The following letter from Marin resident David Havlek was sent to Katie Rice and the Marin Board of Supervisors, regarding the pending approval of the Homekey funded permanent homeless housing project at 1251 South Eliseo Drive in Larkspur.
Ms. Rice (cc to Marin Board of Supervisors, and cc to the Mayor, Vice Mayor and City Council of Larkspur),
The purpose of this note is to express in THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE TERMS MY OPPOSITION TO THE PROPOSED HOME KEY PROJECT AT 1251 S ELISEO IN GREENBRAE. Beyond being the wrong solution for BOTH the homeless and our community, and beyond making our community less safe, it represents a complete failure of government transparency and process.
Ms. Rice, your continued misrepresentation of community engagement, of safety assurances, and of ECS as a partner through this process is simply unacceptable. It's astonishing to see a public official so dismissive of their own constituents, and so completely insincere in their communication about both the issues, and the process. You have not engaged sufficiently with your community, and you have not properly vetted this project - no matter how many times you claim to have done so.
Your recent Marin Independent Journal opinion piece describes the long term answer to the homeless challenge as "obvious". This conclusion reflects a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of homelessness, and your belief that you know more than the thousands of residents who oppose this project. Dismissing reasonable concerns, and not listening to the ideas of others at meetings is not community engagement, and it's not good government. Instead it's a sales pitch for a bad decision, made by you in a vacuum.
Thousands of concerned citizens have signed a petition to say they disagree with your recklessness, your fiscal irresponsibility and your complete lack of engagement. To be clear, we all support a working solution to the homeless problem, and many of us are willing to get personally involved to help. At the same time, any solution must work for ALL constituents: community residents, the homeless, and supporting local government agencies. So I implore you to listen to residents and local law enforcement, and acknowledge the failures of similar projects in Marin and San Francisco.
Acknowledge and be transparent about ECS' history of gross mismanagement. Acknowledge that no funding has been secured by the county to make this projects a success in the years to come. Stop selling, and start listening. Stop thinking about yourself and your political ambitions, and start thinking about the long term health of your community, and the long term well-being of the homeless who need our help.
Ramming a bad proposal down citizens throats without addressing their legitimate concerns, and then leaving local governments to operationalize challenges with no committed funding is reprehensible on every level. As a finance executive, I am outraged at a proposal to spend $25M+ of tax payer money for 43 citizens - especially when the proposed solution doesn't actually solve the bigger long term issue for homelessness. Moreover, making a 55-year commitment without the proper diligence, without community support, and with no option to reverse course if the projects fails represents government malpractice. Finally misrepresenting facts to your constituents is immoral, and should be illegal.
I commend the Larkspur City Council for opening a community discussion on the Homekey Project at S. Eliseo Dr. earlier this week. More than 250 residents attended, and the city council stayed until nearly 11PM to insure that all voices were heard - with roughly 80% in opposition.
Ms. Rice, your decision NOT to attend speaks volumes about your lack of interest in feedback from the community. Beyond a LOT of good input from the community, you missed a vague and misleading presentation by the Marin County Team on the proposal, followed by a Q&A where the Marin County team either did answer legitimate questions or offered empty answers like "It’s complicated".
Among the misrepresentations by the Marin County team and some of its call-in supporters at the Larkspur meeting:
MISTRUTH #1: "Evidence shows that 'housing-first' is proven to be the best long term homeless solution"
FACT: Housing-first has proven itself to be an unmitigated disaster that perpetuates the problem of homelessness by banishing the homeless to a lifetime of poverty, mental health challenge and addiction. Nowhere is this more true than San Francisco where housing-first has propelled the city to become the global model for how NOT to manage the homeless crisis.
A better and more respectful solution is to empower the homeless by providing them a path back into society. In that spirit, we should fund transitional housing, mandatory counseling to address mental health and addiction issues if they exist, and offer job skills training - all with a zero tolerance for breaking house rules, or laws. Doing so gives the homeless dignity, confidence and the tools they need to succeed, and it provides tax payers confidence that their investment will be returned in the form of a better, stronger and more inclusive community.
MISTRUTH #2: "Marin County has worked closely with the community"
FACT: More than 2000 local residents have signed a petition opposing the 1251 S Eliseo project, and the biggest complaint is the back door rushed process and the lack of transparency or community input. At a recent HOA meeting, Miss Rice, you went so far as to tell a resident, "Well you don't have a vote on this". And while local law enforcement is unable to openly oppose this project they have made clear that they think the project will pressure public safety resources by creating innumerable challenges with zero funding. Politicians who are NOT engaged with their communities concerns should not advertise that they are somehow listening. It offensive, arrogant, and wrong.
MISTRUTH #3: "Community safety is our top concern"
FACT: When the Marin County and ECS teams were asked what criteria were used to select 1251 S Eliseo, the answer given was, "It was the most developable site". NOTHING was mentioned about safety. When asked how success of the project would be measured, the answer provided by Marin County was "Retention of residents - We're proud that our current record shows a 95% retention rate." Again, zero mention of community safety. If safety is so top of mind, why is it not part of the section process, and why is not a critical measure of success?
Moreover, if safety is so critical why is the proposed Community Safety Services Team plan so vague? Why is the proposal NOT to have any security available 24x7? And why hasn't the county committed funding to either provide security 24x7, or augment local law enforcement who will be asked to fill the void? A "developable" site with "high retention" does not translate to safety. Our goal should be community safety first, while providing a path for the homeless to become productive, self-sufficient citizens. "Retention" is a nice way to say that these citizens will never have a better life, and that is failure.
MISTRUTH #4: "No incremental police funding is necessary as crime will fall as a result of this proposal"
FACT: Residents’ concerns about safety were summarily dismissed by the Marin county team as "purely hypothetical'. The cavalier arrogance of this statement stands for itself. More to the point - when 16 HIGHLY mental unstable individuals are housed together with another 27 who have NO requirement of mental health or drug counseling, there is virtually ZERO chance crime will fall. In fact, many innocent homeless who want to escape the circle of addiction will be surrounded by the very issues they seek to escape.
Local law enforcement has been clear that they anticipate local property and personal crime to rise, not just because 43 unstable individual with no mandated limits on behavior will co-habitate under this proposal, but because they will be allowed 2 daily guest increasing the number to closer to 150. Beyond an expected increase in property crime, we should also expect an increase in the ecosystem of homelessness - tents cities in the adjacent parks and an increase in the number of drug dealers in our neighborhoods - all within 1.8 miles of eight schools and our most precious asset, our kids.
MISTRUTH #5: "The community should not be concerned about Tier 1 and Tier 2 sex offenders"
FACT: Tier 1 offenses include indecent exposure, misdemeanor child pornography, misdemeanor oral copulation, and misdemeanor sexual battery. Tier 2 offenses include incest, oral copulation, acts of penetration with a foreign object, and a second separate conviction for annoying a child for sexual purposes. Putting these people within 1.8 miles of eight schools, and in the center of an area where many seniors live and seek healthcare - all with ZERO law enforcement funding or oversight - is completely irresponsible, and asking for trouble.
The proposed "Community Safety Services Team" is woefully unprepared to manage potential issues, has no committed long term funding, and isn't even planned to be onsite 24x7. We should not be cavalier about the potential risks that residents pose to the community, because even one transgression could be life altering for child, a senior, a woman, other homeless residents, etc.
MISTRUTH #6: Disagreement with this proposal represents a lack of compassion for less fortunate residents of our community.
FACT: This strong arm tactic used by so many is one that would make Trump and the "stop the steal" crowd proud: Shame anyone who opposes a proposal so that the opposition voice can be silenced. The fact is I don't know a single person in Marin who doesn't want to solve the homeless issue, and everyone I know is willing to pay to do it.
Disagreement does not represent a lack of compassion. To the contrary it shows a level of engagement on an issue that matters to all of us. We disagree because it’s a bad idea, not because we don't have compassion for the homeless. I ask that you encourage supporters of the proposal to stop shaming those who don't. And I ask the board of supervisors not to fall victim to this tactic by thinking a yes vote is one for "compassion". We all care about the homeless, and we all care about our community.
We need to do this together.
In closing, let me reiterate that we need solutions that work for everyone - our citizens, the homeless and local government. The 1251 S. Eliseo Dr. proposal is a badly conceived plan that has NOT been properly vetted - driven more by a money grab from the state's HomeKey budget than by evidence, fiscal discipline, or a long term plan to resolve this challenge.
Do the right thing and vote NO on this proposal, and retract the county's request for state funding until we have a well thought out plan. Do the right thing and work together with the community to help the homeless. Let’s help the homeless get the counseling, and skills training they need and deserve, rather than perpetuating or worsening their plight, and endangering our communities in the process. Let's be a model for the country. Let's innovate. I'm all in, and I know together we can do this.
Miss Rice, for your part, I have become politically active because of you. In that spirit, I will make every effort to actively protect Marin from your irresponsible, and non-collaborative solutions, and I will actively campaign for your removal - the sooner the better.
Marin is better than this... and we deserve better than you.
Very best regards,