Oakmont News Staff Report
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors refused to back Chairman Susan Gorin’s efforts to close Los Guillicos Village (LGV) for the homeless and voted instead to continue it as is until such time as Gorin and staff are able to locate an alternative site in eastern Sonoma County.
The vote came after lengthy public comments. More than seven hours of recorded comments, the vast majority wanting the site closed, were sent to supervisors after residents learned late last week of the possibility of making LGV a permanent shelter and removing all of the security and transportation services that have been provided since the village opened in March. Several Oakmont residents sought immediate closure because of fire season.
“If there’s a fire in there, I am guessing there is a potential for legal action because you’ve been advised,” said Elaine Bennett in one of several hundred live and recorded messages. She said the shelter at Los Guilicos “is wrong on so many levels… No one appreciates your deceit. I hope it comes back to bite you.”
OVA President Steve Spanier said legal action is a possibility. “Los Guilicos was always the wrong location for a homeless shelter – that will never change,” he said. “Today’s vote by the county Board of Supervisors to continue LGV despite hundreds of written objections and seven hours of recorded dissent illustrates why people lose faith in government. There was no outreach, virtually no warning that a previous promise was about to be broken, inadequate explanation of the near-term rationale for this action and no real indication how this action fits into a coherent long-term plan.
“While I appreciate the service the supervisors provide and acknowledge the difficulty of their job just now, this seems both Keystone Kops-like and deceptive at the same time. The decision made today was slid under the radar, and we will continue to explore ways to force a reversal of this dangerous act.”
Some supervisors apologized to Oakmont for not including residents in the planning process to establish the site in the first place, but they said the residents are overstating their fears about crime and fire.
“No homeless person has ever started a fire with a cigarette,” said Supervisor James Gore, who represents the northern part of the county. He blamed the fires on (PG&E) mismanagement.
“The fire danger can’t be underestimated,” Gorin countered. “Everyone is scared to death.”
She said she wants the site moved to the Sonoma area where services are available, and said she has initiated conversations with Sonoma Mayor Logan Harvey. “I won’t support it (a site) without community outreach. It was done to me before, and it won’t happen again.”
In responding to the operation of LGV, Gorin said its success has been due to the “wraparound services and not its location,” which she repeatedly called inappropriate. The board’s vote also authorized the county staff to issue contracts necessary to continue the LGV site.
The other supervisors made a “commitment” to look at other locations for additional homeless sites and zeroed in on a 1.6-acre site on the the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, but shied away from Chanate Road in Santa Rosa, because the county-owned property there has now been given to a broker to sell. But this time they promised that no site would be considered without significant community input.