County Approves 90-Unit Homeless Project With Little Notice

••• “County supervisors voted unanimously to approve a contract that will result in the creation of a tiny-home community of 90 prefabricated cabins at 4500 Hollister Avenue. On the site of the county’s former Juvenile Hall, it will serve as interim supportive housing for the homeless people currently dwelling in 47 encampments nearby.” —Independent

••• And the Montecito Association spoke with Jack Lorenz of DignityMoves, the organization behind that tiny-home project, as well as the one on Santa Barbara Street , which “has been open for almost a year now, and […] of the 34 individuals that had moved into DignityMoves: Eight found jobs; nine transitioned to stable housing; 29 connected to health care, and 28 connected to mental health services; all residents work with an Intensive Care Manager to create an exit plan for their new home.”

••• That said, a reader wrote to me the day before the board of supervisors meeting with a bunch of concerns, mainly that the county has pushed this through without making the public aware of it:

There are at least three preschools along that immediate stretch, Goleta Valley Little League fields immediately next door, Page Youth Center next door (youth athletics, summer camps, a gym), Vieja Valley elementary school up the street. I am wondering if any risk assessment was conducted of the area. If someone leaves the DignityMoves compound, of their free will or asked to leave, what services are provided to relocate? Should they just walk off? Are they pre-screened for any prior risk towards children? From what I’ve found online, “chronically homeless” is defined by the County as a person or head of household with a diagnosable substance use disorder, serious mental illness, developmental disability, post traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairments resulting from brain injury, or chronic physical illness or disability. This is concerning given that most parents drop their children off for hours at a time at the Page Youth Center for sports camps and clinics.

We want those without shelter to get the services they need to improve their life circumstances, but is a location next door to children’s service centers the best place to be? Across the freeway there is County Services buildings that the BOS intends to spend millions on revamping (per meeting video archives). What about there?

All I could find in the BOS past meeting minutes for this topic was real estate lease negotiations (In closed session) for 4500 Hollister Ave with DignityMoves in September 2022. Wish they would have informed the community before entering real estate negotiations! Then I found them in the agenda item for the new lease approval vote in today’s meeting. This is a big change for this location, in this community, to only have two agenda items available to the public that provide very little info. Why aren’t they taking input from the public? Or at minimum providing information to the neighbors, such as risk assessments, from the county supervisors AND DignityMoves? I know DignityMoves opened a spot on Santa Barbara Street last Fall (Independent article). It’s “worked out well”, but per the article from the Independent there were 4 incidences (which Independent called “quiet”) within the 5 weeks they had been open that required police assistance. This is for only 30 homes. Also, this is locations is downtown where people can come and go for their needs a lot easier than along Hollister and Modoc.

She urged me to look into the matter, but I told her that I thought her energy would be better spent pressuring the supervisors directly. My guess is that they’re so hellbent on creating housing for the homeless, and well aware neighbors don’t love it anywhere, that they’re trying to keep it hush-hush. Note how when it was on the County Planning Commission agenda for May 10 (as reported here), there was no mention whatsoever of the address or that the facility would be for the homeless. I had to dig through the background materials to find the info.

••• “Jason Harris, Santa Barbara’s economic development director, is exiting City Hall after learning that City Administrator Rebecca Bjork has proposed axing his position in the upcoming 2024 budget. […] The city is facing a $1.1 million budget deficit in its $220 million general fund in 2024, and a $4.8 million shortfall in 2025.” And Harris “didn’t have a budget, or a staff, so he was charged with recruiting and retaining businesses, a tough task in the midst of Covid-19, homelessness on State Street, and in an unstable business environment.” —Noozhawk

••• “Santa Barbara County planners granted a permit this spring to a cannabis greenhouse operation called Island Breeze Farms—despite a still-pending 2021 county lawsuit accusing the grower of creating ‘a continuing public nuisance,’ failing to make progress on a zoning permit application and engaging in ‘unfair competition.’ The permit approval has confounded Carpinteria Valley residents who thought, given the legal action against Island Breeze, that the project would be shut down.” When it comes to cannabis, the board of supervisors just can’t seem to say no. —Newsmakers

••• “Santa Barbara Supervisors Vote to Reduce Jail Capacity.” —Independent

••• “Two key stretches of Highway 1 north of Ragged Point are expected to reopen to traffic by mid-July, according to Caltrans. The road agency is wrapping up work to repair damage from landslides at Dani Creek and Gilbert’s Slide. Don’t plan any trips to Carmel yet, though. There will still be one more major slide to clear before drivers can use the scenic highway to travel from San Luis Obispo County to Big Sur and beyond.” —San Luis Obispo Tribune

••• “The Carpinteria City Council ruled 3-1 to pursue alternative three—an altered version of the proposed Rincon Multi-Use Trail project that sparked controversy for impacts to paragliding and safety concerns—during a special meeting on Monday.” Rendering below. —Coastal View News


Sign up for the Siteline email newsletter and you’ll never miss a post.