VALLEJO – City officials estimated during a special Vallejo City Council meeting Tuesday that the number of unsheltered individuals counted in Vallejo last year was not “extremely accurate,” estimating that there are even more than the hundreds of homeless people living in the city than the county’s estimate.
The update about the state of homelessness in Vallejo also revealed that two highly anticipated supportive housing projects have been delayed for several more months past recent estimates.
Natalie Peterson, the city’s homelessness manager, said the county reported having 1,179 homeless people during the February 2022 point-in-time (PIT) count, with 454 of them living in Vallejo.
“This, we know, is not an extremely accurate number,” Peterson told the council. “If you drive around the city, you will see more than 454 unhoused individuals.”
Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz also said she believed the county undercounted the number of homeless people in Vallejo.
“It’s no secret that Vallejo has the highest unhoused community,” she said. “The PIT count is inaccurate.”
Loera-Diaz has been the leading voice on the council when it comes to homelessness, proposing to ban encampments near schools, and advocating for an area to be established where people living in recreational vehicles and cars can park safely and receive services.
The city council was scheduled to discuss the ban on encampments Tuesday night but Loera-Diaz requested that the item be delayed to March.
“I need more time to prepare,” she told the council. “There’s a lot of folks that are going to be coming in, parents, students, administrators that are in support of my ordinance.”
There has been some opposition to Loera-Diaz’s proposal, which she first floated last December following a report of shots fired at an encampment located next door to the Caliber ChangeMakers Academy on Valle Vista Avenue.
“I want it to be clear that I’m moving forward with this ordinance that I’m proposing,” she said.
City officials said that there are about 50 encampments in the city located on both city and private property. They said encampments are defined as having five or more people or five or more tents/structures.
City Attorney Veronica Nebb said in a staff report about the ban that the city already has an anti-camping ordinance, “which the City could, if alternate shelter is available, enforce against unhoused individuals camping on public property.”
“The Council could, by policy or direction to staff, prioritize encampments located in areas such as, close to schools, day care centers, or other high-risk areas identified by the Council,” Nebb said.
Loera-Diaz previously stated she envisions the unsheltered being able to shower, use the bathroom and have access to resources and counseling at the RV and car parking location.
She doubled down on that plan, stating it would be part of a 4-step process to help the city’s homeless, which also includes opening a 125-bed homeless navigation center and two supportive housing projects.
“At least we are flowing people into permanent housing inside and off the streets, which, in turn, will revitalize our economic system here in Vallejo,” Loera-Diaz said. “It will make it safer out on the street for our children.”
But the city has yet to open the promised housing projects, the council learned Tuesday that two had been delayed by months more, and the city still did not provide a firm opening date for a promised navigation center.
City officials have said that the navigation center is a top priority, but the project has been fraught with multiple issues for years, including being millions of dollars over budget and the original proposed location was found to be unfit for human habitation. The city council settled on a new location nearly a year later, when it voted in November to purchase a parcel on Broadway for the center.
“We know this is much anticipated and has taken a long and bumpy road to get here but we are well on the path moving forward,” Peterson told the council. She said that construction on the navigation center is anticipated to start this year.
The city council also received an update on the status of the two supportive housing projects. City officials revealed that the Broadway project, a 48-unit supportive housing project along Broadway Street in North Vallejo, won’t open until August. Officials had told the Solano County Board of Supervisors last month that the project would open in May.
The project could face delays as two American Canyon men filed a lawsuit to block the project last summer, arguing that it would have a negative effect on the surrounding residents.
The Broadway project will be funded in part with $12 million in state Project HomeKey funds. City officials have allocated an additional $2 million but estimate that the project will cost a total of $22 million.
Vallejo officials last month lobbied for $6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city requested $4 million in construction and furnishing costs for the Broadway project and $2 million for construction of the navigation center.
Vallejo’s chances were hindered when Supervisor Mitch Mashburn, who represents Rio Vista and rural areas of the county, argued the city request for $4 million for the housing project should be reduced to $3 million and the allocation for the navigation center should be reduced to nothing. Fellow Supervisor John Vasquez voted with Mashburn on both items. For Vallejo to get its requested funding, either Mashburn or Vasquez would have to change their vote at an upcoming meeting.
Meanwhile, the Blue Oak Landing, a 75-unit supportive housing project on Sacramento Street won’t open until May. The project had been slated to open by January, but city officials said that rain and issues with PG&E caused the delay.
Finally, the city council received an update on extreme weather centers which the city has opened to the unsheltered during the past several months. Peterson said the shelters were open 16 nights, serving 195 individuals, including many repeat users. She further said the cost was more than $5,500, with a bulk of that amount going to security.
In December, the city unveiled its new extreme weather policy, which outlines what conditions trigger the opening of at least one shelter.
The conditions include when the National Weather Service forecasts two consecutive days of either overnight lows below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, two consecutive nights of rainfall, two consecutive days with highs of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and/or the forecast of an extreme event that poses a risk to life and safety. The policy prohibits individuals from bringing pets into the shelter.
Mayor Robert McConnell asked about the chill factor and whether it could be added as a condition to opening the shelter. McConnell said he supported adjusting the number of consecutive nights of rain required to trigger opening the shelter from two to one.
“Once you get wet, you get hyperthermia,” McConnell said. “You’re going to become very ill, if not die, in one day, not two.”
Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga and Councilmember Charles Palmares were absent from the meeting.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Vallejo City Council
- Broadway Street Project
- Blue Oak Landing
- navigation center
- Natalie Peterson
- Robert McConnell
- Solano County Board of Supervisors
- Project HomeKey
- Mitch Mashburn
- John Vasquez
- Rozzana Verder-Aliga
- Charles Palmares
John Glidden is a journalist reporting on the city of Vallejo. The native Vallejoan has written for the Vallejo Times-Herald, Fairfield Daily Republic, the Appeal, and Solano Tempest.
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