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).
CASA ESPERANZA NOT COMPLYING WITH CITY CONDITIONS
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 JAIL DISCHARGE PROGRAM EXCEEDS SCOPE OF PERMIT
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.
CRIMES INCREASED 472% OVER 10 YEAR PERIOD OF SHELTER OPERATION, 5 ASSAULTS ON AREA BUSINESS EMPLOYEES THIS YEAR
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.
CITY-CREATED MILPAS ACTION TASK FORCE INEFFECTIVE IN RESOLVING ISSUES
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.
CASA ESPERANZA STANDS ALONE-OTHER HOMELESS SHELTERS ARE GOOD NEIGHBORS
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.