homeless indoors first, and then brings in services to make them successful in remaining housed. The present model, relying on the Housing Authority, leads to greater evictions for minor infractions, which makes more homeless, which we don’t need. The audience didn’t show up wanting a CUP, Anna Marie Gott did. A Conditional Use Permit is the city’s way of saying, ‘we have no zoning for this, so we’ll put conditions on the applicant to minimize impacts.’ That’s fine. This kind of housing is sorely needed, and it’s surprising people would rather continue to see homeless on their street than housed. They’re already part of the community. Why not help make them a better part of it? This is exactly what HEAP funding was for, but of course, NIMBYism will rule the day. Having said that, EVERY neighborhood needs to accept some housing first, not just the Eastside or Westside.

  2. It should be said Dominguez is playing this for maximum re-electability. He knows the state wants to solve homelessness. He’s running for State office and city office at the same time! He knows we need this kind of housing. So he pulled it from the original ABR hearing, and told the Salvation Army to have this ‘community forum’, which was then geared to be a total witch-burning. The neighbors weren’t even slightly open-minded. Dominguez then took the mic, saying ‘so no one changed their minds tonight, got my marching orders, thanks!’
    We all understand playing to mob sympathies in election season. It’s the natural play.
    But to that, while pretending there’s no real homeless problem, and Milpas has a big one.
    For his voters the Eastside, that was his original job to solve….

  3. We all recognize the existence of the City’s 900 homeless, the problems, and what’s required to serve the various general categories of homeless. CA Law 2018 is clear where to locate. County property by services is the best starting location. For the homeless wanting work and to reintegrate, transitional housing, not forever FREE Tax Paid Housing with no strings attached. This is a windfall better than federal Section 8. CA Taxpayers are screwed. I want free Housing for life. Don’t you?

  4. You want to know why the homeless are flocking here in unforeseen numbers?!? It’s because of self serving, budget increasing, agency ensuring programs like this! I was at the beach the other day and had a homeless guy camping in his truck brag to me about a phone call he had with a former neighbor in another state, wherein he responded to the inquiry as to when he would be back home with “I’m not coming home! Why would I?! They pay me more, will put me up, and feed me better here than anywhere else!” And this was after only a couple of days here! You want to fix the homelessness problems we have, stop making it easier to exist here for non-locals!! I am all for helping our natives who have fallen on hard times or have lost all to medical Bill’s or the like. But there needs to be some sort of qualifying criteria limiting our assistance to local natives, as in born here! And please stop feeding and paying the sign holding, corner clogging, career vagrants!

  5. A CUP allows for denial based on evidence. A CUP requires an EIR. A CUP allows for conditions to protect residents if approved. AMG lucked out and found an attorney. That attorney found a loophole. Just like AMG who has a knack for it finding loopholes. Residents might have a fighting chance here.

  6. Last month, in the men’s toilet room at the Milpas McDonald’s, I noted a vagrant (noted by his dress and obvious lack of personal hygiene) injecting himself with something. I made the obvious assumption that it was an illegal drug. As I left the building, there were two SB City police just outside the door. I reported the activity in the men’s room and was told that they have been “instructed by senior City management” not to bother with those types of (illegal) activities. With that, they got into their cars and drove away.

  7. Illegal drug use in plain sight! Just another sign that the City has gone to hell. We need a new Mayor. She is the ringleader of the City’s do-nothing-good for the residents Council. Jason Dominquez and Kristen Sneddon are the only decent Councilmembers the City has. I’d like to trade the others in for new models please.

  8. Working? Going to school? Down on their luck? Residents would fall over themselves to help. The Salvation Army IS NOT SERVING any of these homeless populations at this location. They are ONLY serving the ones who take the most services for mental health, medical and police. The one’s with severe mental health and drug or alcohol issues.

  9. Councilmember Dominguez wants to bring an item on the Housing First and the new State Laws to Council. The Eastside has more homeless services and centers for the homeless. 3 Districts have NONE? They are not pulling their weight or their fair share. Want to make a bet he never gets a second on this? The other Councilmembers want to use his District as a Dumping Ground. Only way to change that is to pass an ordinance that spreads permanent supportive housing out throughout the City.

  10. This sounds like a Cadillac driving welfare queen story. Easy living in Santa Barbara! None of the homeless people I see look like they are having a good time. Some of the people look like they have made the best of their situation, especially the ones that have managed to duct-tape their RV together and find a place to park it at night. But I’m not looking to trade places with them, are you?

  11. League of Women Voters went on record in support of CA First Housing for unvetted homeless to reside in SB City Residential Family Zones. No safety criteria. LWV is on record in support of The Salvation Army’s new all-comers Free Permanent Housing at 15 So Alisos. Who are members of LWV? What’s its mission? When did LWV get into the project review business? Why was LWV Rep unable to follow the ABR’s clearly described Public Comment Guidelines when addressing the Board? EdHat tell us more.

  12. AMG gets it. She does understand the parameters of the CA Legislated New 9/2018 CAHousing First Program. Have you read the law? The Legislative intent? It’s dangerous, misguided, wrong. Period. CA First is ‘BIG BUSINESS for NPOs’ that beats the proposed $1000/Mo universal income for all . This is free housing for life with no strings attached.
    Eastsiders know first hand what’s needed for the homeless – their lives adversely impacted by them daily. We don’t need ‘Free Permanent Housing’ in established family neighborhoods; or paid Behavior wellness employees walking our streets to count and greet. We need a plan to execute. There are all varieties of homeless: vets, those who need acute & long term care, temporary intervention, jobs, and stable housing. Others need a ticket to a campsite far from SB, or to Arizona, which does not have a homeless problem. Manhattan, Hermosa and other beach communities don’t have a problem either. Why? Free Funk Zone food, folks handing out fives and tens, and free ocean front living on the beach attracts bums, gypsies, freeloaders. Let’s take care of our sick, our vets, and those seeking a hand up. We’re compassionate and generous. Please do read the new CA laws that are give aways to sustain and expand dependency. Then please help SB find and fund the campaigns of prepared independent candidates so we can stop voting DCC selected, controlled subordinates into positions requiring results-focused leadership. Allow police to enforce laws. Require Council Reps, School Board, and the DA to uphold theirs Oaths of Office to support the laws of both the federal and State Constitutions. SB is sinking. We must push back on Sacramento, to effectively solve community matters starting with homelessness and CA First.

  13. The fact that you are still confusing our current homeless population which are nearly universally mentally ill, criminals, and drug addicts with people that are down on their luck is the problem. Psychiatrists at every major AMC know the difference but the left has sold us on the lie that our current explosion, in the best economy in over 50 years, are just regular folks that are just transiently without jobs. It is simply not true.

  14. It’s really sad to see the anger and negativity towards “the homeless”. The unfortunate people we see on the streets who are obviously homeless and have drug and mental health problems – while they deserve attention and assistance as well, they do not represent everyone who is homeless. Most homeless people don’t hang out on a street corner. Many work or go to school, and they are trying to make their lives better. I hope we can be a more compassionate society and find ways to help others who need it. Providing opportunities for shelter is one way to do that.

  15. There are a bunch of sober living houses in my neighborhood, and I haven’t heard that the people there have caused a lot of trouble for the neighbors. And they don’t require a CUP. And if you are against any new program to help the homeless, then you will get to enjoy the same situation that many of you complain about here on this forum. You can’t have it both ways. What do you think Jesus would do?

  16. The difference between my comments and theirs, is I am not relating extremely negative stories without anyway to prove how true they are. I am usually either offering my opinion or providing info from published stories from legitimate sources. If I saw someone in a McD’s bathroom engaged in illegal activities where kids could be exposed, and two cops were also there, you can be sure that I would raise a huge stink until they did something about it. At the very least I would have gotten their badge numbers and reported them to the City and their chief to make sure that this is what they are being paid handsome salaries to do.

  17. Well Pitmix, it was dark and the cops were next to their cars. So no way to get their badge numbers and they didn’t continue the conversation after telling me they had been instructed not to bother with stuff like that. For all I know they were just BSing me because they din’t want to deal with it. And there were no other witnesses. So I left. Have a nice day dis’ing people that would like to make this a better community.

  18. This comment by an anonymous internet person must be true, and we should make important conclusions about our future actions based on it. Not. I’m sure cops would blame city management for their lack of inaction because that is in keeping with their code of conduct. Not.

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