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Questions being asked to Marin Board of Supervisors regarding Homelessness

The following letter was sent to the Marin Board of Supervisors on January 22, 2022, regarding their upcoming decision on the approval of the “Project Homekey” homeless housing proposal at 1251 South Eliseo Drive in Larkspur.

Dear Marin Board of Supervisors,

I am writing to share my concerns about the project being proposed at 1251 South Eliseo Drive.

We agree that we need to bring assistance and support to those living on the street to improve their conditions. This is an important and complex matter which needs to be addressed. We believe it should be done thoughtfully and designed to improve the overall lives of those struggling and bring value to the entire community.

If funding from the State is awarded for this project, I am asking you to reject the funding. Having no requirements to work or participate in mental health care, drug/alcohol treatment and not being able to limit who is housed in this location, to at least those homeless in this immediate community, is unacceptable and does not provide for long-term solutions for those struggling to remain housed.

People should be given goals and put on a pathway to independence. Providing apathetic solutions and enabling one NOT to reach their full potential is not compassionate. It fails them as human beings and fails the community as a whole. If these standards are limited by the States requirements for the Homekey funds you should find other funding sources which allow for proper solutions or send a message to those in power that solutions such as this are not acceptable to the community and other options must be provided.

If you are unwilling to reject this project, I request at a minimum you reconsider the requirements for those allowed to be housed in such a facility and seek true community input to help meet the communities needs and expectations. This could be an ideal location for families or true low-income seniors who have suffered the loss of a job or loved one and can no longer be financially self-sufficient or single low-income workers. Housing those you have termed "most vulnerable" or who excessively tax government services, should not be considered for this location due to the impacts this type of population could have on those who live and work within the community and could deplete the limited small city resources.

If the State limits any of these options in order to qualify for funding you should seek other funding sources or let the state know more flexibility needs to be built into these programs.

Additionally, if you move forward with the project as proposed, you should either lease the property from the current owner or if you purchase the property, retain ownership of the property and establish a lease agreement with the social services provider to ensure you are able to maintain accountability for the property and are being fiscally responsible with taxpayers' money.

Supervisor Rice has said the County doesn't typically own property, that is a hollow and inaccurate argument and only shows the lack of commitment and thought given to this process and indicates she does not want the County responsible for activities related to this project. The King St. project is on a lease, and according to the October 28, 2021 posting on Homeward Bound of Marin website, the Casa Buena Project is owned by the County and leased to Homeward Bound for a $1.00 per year. Several others cities have done the same and this facility should be no different. At a minimum you should maintain ownership for 5-10 years and then consider such a transfer if this is deemed to be a successful solution and funding is still available to continue to operate the facility.

As a taxpayer it does not seem fiscally responsible to give away such an investment ($20+ Million) that is purchased, improved and will be continually funded with $1.5 million tax dollars each year.

During the community information sessions Ashley Hart McIntyre mentioned the percentages of the general population housed with mental illness are similar to those of the homeless. While these statistics may or may not be fully accurate, the notable differences with this data are, those who are housed are able to functionally maintain housing and are more than likely seeking assistance or medication. More importantly, they are not all located on one block, let alone in one building along with several others who may be suffering from similar illnesses or drug/ alcohol addiction.

For those who may say this is fear mongering you only need to search recent news articles to find stories of homeless individuals who have harmed members of the general public without provocation.

With the exception of the Vallejo shooting, these acts were more than likely committed due to the individuals having an altered mental state vs due to their homelessness and them attempting to provide for their basic human needs. And yes, I acknowledge these events could happen anywhere and at any time, but if you move a large number of this specific population into one concentrated area, you will no doubt increase the likelihood of similar unprovoked incidents.

These concerns are even acknowledged on the FAQ page you host. Not only do you point out security type staffing will be needed you also clearly state "issues" with residents are expected as they adjust to their new environment and staff on-site will be trained in de-escalation. Beth Stokes references similar activities during some of the information sessions, providing an example of a resident potentially flooding their room. This type of disruptive activity is even confirmed in the recent Marin IJ article dated January 10, 2022 highlighting the issues the Victory Village residents are experiencing.

This facility only houses 11 homeless people, 6 of whom have severe mental health issues (which according to the FAQ page will be part of those housed at this location). The Marin IJ article states neighbors have had to call emergency services several times (In December alone, 10 times in 18 days) some events related to a tenant having episodes which were threatening and frightening and in another incident a resident made threats to stab two other residents.

The comments made by Ashley Hart McIntyre in this article about the neighbors being clearly benevolent and coming from a good place were offensive and dismissive of the issues being raised by the low-income residents and highlights the lack of systems and resources to manage this population and effectively address issues before and after they arise.

Ashley Hart McIntyre also states in the article,

"We cannot demand that people accept our services, other than guardianship, which is an extremely high legal bar that takes away most of someone's civil liberties".

What about the civil liberties of the other residents and community members being impacted by this behavior? As for how her statement relates to the 1251 South Eliseo project, since you can't require treatment or control the residents' behavior in the facility, how are the Community Service Teams members on South Eliseo Drive going to be able to address behavioral issues such as this off the property or tell the facility residents how to behave or where they can and cannot go? How is this behavior going to be monitored or curbed in the local parks, apartments, shopping centers and bike path?

As you know this facility is located on a designated Safe Routes to Schools. Since residents of this facility will be allowed to go anywhere, who will be in place to monitor children traveling to and from school beyond the immediate area of this facility or on a Saturday or Sunday when out with friends? Will the Community Safety Services team be large enough to cover the bike path between Bon Air Rd. and Kent or down to the east end of South Eliseo Drive?

I suspect all of this will fall to our already overtaxed police and sheriffs departments and routinely place them in potentially dangerous and tense situations on a more regular basis as appears to be the case with the Victory Village project.

During the Marin Homeless presentation on January 11, 2022 the Victory Village issues were glossed over and no articulate, positive solutions were provided as to how these issues would be resolved. Based on all these facts and examples it is difficult to understand how you would conclude it is reasonable to establish a facility which will house 43-50 persons, many of whom you have said will have mental health issues, drug or alcohol addictions or all three in a location such as this.

For those who say there are studies showing facilities like this do not impact property values or impact quality of life issues for the neighborhood, I think it is important to point out those studies are from larger cities like, Denver and New York, cities that have large and very visible homeless populations, which is not the case in Larkspur/Greenbrae, let alone this neighborhood.

There is a video on YouTube titled, "Celebrating Victory Village" dated December 16, 2020. Supervisor Rice opens the video stating that since the inception of Victory Village it has been a "special place" and later calls it, "not only a model, but an inspiration" and continues by saying, "We need more projects like Victory Village all throughout the County''. Alicia Klein, Associate Director of Real Estate

Development for Resources for Community Development, talks about how this facility helps to build community. These same comments have been made by Supervisor Rice and others directly involved with the 1251 South Eliseo Drive project, yet 2-years later an article in the Marin IJ highlights the facts that Victory Village is a failure when it comes to managing the mentally ill and the low-income residents in the complex are not thriving or able to relax and enjoy their lives as promised.

Other Permanent Supportive Housing locations (with the exception of the significantly smaller, seniors only, King St. project) are located in more industrial/urban type locations vs. a quiet residential, heavy medical services community, Safe Routes to School, and local park immediately next door.

As I am sure you are aware many of those seeking medical and dental services on South Eliseo are in vulnerable and fragile states, whether seeking care at the Cancer Center, hospital, senior care facility or other medical and dental services. Being approached or witnessing an individual from this facility who may be acting out while in crisis, under the influence of drugs or alcohol could have significant emotional and/or physical impacts on any of those seeking care.

Having had a mother who battled cancer for years and sought treatment at the Cancer Center, I can't imagine a person seated at the Cancer Center being administered their chemotherapy treatment who is hearing a person on the street below having an outburst, or a senior from South Marin Health and Wellness wanting to enjoy time outside in the park across the street and having someone in the park who may be in crisis yelling or pacing aggressively and talking to themselves or children making their way to school on the bike path who is confronted by a person acting erratically.

How are any of these potential scenarios that going to benefit this community?

In November of 2020 Supervisor Judy Arnold showed thoughtful and courageous leadership in not moving forward with the Inn Marin project (located in a more industrial/urban area) and recognized there was an unacceptable rushed timeline and an inadequate community process for the Project Homekey grant. This project is no different as it is clear many of the residents, property owners and service providers on the block were not notified of this project prior to this site being identified and grant application being submitted.

This was made clear by those who spoke during the October 21, 2021 informational forum and I have personally heard from numerous community members who reside in Greenbrae, Larkspur and Kentfield who were unaware of this project, even after the two informational forums had been held.

Even San Francisco officials listened to their community members and stopped/paused two homeless housing projects due to community concerns (one in Japan Town and one in lower Nob Hill), and San Francisco is in the Top 10 of homeless populations in the United States. It appears they are willing to get things right for their constituents and explore other options if these locations could have negative impacts on the immediate community.

There was no meaningful local community input prior to the decision being made to pursue this location. Before the first community forum on this project Supervisor Rice made it clear NO community input would be considered, telling the Pacific Sun that opposition by neighbors would not stop this project (Pacific Sun 10/19/21). This is a failure of how government should function and has added to the angst and frustration of the community and erodes at the trust citizens have in government and seems to counter what Supervisor Rice projects on her Linkedln page:

Good government should be receptive and responsive to the daily concerns of residents and challenge itself daily to provide excellent customer service.

If you claim the "information forums" on this project were part of the "community input process" that would be a misnomer. It is obvious to the public, the project sponsors were ill-prepared for the October 21, 2021 meeting, and once they realized there was well-founded resistance to this project, they clearly orchestrated the following meetings, having elected officials attend, videos added and limited time for the public to ask questions and comment. It also appeared the meeting hosts were selecting those they knew would speak in favor of this project, (I believe a citizen even commented on this during the meeting) and interestingly a Marin IJ article appeared after this meeting.

Starting with the first press release and continuing with the informational sessions and other meetings, you have claimed to want community input:

Throughout the process, the Project Homekey team will continue to provide regular communications to local stakeholders about this project and will seek input from the community"- Press release dated September 21, 2021

Yet, to date there have been no adjustments to the plans for this location and only comments about "hearing you" made by Supervisor Rice. One could think the reason for the unwillingness to explore other alternatives for who is housed here is due to the Homekey application you submitted to the State which I would guess required you to identify the population to be housed in this facility at the time of application, or the State has placed limitations on what restrictions could be placed on such a facility. If either of these is the case, then you have misled the public on this project suggesting they could actually have some say in this facility.

Supervisor Rice has repeatedly stated she has talked with some of the key local stakeholders for this project like police, fire, MarinHealth, schools, and the hospital, yet she has never stated that any of them support the project and none of these impacted organizations have publicly come out in support of the project, which would leave one to believe they aren't supportive of it, but due to various reasons are unable to voice their concerns.

The Kentfield School Board, understanding their responsibility for the children they oversee, however, did send a letter voicing their objections to this project. Ross Valley Nursery School provided a letter to the Board of Supervisors in opposition of this project as well.

During the Kent Woodlands Property Owners Association meeting which Supervisor Rice attended on January 19, 2022 the Community Safety Services Team (CSST) was discussed. Supervisor Rice agreed this part of the project needs to be in place, but she did not seem certain it was funded or that it would be in place for the duration of this facility (min. 55 years). This leads me to wonder if Supervisor Rice has asked Episcopal Community Services (ECS) basic questions about this piece of the project, like is it funded/guaranteed, what happens if they don't have the funding or lose funding, what exactly will the CSST look like?

Maybe Supervisor Rice has asked these questions and Episcopal Community Services has not been forthright or mislead her on funding and what to expect?

Prior to this project being started, all the details for this important community safety piece of the project should have been known in full detail. It is concerning to hear, at this stage of the game there is still not a clear picture of what this will look like from those promoting it.

In the "Resident and Community Safety" section of the FAQ the first 3 questions say the facility WILL HAVE this team in place. It is unclear how many people will be a part of this team or what hours and days of the week they will be in place, but from the descriptions provided in the FAQ answers and during all the informational forums the public has been led to believe this will be a very robust team which will cover much of the block and work at least most of the day and into the late evening to ensure the community's safety. Not having this important community safety "guardrail" fully funded and guaranteed for the duration of this project before it is started would be a catastrophe; it would yet again be more misleading information given to the public.

You are doubtlessly cognizant, if this project should proceed, it will be closely watched. As negative incidents occur, they will be exposed publicly. This will be a detriment to any efforts moving forward on other similar projects and create a larger mistrust of government leaders and the programs they promote.

Having lived and worked in this area all my life, I would encourage each of you to take the time to visit this block and surrounding areas any day of the week and spend time there to see how the area is utilized. Then ask yourself if this location makes sense to place a facility you have told the public will house persons with known behavioral issues that require staff, both inside and outside, to be trained in de-escalation to manage?

I want to be clear, I am supportive of helping the homeless and/or low-income communities get housed and better their lives. What I am against is wasting taxpayers' money for a project that gives away property purchased and renovated with taxpayers' money and has no expectations or requirements of residents for personal improvement, and only sets up individuals and the community for failure.

If these basic standards cannot be meet, then I am requesting the Marin County Board of Supervisors make a commitment to community safety and vote against this project if Episcopal Community Services (ECS) cannot guarantee the presence of the Community Safety Service Team (outside security) in perpetuity as you have led the public to believe would be in place.

This should be done with a contract between ECS and Marin County, with clearly defined number of staff, radius of area to be covered, days, hours to be worked and should meet the expectations the community has been assured multiple times would be in place to provide for their safety. Without a guarantee of outside security for the community you represent, how can you knowingly support placing 43-50 homeless individuals you have described as having "severe disabilities" which include mental illness, drug/alcohol addictions in 1251South Eliseo Drive?

If you cannot commit to guaranteed exterior security, in perpetuity, as a "guardrail" for this project to protect the community, you should reject this project. If you don't, you must accept you are personally responsible for all the negative outcomes.

Jeffrey Geissberger D.D.S.

Pacific Sun Article

Granada Hotel

Supervisor Judy Arnold

Victory Village Video

Homeward Bound Casa Buena Posting

94 Year Old Attacked

San Rafael Attack

San Francisco Kidnap attempt

Vallejo Man Shot and Killed

NY Subway Killing

LA Furniture Store Killing

San Jose


SF Delays Nob Hill Project

SF Delays Japan Town Project