12/16: SEBASTOPOL INN UPDATE. Summary from Dec 15 Presentation by the County.
Continuation from prior page:
FIRST...BROWN ACT NOTE: Question presented to me: Why does it seem like the December 15th meeting was the first time the City Council had talked about the Sebastopol Inn issue? Why weren’t some of the issues worked through before the meeting and just presented to the public? The answer is that this was in fact the first time the City Council had discussed as a group the Sebastopol Inn issue. Why? Because we are legally prohibited from meeting in advance on an agonized issue. These are the constraints of the Ralph M Brown Act (“Act”), set forth in California Government Code (“GC”) §§ 54950 through 54963. It requires that meetings of public bodies be “open and public. ” The goal of the Act is to increase government transparency. The rationale is obvious: decision-making by elected officials needs to be in public, not in private. The downside complication to this rule is that it prevents the City Council from having even preliminary discussions on an issue prior to the public meeting. Two of us can share thoughts, but if three are involved, we become a quorum of our five-member body and we’re in violation of the Brown Act (and doing the public a disservice!). If the Brown Act is functioning correctly, the first time an issue is on the City Council Agenda will be the first time all of us have sat down to talk about an issue. That causes confusion for the public sometimes, but its important to remember that at the core this is an excellent rule that protects our everyone’s interest in knowing that decision-making is open and public.
MEETING SUMMARY TAKE-AWAYS: Here’s my quick take-away (not exhaustive):
Overall: The project definitely has the joint commitment of the County and the City to make sure that it is successful in the short term AND the longterm. There were many supportive comments, recognizing the benefits of the Sebastopol Inn as a definite move toward housing the unsheltered (a real solution). There were also real concerns expressed, with many of them answered in real time at the meeting, and more importantly a plan put in place that will allow additional concerns to be addressed into the future.
1. The Inn will be managed initially by DEMA, a medically focused nonprofit that has a very “structured” approach, and is currently managing the 43-person Astro Hotel in Santa Rosa. (The Astro is a non-congregate site (NCS) - for a brief explanation of what this means,click here.) Personally, I was impressed by the organization’s whole-person philosophy, combined with the very structured rules the owner Michelle Patino outlined at the meeting. She came across as a vigilant no-nonsense manager, but with a very compassionate, caring core.
2. There will be 24/7 security, plus case management by Sonoma County ACCESS.
3. There is a commitment to maintaining aesthetics so that the Inn will be attractive for residents and the community. Mentioned were: landscaping standards, generally neat exterior, not allowing inoperable vehicles to sit in the parking lot, and working with the Sebastopol Planning Department and nearby businesses.
4. The qualifications for residents include the following (among others): no felony convictions, no registered sex offenders, must be either over the age of 65 or medically fragile. Each room will include one to two adults, and some could include families.
5. The initial group is being selected and will be moved in by the end of December. My understanding (not absolutely clear here) is that the initial group will consist of residents who are currently housed at the Astro Hotel in Santa Rosa (overseen by DEMA).
6. Unsheltered from Sebastopol will be prioritized.
7. Those moved in to Sebastopol Inn will be moving in as longterm residents. The facility will be “permanent supportive housing” because that’s a requirement of the State funding.
8. Many services will be provided to the residents, including among others laundry, three meals a day.
9. The County is hoping to contract with local businesses to provide the meals for occupants.
10. The County has operations funding for two years, but sees this as the longterm home for those who move in, and plans to line up continued funding (no promises, but a commitment).
11. The County has allocated the City of Sebastopol $350,000, to be used as the City sees fit for the needs of unsheltered or for business or TOT losses or any other purposes. A portion (~$117,000) was described as possible funding for an outreach coordinator. The $350,000 payment was approved by the Board of Supervisors the morning of the City Council meeting, per Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.
12. The County is committed to continue public outreach and engagement. Mentioned were anticipated focused meetings with Gravenstein Station business owners and with the Barlow businesses, as well as town hall style meetings for the larger Sebastopol community. Issues to be addressed with nearby businesses included parking and security, among others. The County is open to participation in an Ad Hoc or other regular meetings with the City Council.
13. Long term the plan is to keep the initial cohort of residents, but post-Covid switch to a permanent management contract (DEMA is a temporary arrangement). West County Community Services would be one of the groups considered. Tim Miller of WCCS was present at the meeting and confirmed his interest.
14. There will be upgrades made to the building before the longterm contract is negotiated. Specifically mentioned were upgrades so that each unit includes a kitchenette.
15. The County presenters were Lynda Hopkins, Barbie Robinson, and Tina Rivera.
16.The County is in the process of setting up a FAQ list, to be available online, to formally answer all questions presented by members of the public and by City Councilmembers and City staff.
17. Ongoing oversight and monitoring by the City Council will be through the Housing Subcommittee. Mayor Una Glass and Councilmember Patrick Slayter are the City Council appointees to that Subcommittee. They stated their interest in engaging County representatives on that Subcommittee.
FOR ALL: The meeting video recording (all 4+ hours of it!) will soon be available on the City website page for the December 15 meeting. Click here. Also, I’ve attached the attachment included in the meeting packet, because the power point included there provides useful information from the County.