, June 24, 2022

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American Canyon considers legal action to block Vallejo supportive housing

  •   4 min reads
American Canyon considers legal action to block Vallejo supportive housing
A vacant lot on Broadway next to the American Canyon Dog Park is the proposed site for a new Project HomeKey homeless housing project.

VALLEJO – American Canyon City Manager Jason B. Holley says his city is reviewing all its options – including possible legal action – to block the city of Vallejo from building a 48-unit supportive housing project near the border between the two cities.

“Our team continues to review the administrative record – as feeble as it may be – that purports to justify/support the irrevocable action taken by the Vallejo City Council during their hastily orchestrated ‘special’ meeting last week,” Holley wrote in an email to the Vallejo Sun this week.

The Vallejo City Council doubled down on the support of the project during its meeting Tuesday night by voting 4-2 to accept $12 million in state funds to build the housing project on Broadway Street in North Vallejo. Vallejo was one of five municipalities recently awarded Project HomeKey funds, a $1.45 billion program to house people without shelter or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Vallejo law requires the council to vote twice to change the municipal budget, in this case, to accept the grant funding. District 6 councilmember Cristina Arriola opposed both times, on June 7 and on Tuesday. Mayor Robert McConnell voted to accept the funding on June 7 but changed to a ‘no’ vote on Tuesday. Councilmember Hakeem Brown was absent for both votes.

Vallejo is seeking to build 47 studio apartments, each about 305 square feet, with residents expected to move in next January. The modular housing units would be supplied by Factory_OS, which is located on Mare Island. A 48th unit would be occupied by an onsite manager.

Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, District 3, defended her vote to support the project.

“We’ve heard a lot tonight about this will be our legacy, [and] listen to the people that voted you in. I fully accept this as my legacy,” Loera-Diaz said. “I feel very content with the vote that I’m about to cast. I will take this on as my legacy so my grandchildren can see what their grandmother did to help people.”

Most of the opposition has come from the city of American Canyon and some of its citizens over the lack of notice from Vallejo about the project.

Hours before the June 7 meeting, American Canyon sent a letter accusing Vallejo leaders of violating the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, when it failed to provide sufficient information as to what action the council was being asked to do. American Canyon also disputed Vallejo's interpretation regarding environmental review of the project.

Vallejo officials refuted those allegations, saying the item was properly noticed in accordance with open meeting laws, and that projects funded by Project HomeKey are exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA review provides government officials and the public with information about the possible environmental impacts of a proposed project.

City officials previously said that the project will not have debt service and will be self-sustaining as the collected rents will fund the services and staffing provided with the project. The city also said sex offenders wouldn’t be allowed and that prospective residents will be judged on their income, which must be 30% below the area median income, and qualified disability.

The cost of construction per unit is $340,000. Nonprofit Shelter Inc. will provide an onsite property manager who will live in the building.

Opponents argue the project will hurt economic development in the area and create even more problems by attracting homeless persons to the neighborhood.

“As a community in an adjacent city, we don’t understand the lack of transparency and why the city council is willing to sacrifice two residential communities, a regional commercial corridor poised for development..for just 48 units,” said Margaret Sharkey.

In response to public comments, Assistant City Manager Gillian Hayes reiterated that the proposal “is not a shelter project.”

“This is not like the Christian Help Center where people come in every day and its changing beds constantly,” Hayes told the council. “This is an apartment complex.”

Hayes said there will also be wraparound services like healthcare, mental health, and job training for the residents.

Hayes said  all 47 units would be eligible under the city’s housing voucher program. She further said that the city needs various types of housing, including shelters to provide places for people to sleep and get a hot meal, along with transitional housing to help people get back on their feet, and supportive housing which includes long-term services for residents.

Hayes said that the public will have additional chances to provide input when the council will be asked to approve contracts in connection with the project in two weeks.

“I heard a lot of people asking to remove the homeless from different locations throughout the city,” Hayes added. “We don’t have the beds to do so. It’s a great idea to say ‘I don’t like what I see on this street or x, or y, or z.’ But we don’t have anywhere to put them.”

As of the last point in time count, a biannual estimate of the county’s homeless population, there were about 1,000 people without homes in Vallejo, Hayes said.

Joey Carrizales, a longtime advocate for the city’s homeless, took issue with those opposed to the project.

“Well, the politics of fear is on full display. My friends are on drugs, my friends are this, my friends don’t want help,” Carrizales added. “My friends do not wake up early in the morning, look themselves in the mirror and say ‘I will be homeless today.’”

Carrizales said life circumstances, like the lack of access to affordable housing, substance abuse treatment and domestic violence shelters, contributed to their inability to secure shelter.

Meanwhile, Don Jordan, a local realtor in town, said the city has a housing problem.

“Our housing [has] gone through the roof and people cannot afford it,” he said. “That is why you have people living in RVs in parking lots, that is why you have people sleeping in tents under bridges and in parks, because they can’t afford it.”

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