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More than Grover Beach 

A proposed affordable housing/warming center will affect residents in Arroyo Grande too

I feel compelled to respond to the article "Grover Beach could have its first affordable housing project" published in the March 7 New Times. In it, the author described the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition's proposal to significantly expand homeless services at the Hillside Church including a warming center, youth dormitory housing, and affordable housing and noted that according to project proponents, "some residents have expressed concerns this project would make the homeless situation worse."

That's far from accurate. Neighborhood residents, many of whom live in Arroyo Grande since the proposal is on the Grover Beach city limit east of Oak Park, recognize that homelessness is a critical issue that needs to be addressed compassionately. But the proposal raises numerous questions.

What security measures are being proposed to address potential impacts to the existing residential neighborhood? The neighborhood has experienced a rash of crimes related to the existing warming center including: drug/alcohol use, public urination/defecation, and at least one burglary committed by a drug-addled "transient" that ended with him violently resisting arrest. The proposal is located within a half-mile of Ocean View Elementary on a major walking route for schoolchildren. The potential for more problems are obvious.

How was the location selected? The Grover Beach general plan already has an emergency shelter overlay zone in a mixed-use commercial neighborhood south of Grand Avenue. Rather than find an appropriate warming center location consistent with its general plan, Grover Beach is instead proposing to change the general plan to shoehorn the facility into a residential neighborhood with an elementary school because they found a convenient property and grant money. That's not how good public policy is implemented.

Why hasn't there been more public outreach regarding this proposal? The Hillside Church has been used as a warming center for two years without any notice to neighbors. Local residents only learned about the proposed expansion through social media and word of mouth. Furthermore, since the location is on the Grover Beach city limit east of Oak Park, it is primarily Arroyo Grande residents who will bear the impacts of the proposal. What notice did Grover Beach provide to Arroyo Grande prior to selection of the site? According to the proposal, the property is already in escrow. Neighborhood residents are feeling alienated and railroaded.

Why would emergency/transitional and affordable housing be co-located? The goal of affordable housing is to integrate disadvantaged folks into the larger community. Fair enough, but placing an emergency shelter (warming center), homeless case management services, and transitional youth housing adjacent to affordable housing is counterproductive.

The homelessness crisis is a regional challenge that requires a regional response, incorporating input from all stakeholders. Grover Beach's unilateral proposal reeks of opportunism, is not neighborly, and ultimately does the homeless a disservice. Δ

Ben Oakley writes from Arroyo Grande. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com. Or you can write your own letter to the editor and send it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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