Thursday, December 13, 2018

Give our homeless seniors the gift of a home at Heritage Square South



Please join us at the Pasadena City Council on Monday, December 17, when they will finally consider using city-owned property at Heritage Square South for housing homeless seniors. If you can't make it, please email our City Council via the city clerk: mjomsky@cityofpasadena.net




Here are twelve talking points:

Talking Points for Homeless Housing at Heritage Square South

We are urging our City Council to support permanent supportive housing at Heritage Square South for the following reasons:
  1. 1Homeless housing makes a community safer and is good for business. 
    2.     Overconcentration is not a problem for gentrifying areas like Northwest Pasadena. According to our Housing Director, “Affordable housing in all its forms is the best way to combat gentrification.” Furthermore, the overconcentration policy doesn’t apply to Heritage Square South since it is not an inclusionary project.
    3.     Homeless housing is a better option for this neighborhood than selling this property for exclusively commercial development and forfeiting over a million dollars to HUD.
    4.     Selling this property for commercial development doesn’t make economic sense. It makes sense to invest in the community with a city-funded project.
    5.     This project has overwhelming support of the community in Vice Mayor John Kennedy's District. 
    6.     This site is ideal for homeless seniors, according to our Housing Director.
    7.     We can be sure that those housed in Heritage Square South supportive housing will be from Pasadena.
    8.     With a city-funded homeless housing project, we can guarantee it will generate local jobs and beautify the neighborhood. There is no guarantee that exclusively commercial development will generate a single job for Pasadena residents.
    9.     The need for supportive housing for Pasadena’s homeless residents is growing rapidly and needs to be addressed now.
    10.  There are huge financial benefits for housing homeless seniors. 
    11.  Heritage Square South was originally intended for affordable housing and is considered an “affordable housing asset.” 

    Talking Point #1: Homeless housing makes a community safer and is good for business.  Public safety is a big concern and that’s why we feel you should support housing homeless seniors at Heritage Square South.  According to Donna Hess, the property manager at Heritage Square North, crime rate has gone down 11% near this property. When this property was a vacant lot, it was used for petty crime. We can expect a similar reduction in crime once Heritage Square South is developed. Mr. Huang produced a video showing why permanent supportive housing benefits a community. This documentary makes it clear why police support permanent supportive housing. Police would rather be apprehending real criminals than hassling homeless people. A police sergeant in Sacramento was quoted recently as saying, “You can’t arrest your way out of homelessness.” Retired Police Chief Sanchez was a big supporter of affordable housing. He said, “Despite some of the stereotypes, affordable housing doesn’t impact crime. It doesn’t erode the quality of life. They’re highly regulated. They are highly monitored.” Lieutenant Mark Goodman, added, “The safety level is actually enhanced, because you are taking people from off the street and putting them into a situation that’[1]s stable.”’
    Studies confirm that housing the homeless deters crime and makes our communities safer. The Justice Policy Institute states: “An increase in spending on housing is associated with a decrease in violent crime at the national level and a decrease in incarceration rates at the state level An increase in spending on housing and community development paired with a decrease in spending on corrections is associated with both lower crime rates and lower prison incarceration rates’” [2]In other words, the more you spend on affordable and homeless housing, the less you need to spend on jails!
    This makes sense. When homeless people are in permanent supportive housing, they can receive help with their substance abuse issues and are less likely to commit petty crimes.
    Housing the homeless is also good for business.
     In this documentary Paul Little, CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said, “Local businesses don’t feel the impact of permanent supportive housing. If there is an impact, it’s a positive one because there are fewer people in doorways, fewer people sleeping on sidewalks, or under bridges.”
    The documentary provides perspectives from realtors, homeowners, and housing advocates, all of whom agree that permanent affordable housing is not only good for homeless people, it is also good for the community.
    We have canvassed businesses around South Heritage Square who agree and have signed petitions supporting homeless housing on this site. They would like to see homeless people off the streets and housed with dignity. They agree with Paul Little and the police that permanent supportive housing is good for business and makes our community safer.   

    Talking Point 2. Overconcentration is not a problem for gentrifying areas like Northwest Pasadena. According to our Housing Director, “Affordable housing in all its forms is the best way to combat gentrification.” I am here to speak on behalf of housing homeless at Heritage Square South. I’d like first to clarify a policy matter regarding over concentration of affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena.
    The issue of over concentration has been brought up as a reason not to have homeless housing at Heritage Square South,
    It is important to note, however, that this policy applies only to off-site inclusionary affordable housing projects, such as the one that Mr. Gordo wanted to replace a blighted liquor store in his district. Under the inclusionary policy passed by the City Council in 2001, such a site could not be developed with inclusionary funds. The Council decided to pass an exception for this project and also for the Lincoln project. Both are affordable home ownership projects.
    I think that the City Council was wise to make these exceptions since Northwest Pasadena needs more affordable housing. For a similar reason, it would also be wise to allow homeless housing to be built at Heritage Square South.
    But Heritage Square South is not an inclusionary offsite project, so there is no need to make an exception to current policy.[3] I have checked with Bill Huang as well as with the wording of the policy, and it is very clear that it doesn’t apply in this case.
     With the help of Kim Douglas, a retired Cal Tech reference library who now serves on the Northwest Commission, Jill and Anthony have written a report showing that the overconcentration policy is obsolete and needs to end in Northwest Pasadena. The policy no longer makes sense because Northwest Pasadena has become gentrified and there is an urgent need for more affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena so that “legacy” residents including the African American and Latino community aren’t forced to leave.
     Not only do we want to end blight of a defunct gas station and a problem liquor store, we need to end the blight of homelessness and prevent so many from being displaced from NW Pasadena. William Huang has stated, “Affordable housing in all its forms is the best way to combat gentrification.”

    Talking Point 3: Homeless housing is a better option for this neighborhood than selling this property for exclusively commercial development and forfeiting over a million dollars.  Mr Gordo, I know you care deeply about creating a family-friendly neighborhood and you are also pro-union since you served as an attorney for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. That’s why we feel you should support permanent supportive housing for homeless seniors at North Heritage.
    As you know, there are many elderly seniors living on the streets in your district and they have nowhere to go. Many are long-term residents of this area who have ended up on the street because of rising rents. If we could house 69 of them at Heritage Square North, it would improve the quality of life for all residents in your neighborhood. I am sure you are aware that homeless people forced to sleep on the street can create unsanitary conditions and disturb families and businesses.
    Your constituents do not like seeing homeless people in their area. That’s why when Vice Mayor Kennedy asked residents what they wanted at Heritage Square South, 80% wanted homeless housing and 80% opposed selling this affordable housing asset for exclusively commercial use. Your constituents have the right idea. It is much better to house our homeless neighbors with dignity than to let them live on the streets. Getting homeless seniors off the streets of Northwest Pasadena will make our community safer for families and better for business. 
    Talking Point #4: Selling this property for commercial development doesn’t make economic sense. It makes sense to invest in the community. I’m sure you all realize that your constituents are very upset that the City Council gave away nearly half a million dollars in funds slated for homeless housing because it didn’t have a homeless or very low income project in the pipeline. Your constituents will be even more outraged if you decide to sell Heritage Square South and forfeit over two million dollars to HUD and Redevelopment funds. If this property is sold to a commercial developer, not only would the City lose HUD funding, we would lose the opportunity to ensure that construction is done by union labor that will pay a fair wage. If this property is sold for commercial development, there is no guarantee that there will local hires, local contractors, or local materials used. There is no way to compel a commercial developer to hire union labor. In fact, there is no way to guarantee that a commercial developer will hire a single Pasadena resident.  If this is s a city-funded project, we can require local hires, local contractors, and local materials. It will also require hiring workers at prevailing wage, which usually means union workers.  Heritage Square North generated 7 million dollars of economic development in the city of Pasadena. Bill Huang says it is possible to have commercial development and permanent supportive housing on this site, which would be even better for the community. The time to act is now while HUD and other funding is available for permanent supportive housing. As Mr. Wilson said,   "We're eight years into an economic growth cycle, and I'm deeply concerned about the magnitude of this challenge when the economy's behind our backs. We really owe it to ourselves and our community to be clever now, when frankly we have the luxury to solve some of this without a gun to our heads, because I can imagine when the business cycle turns, what those homeless numbers are going to look like." Mr. Wilson is right. We need to be clever now and approve using Heritage Square South for homeless housing.
    Talking Point 5: This project has overwhelming support of the community in Vice Mayor John Kennedy's District.  In many areas of our City, NIMBYism prevents homeless housing from being built. I am grateful that this City Council continues to support motel conversion, even though the initial roll out of this policy didn’t go well. NIMBYism isn’t a problem in Northwest Pasadena, however. Residents here want affordable and homeless housing. During a community meeting in March, 80% of the community supported using this site for affordable housing and 80% opposed using this site only for commercial development. See Kennedy’s survey results: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-25G2T2Y68/  Religious leaders and churches have signed over 400 letters in support of homeless housing for seniors, and two prayers vigil on the property attracted 20 and 60 people, many from the nearby neighborhood. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which comprises most of the African American churches in this area, supports using Heritage Square South for homeless housing.   We have gone door to door surveying businesses and neighbors and most were willing to sign petitions of support, which were sent to the City Council. 
    Talking Point 6: This property is ideal for homeless seniors, according to our Housing Director. Supportive housing for seniors is the best option for this site because it is located on a busy commercial intersection, which is not ideal for families. Furthermore, families need more parking than do seniors and that would reduce the number of individuals who could be served, and also limit mixed use commercial development (restaurants require lots of parking). This site is better suited for seniors because it is close to already existing senior housing, a CVS, grocery stores and restaurants, and medical facilities (easily accessible by bus). Supportive housing for homeless seniors is fundable because of Measure H and other sources. Finally, the need is urgent, with the number of homeless seniors (those over 50 years of age) increasing 65% in three years, from 153 in 2016 to 253 in 2018. (Of these, 174 are unsheltered.)
    Talking Point 7: We can be sure that those housed in Heritage Square South supportive housing will be from Pasadena. Mr. Hampton, we know that you are concerned that projects like these benefit the community you serve. According to Bill Huang, the City can give preference to Pasadena residents and to homeless seniors, of which there are 253 living on the streets of our city. It is likely that the vast majority of those housed will be homeless Pasadena seniors, many of whom will likely be from District 3. Almost all the current residents of Heritage Square North are from Northwest Pasadena. 30% are African American, 25% are Hispanic, 22% are Caucasians, and 18% are Asian. The 2018 Homeless Count shows that 36% of the homeless population are African American and 28% are Hispanic, and 48% are white. Heritage Square South will be a great benefit to the residents of Northwest Pasadena since it will house around 10% of our homeless residents.
    Talking Point 8: If the property is mixed use, including supportive housing, we can guarantee it will generate local jobs and beautify the neighborhood. I am speaking out in support of using Heritage Square South for homeless housing because it will benefit the economic development of our community and beautify the neighborhood. The City can require local hires for affordable and homeless housing. For Heritage Square North, 20% were local hires, and 60% of materials used were purchased locally.  Supportive housing would provide economic benefits to the local community in ways that commercial development could not guarantee. Heritage Square left $ 7 million in the City because of its policy to provide local contracts and supplies. Unlike city funded affordable housing projects, there is no requirement for commercial developers to hire local contractors. Nor are commercial ventures required to hire local employees. Therefore, commercial development would not necessarily provide any jobs for local residents nor would there be any requirement for material to be purchased locally. It makes much better economic sense for the City to invest in homeless housing in an area where such housing is urgently needed. . Furthermore, affordable housing like Summit Grove or Heritage Square North is not a stigma, but an asset to the community. They add beauty to the neighborhood.
    Talking Point 9: The need for supportive housing for Pasadena’s homeless residents is growing rapidly. Homeless service providers have testified to this Council many times that the lack of homeless housing in this city is making very hard for them to find housing for those who are homeless. The number of unsheltered homeless residents in our City increased 33% in the past year. The number of homeless seniors has increased 65% in the past three years.  Since there is no supportive housing in the city pipeline, this number of homeless residents will undoubtedly increase over the next few years. There is a need to create multiple homeless housing projects, both short- and long-term.  Reducing our homeless population by providing housing will make our community safer and better for business.
    Talking Point 10: There are huge financial benefits for housing homeless seniors. Homeless seniors are likely to cost society more money in health care than younger and healthier homeless residents. Given the City’s budget crunch, it makes more economic sense to house homeless seniors in facilities with services provided by the County’s Measure H funding than to let them sicken and die on the streets, with various agencies in the City footing enormous medical bills. A Rand study showed that housing homeless residents has saved the county $1.20 for every dollar spent on housing and supportive services. According to an Economic Roundtable study, the cost of dealing with a homeless individual in LA County is around $5038 per month, vs $605 per month when they are provided with supportive housing. These costs increase with the age of homeless individuals. Based on this study, we can estimate the cost to Pasadena of having 69 homeless seniors living on the street to be around $4,171,464 per year. Housing them in supportive housing would run around $500,940, a savings of $3,670,524. This would be a huge financial benefit to our City. 
    Talking Point 11: Heritage Square South was originally intended for affordable housing and is considered an “affordable housing asset.” According to Bill Huang, the North and South Heritage Square property was originally purchased in different parcels over a period of time by the City with HUD and other funding for affordable housing, starting in 2004. For political reasons, it was bifurcated in 2011 with the understanding that Heritage Square North would be used for affordable senior housing, and the southern part primarily for commercial use. When the state ended Redevelopment, however, the City changed its tune. The state wanted the City to sell the property and give them the proceeds, but the City argued that the property was an affordable housing asset and would be used for affordable housing. The state allowed the City to keep the property for this purpose. The City’s intention for this property has shifted over time, but it is currently designated for affordable housing. If it is sold for commercial use, the City must use the proceeds for affordable housing and will forfeit over a million dollars in HUD funding.





    [1] https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article170828122.html
    [3] See Inclusionary Regulations Updated 12/28/17. This policy clearly applies only to inclusionary units:  “(v) Over concentration.  The proposed construction of the Inclusionary Units on the parcel proposed shall not result in an over concentration of low income housing in any specific neighborhood.  As used herein, an “over concentration” exists when either 50 rental units legally restricted (by means of a recorded instrument) to occupancy by Very Low and/or Low Income Households are located within one-eighth mile from the parcel proposed for the off-site Inclusionary Units, or when 200 rental units legally restricted (by means of a recorded instrument) to occupancy by Very Low and/or Low Income Households are located within one-quarter mile from the parcel proposed for the off-site Inclusionary Units.” (p. 7).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Voyage to Peace and Justice in Hawaii: Our 7th Anniversary Poem


Seventh Anniversary Poem
By Jill and Anthony

Seven years ago came a moment quite thrilling:
Said Anthony to Jill: I’m willing
To be your husband, will you be my wife?
She said “ok” and we began our new life.
Wed in the city of roses, we flew on wings of love
To isles of breathtaking beaches, to the cooing of Quaker peace doves.

Anthony said, Let’s go back for a two-week vacation
A time of re-creation and of celebration.
So we returned to a place that made us glad—
The Quaker “book nook,” our honeymoon pad.
We broke fast each day with David and Jenny, resident Friends,
And had conversations we didn’t want to end.

Day two:  Jill had a lesson on the hula dance,
While Anthony sat and watched, utterly entranced.
Jill’s teacher Lani-Girl studied hula from age three
And shared with us her broken life and God’s healing mystery.
With God’s help she chose a song that deeply touched our hearts
And taught Jill one of Hawaii’s most beautiful arts.

Day three: we worshipped with Friends and asked for healing prayer.
So good to be in a circle of friends who care!
Over Pali highway to Kailua, a beach with birds and kids at play
And the birdman of Kailua, a highlight of our day,
Along with turquoise waters and gorgeous white sand.
We  topped off our day with dinner at Yogurtland!

Day four: anniversary was spent with two married priests,
Wally and Gigi, men of social justice and peace.
On the way to  Gigi’s farm Wally took us on a tour
And showed us a thousand affordable homes he’d developed for the poor.
We arrived at the farm on a beautiful day
Where sustainable farming was on display.
A model where kids can learn to grow plants and find joy.
A place of peace and love for every girl and  boy:
Farm critters and fish as well as tropical fruits of all kinds.
Respect for the earth, for native beliefs, for body, soul and mind
What God is doing through these men made us impressed:
We felt we had come to a place that’s truly blessed.
Next day back to Kailua and Lanikai, a beach nearby,
Where the sands were softer and whiter, under a glorious sky.
(Another dinner at Yogurtland: no need to wonder why!)

Day five: our anniversary dinner at a fancy hotel
Was overpriced, underwhelming, and we were bored as hell.
Servings were small, with “carrot reduction”
Their feeble attempt at culinary seduction.
We longed for a rowdy luau, but got lost in the dark.
When we finally got home, we barely managed to spark.

Day six:  Olivia, a tropical storm, came and went.
So glad that much of her fury was spent.
At the arboretum we saw unreal tropical trees
With cannon balls and sausage fruit swaying in the breeze.
At a high school farmer’s market we purchased a Thai meal
Which we ate at a volcanic cliffside that was utterly surreal
with multi-colored rounded rocks in swirling and curling bands.
After pausing in awe and wonder, we went back to Yogurtland.

Day seven: we spent on the Big Island in Kona at Sarah’s b ‘n b,
Called Magic Mountain, where they grow organic fruit and coffee.
We spent the morning at Manini, a stunning volcanic beach,
Where fish darted through clear waters beyond our reach.
It was here at the beach, by the deep blue sky and sea,
That we heard the sad results of Jill’s biopsy—
News which God had prepared Jill to hear.
We left the seaside feeling numb, but without fear.

We picked up a hitchhiker named Kevin who worked at Loco Wraps.
He took our order for a jackfruit delight and other snacks.
while the rain poured down like a waterfall.

Then came the sun and we went out and had a ball
At the international senior hula festival.
Somehow we got in, even though it was sold out,
A wonderful stroke of luck without a doubt.
We loved the hula dancing that touched our souls and hearts,
And told the story of Hawai’i through its subtle arts.
We had a poki bowl with Mahi Mahi, a delicious fish,
As yummy a dish as anyone could wish!


We then drove over the Saddle Road between the mighty breasts
Of Mona Loa and Mona Kea, who made this island blessed.
Out of fire and fury, came a place of peace and bliss.
(To make this line rhyme, we stopped for a honeymoon kiss.)
There the military had placed its command center, a base
Where half the world could be destroyed. What a disgrace!

We arrived just in time in Hilo
for a peace vigil at the PO
Where Amelia, an 88-year-old Quaker with white hair
Sat  blissfully in her yard chair,
peace signs on the grass at her feet,
hoping that we could one day defeat
the military might that lurked in high places.
Jim Albertini passed out leaflets with the happy faces
Of those who worked at Auschwitz, unaware
Or not caring what horrors happened there.
Not unlike the happy folks of Hilo, who lived not far
From where the military planned horrendous war.
At Albertini’s farm we heard amazing tales
Of work he did for peace, and times he spent in jail.
He lives off the grid, apart from the systems of war—
A nuclear-free world is what he’s striving for.
Since 9/11 he never missed a demonstration
And sets an example for our war-addicted nation
And those who came to Hilo for a vacation.
He is unrelenting, like a prophet of old,
His conscience clear as a mountain stream, his heart as pure as gold.
May we all be inspired to help his peaceful vision to unfold!

We ventured  to the seaside home of Rick and Tom
And took artistic “pics”  that pleased Jill’s artist mom:
In their backyard were lava flows like abstract works of art.
The kindness of these men also touched our hearts:
They picked from the crevices of lava flow,
White pineapple for breakfast that made our hearts glow
plus tapioca, Jill’s favorite dessert, how did this dear men know?

On our way to Hilo we saw a quarter million macadamia trees
Whose nuts world-famous Mona Loa sends overseas:
Prepared in diverse ways to please
(Chocolate covered is one of our favorite specialties.)
Back in Hilo there were old time shops by the sea
Where we felt a sense of warm community.
Our window of time was all too brief
Just enough to shop—for Jill, a great relief.
To her delight she found artistic clothes to buy
So pretty that she couldn’t help but cry.
While Anthony sat without a care
Reading his kindle on the husband chair.

We went to Rainbow Falls whose waters broil like a vat.
And then to the peaceful, multileveled home of Brenda and Pat.
They served a sumptuous meal and danced the hula together
To our delight, with gestures light as a feather.
Then Pat told us the trials that he’d been through
On his recent cancer journey, and now felt good as new.

Next day, after meeting for worship, we went where lava’d erupted,
Hundreds of homes destroyed, and lives disrupted.
At a farmer’s market we met a woman whose home was burned to ash.
But she was chill and her hopes had not been dashed.
By the lava beach we met a man named Bruce who was so downcast,
His tale of loss so tragic, we prayed for his woes to pass.

Then we saw a sight that gave us hope and joy:
Tiny homes for those whose homes had been destroyed
Built by a Catholic Church… their church land well employed!
As we drove on, an elderly gal named Robin hitched a ride
To a gas station, where old friends she espied:
A woman who lived in a tiny home, and a man who helped to build ‘em.
So good to see how a sense of community fulfilled ‘em!

Rather than take the Saddle Road, we went along the sea
And drove through a town named Volcano, and saw an art gallery.
There we learned that at dusk sea turtles came to black sand beach.
We found a host of turtles there, almost within our reach,
Amazing living boulder, sunning on the sand.
Returning to our b ‘n’ b, darkness filled the land
Along with pouring rain that made it hard to drive.
We feared we might not make it back alive.
This drive was the hardest part of our entire trip.
The curvy roads made Jill feel terrified, and sick.

Next morning we flew out to glorious Kauai
And marveled at the beauty of the islands we passed by.
Welcomed at the airport, we were utterly enchanted
By the lovely countryside, and the condo that we rented.
We entered Hawaiian time, we lost track of our days,
No need to number them, we loved Hawaiian ways.
We took a river cruise and saw fern grot, a gorgeous spot
Where thousands of couples came to tie the knot.
As roosters everywhere went cockledoodle-doing,
We settled down for a time that was renewing
Resting by the pool or in the hot tub we sat brewing.
With a view of the ocean, and the nearby beach,
Markets and restaurants, all within our reach,
We passed our time without a car or care.
At a farmer’s market an Hawaiian carved with joy and skill
A coconut, and told amazing stories and we drank our fill.
Then we went on a quest for the perfect bathing suit
And found a flowery one that made Jill look real cute.
We stopped at a little funky town that had the best ice cream.
Then drove up to a spot as lovely as a dream.
The grand canyon of Kauai, with rocks and clay bright red,
Colored like a rainbow, with white clouds overhead.
We felt as if we had come to heaven’s door.
But coming back we saw a place that was so poor
The roads were dirt, the homes ramshackle.
Such poverty amidst such riches raised our hackles!
With one main highway circling round the isle
We found ourselves in traffic jams LA style.
Our last day we went to a light house on the north shore
And passed by many an antique store
That made Jill wish we could have stayed for more.

Returning to Honolulu, we dined with Carolyn Stevenson,
Whose daughter died of cancer.  She shed tears of deep compassion.
We were joined by a Quaker named John, a commissioner who oversees
The state’s affordable housing and development of communities.
The food was not so great, but these Friends were a delight.
We’re glad that this was how we spent our final Hawaiian night.
A perfect end to a perfect trip! We had such a wonderful time
We decided to turn it all into this memorable rhyme!