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Milpas Community Association Charges Casa Esperanza with Violations of Conditional Use Permit

Today, the Milpas Community Association notified the city of Santa Barbara’s Community Development Director that Casa Esperanza is in violation of its conditional use permit (CUP). The full notification, with attachments, can be found exclusively in the PDF, left (large 8 MB file).

The city imposed operating conditions on Casa Esperanza in initial and subsequent versions of the CUP that were clearly meant to reduce impacts to the surrounding area. Two of the most important conditions imposed on the shelter that would abate problems in the area are:
1) conduct neighborhood watch / patrol to enforce the shelter’s code of conduct, and
2) perform daily outreach patrols to the surrounding area to find out what’s going on, where the problem areas are, and to encourage homeless individuals to come for services.

Casa Esperanza is not in compliance with either condition.

Casa Esperanza has applied for grant funding for a jail discharge program that is not included in the current CUP, and which represents a new category of service. The city requires modifications to a conditional use permit for any new category of service or program.
Brian Shannon, a transient arrested in Santa Maria and booked into the county jail, was relocated to Casa Esperanza by the jail-discharge program in February. He was evicted days later from the shelter into the neighborhood. On February 9th, he assaulted the manager at the Milpas McDonald’s, and was arrested. Shannon remains a transient in the Milpas area, and has continued to generate multiple calls to the police and arrests. This is but one example of the impacts to the surrounding area generated by Casa Esperanza.

Non-compliance and an increase in operating scope have created severe neighborhood impacts, as evidenced by the police report presented in the 2010 Casa Esperanza CUP progress report: nuisance, or homeless-related, crimes in the 500 ft radius surrounding Casa Esperanza have increased 472% in over the period from 1999 to 2010.

In addition to nuisance crimes, the Habit, McDonald’s, and Tri-County Produce all experienced assaults of employees, on their premises.

The CUP defers mitigation of some impacts and further definition of some conditions to the Milpas Action Task Force (MATF), created in 2004. The MATF, made up of neighbors, city and shelter staff, is supposed to make recommendations for operational changes to Casa Esperanza that would improve neighborhood conditions. MATF can define the area for neighborhood watch / patrol, for example, if shelter actually provided that patrol. Neighborhood representatives have participated fully in MATF meetings for the past 18 months, though some have attended meetings since MATF’s inception. Rather than acknowledge the impacts shelter operations cause and working to remedy those, neighborhood participants have consistently met with resistance, stalls, accusations that the concerns voiced are not legitimate, and inaction from Casa Esperanza. For example, MATF spent a year attempting to get the shelter to set a reasonable expectation for conduct in the area, even providing examples of such policies from other shelters.

The police have consistently worked to resolve area issues, but should not be expected to manage shelter clientele. With 7 years of hindsight, it’s clear that MATF is not a viable mechanism to resolve neighborhood issues, as envisioned by the city. The issues identified in the 2004 MATF report, such as public urination, crime, and trespassing are still issues 8 years later, leaving this CUP condition also unfulfilled.

With no other remedy available to the neighborhood to rectify problems in the area, notice of violation of the CUP to the city is thus necessary. The city should now perform the due diligence required by conducting a serious and detailed reevaluation of the CUP. Any CUP holder in the City of Santa Barbara would be subject to this administrative oversight.

It should be noted that there are four homeless shelters in the city. Of the three in operation on the Eastside, only Casa Esperanza consistently creates issues for the surrounding area, and has done so for over a decade. The MCA believes is that if the city simply compelled Casa Esperanza to comply with the conditions in its permit, and performed rigorous administrative oversight including imposing a limited term CUP subject to renewal every 2 years, conditions in the surrounding area, and by extension the city, could improve considerably.

Finally, this does not in any way make an argument against providing services to the homeless. There is a clear history of intent and allocation of public resources to help the homeless in Santa Barbara. Financial resources have been allocated to Casa Esperanza by the county, city and neighboring jurisdictions. If citizens do not approve of that course of action, then they must take up that matter with their elected representatives.

20 Responses to “Milpas Community Association Charges Casa Esperanza with Violations of Conditional Use Permit”

  1. Finally?

    Spending a few hours at casa every saturday to try n help I still do no biz in that area unless it can not be avoided… Its time that this shelter is RELOCATED….. goleta, airport,, Thank you milpas assoc for taking some action.

  2. Anonymous

    Again. People and neighborhoods acting when government doesnt. District Elections would help this.

  3. Sounds like we are talking about crime relocation efforts. While I agree this area has more than it’s share of problems… It’s not Casa’s sole responsibility. Just last month our police force touted the restorative type of police work. i don’t hear any complaints regarding their lack of responsibility.
    Sounds like we’re back to square one. Round them up and stuff them in jail.

    • Sorry BB, that’s hyperbole. You didn’t read very well. Casa Esperanza is supposed to provide a staffed patrol to enforce their code of conduct, as a condition of their permit, and they don’t. The police enforce the laws. Taxpayers don’t fund them to babysit homeless shelter clients because the shelter doesn’t feel like doing it. No one said round them up but you.

  4. Anonymous

    As I business owner on Milpas I have wondered for years what its going to take to have the conditions improved. Yes, there’s been new spotty police enforcement, but the cops can’t do it all. The shelter needs to do what they’re supposed to be doing with regards to security. If their going to attract people who cause problems in the neighborhood, they need to at least make them behave in the area. And whats up with the 500 foot radius? If that was the condition when the shelter was opened with 30 beds, why isn’t it much bigger now that they serve so many more people? How could the city let this happen?

  5. None of these charges stuck in 2010 when the permit was last up for review. And simply shifting the problem to another location is such an avian-guano imagined solution.

  6. The permit wasn’t ‘up for review’ in 2010. All the city ever does is host a two-year ‘progress report’ on how things are going, and Casa Esperanza always presents that things are just rosy. Neighbors always storm those hearings to protest that things are not rosy at all, and the city always turns a blind eye, and rubber stamps the progress report. Looks like they can’t do that this time…

  7. Anonymous

    So this is what it takes to get City employees to pay attention to City problems that the policies the City has implemented have caused for the hardworking taxpayers and business owners who are trying to make a living in this City. All to take care of those who aren’t even expected to lift a finger to help pay their own way. Exactly how much money do these well-paid City Community Development employees take out of our pockets to ruin our City? And we know the well-paid staff of Casa Esperanza don’t want anyone looking at what they make to do the same. Homeless Inc. indeed.No other organization or business would ever be allowed to inflict such damage on a community. Not here, not anywhere.

  8. Soul fooled

    You don’t hear about the string of problems from the Salvation Army or other shelter sites. Those should have enough for a town this size. And if the vagrants didn’t like getting a dose of religion with their handouts, they could have chosen to squat somewhere else.

    But no, our enlightened prior city council wanted a secular shelter so these poor souls would not have to get a good dose of Christian fundamentalism along with their handouts. And this is what you get – permanent drunks and bad conduct. Give ‘em some old time religion or tell ‘em to git gone.

    • Holy Moley

      Yes, Jesus would tell them to get off their duffs and do something productive with their lives. And get “God” while they are at it. There is nothing holy about letting your body be a slave to alcohol or drugs. You better believe brother, Jesus would be the first in line telling them drunkeness and sloth are sins of the highest order. Why, in heavens name, would you conclude otherwise?

  9. Soul fooled

    Yes, this activity should be re-located to the vacant land airport areas.

    The vagrants like hanging out on Milpas because it is a high activity area. They would not like the austere remoteness out in the fields around the airport, so consequently would have to choose some other more accommodating city.

    With this move, SB does its part – provide a temporary flop house of last resort, but not a constant stream of daily entertainment that permanently undermines the neighborhoods and quality of life of its own permanent retail sales tax generating residents.

    Milpas was for too long seen as the red-lined, city dumping ground, but it has transformed itself in the last few decade as a vibrant and thriving neighborhood. Casa is in the wrong place in the new realities of the thriving Milpas residential and commercial district.

  10. Anonymous

    Wow! This is likely an intentional oversight by SB and they are going to be scurrying. The amount of campaign dollars that come from Ridley Tree and the many backers of Esperanza keep things hush hush even though the area stinks

    • Soul fooled

      When Montecito money dumps problems in our back yard instead of their own, you are right. Something stinks. And it ain’t the gated estates of Montecito.

    • Soul fooled

      And Foley’s sidekick shill, Ken Williams.

    • SnLonymous

      Matt Foley = Living in a van, down by the river

  11. SB Native

    Yes you sound like a true Christian! Do you really believe Jesus would be yelling about the homeless and calling them drunks? Yeah I know – its ok God doesn’t mind if you judge and throw stones because you pay taxes so you “have the right.” Right on Amen brother. I am sure your God is looking forward to meeting you so he can tell you what a good person you have been in your life… Especially to those less fortunate.

  12. Moremoremore

    This is a great plan and surely will be met with wild enthusiasm to shift the homeless shelter to Old Town Goleta.