Politicians Who Truly Need to “Think Outside the Box”

| May 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

This past week, many of us from Mission Hills and some surrounding communities attended a meeting that was held at the new Mission Hills Library that was coordinated by Councilman Chris Ward and his staff.  Those who attended were told that Mayor Faulconer has decided on the fate of the original Mission Hills Library site, located at 925 West Washington Street, the main entrance to Mission Hills.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the room was packed full of people eager to learn what was being proposed and how it came about.

Councilman Ward made initial introductions, including announcing the role of Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation.  Russell immediately began his overview of what is being planned for the site.  Both Councilman Ward and Russell made it clear during their presentations that this is not “if it happens,” but “when it happens.” 

Upon hearing this, several individuals spoke up to ask questions. In response, Councilman Ward instructed them that questions would be permitted at the end of the presentation. 

Russell spoke over a slide presentation, which showed various types of “homeless housing” that is being integrated into San Diego neighborhoods. The Mission Hills Library property, which was previously being considered for mixed-use (business and residential) and some parking opportunities for the Mission Hills fire department, is now being deemed a “homeless facility” to accommodate 28 units.

According to Russell, these homeless facilities provide living accommodations for the residents and on-site staff to supervise and maintain the operation. What was initially considered to be a discussion of concepts became a sales pitch on what is going to be situated on the old library site. 

Many of those in attendance were stunned and frustrated by this decision, especially after the ongoing homeless issues plaguing the community over the last several years, and the previous time spent soliciting the community on recommendations for the site.

When the audience was invited to communicate and ask questions, it became obvious that there was annoyance and concern with the way this had been introduced to the community. 

During the “question session,” which was more of comments in disagreement or agreement for the housing, some who spoke also offered some opportunities to “see outside the box.”  Most agreed, this proposed homeless facility in Mission Hills is definitely not a fix to the homeless situation.

If there is anything very evident about the homeless situation, there is no “quick cure.” Unfortunately, I know from experience.

Several years ago, I was contacted by a women who told me she was homeless and needed assistance.  Wanting to be a good Samaritan, I met with her and began a two-year process of covering her housing costs.  Let me say that it was a learning experience, and not a good one.  

What I learned is that “some” homeless people are very manipulative.  Over time I learned that she had previously failed the services of Catholic Charities because she wanted to drink alcohol and come and go as she pleased.  This was not acceptable for Catholic Charities. So, she was kicked out.

After two years of feeling taken advantage of, and dealing with her alcohol issues and other problems, I stopped being a good Samaritan.

Have I stopped caring and wanting to help?  No. 

Has the Mission Hills community said no to helping? No.

In fact, what residents and business owners are saying is that “we need to be creative” and consider all the options. 

I heard lots of good suggestions during the evening.  And, not out of disrespect.  Instead, to offer more housing in more viable locations, including other areas of Mission Hills. 

If there is one thing I have learned from being in the business world, working among the for-profit, non-profit, small businesses and large businesses in the city, county, state and country, there are lots of ways to deal with challenging issues.  And, I know I am not alone in dealing with them every day.

Start by “thinking outside the box” and allowing others to share their creative thoughts and concepts.  And, instead of making this an “against or for” effort, let’s make this a team effort.  Mission Hills is a community that is filled with intelligent, knowledgeable; let’s get it done people.  The last thing you should want to do is to alienate your constituents.

Mayor Faulconer and Councilman Ward, it appears that both of you have given your approval on the old Mission Hills Library becoming a homeless facility.  Even though Councilman Ward attempted to put the blame on Mayor Faulconer, he did tell the media that evening that he was in support of the plan. 

Now that we know where they both stand on this issue, we need to invite both of them back to the drawing board. That’s because they totally disregarded all of the time and resources spent by the community (businesses and residents) to determine its future.

For those of you who you want to know more about the history on this topic, I encourage you to read the Mission Hills Business Improvement District article on page 8.  It provides a thorough timeline on what Councilman Ward had challenged Mission Hills’ organizations to accomplish and what transpired.

You will also learn that these organizations, representing different efforts in the business and residential communities of Mission Hills, did their due diligence, as requested.

Now, as we look at what can be done to correct the course of what Mayor Faulconer and Councilman Ward are proposing, we invite you to contact them by phone or email to offer your comments and recommendations.

Following are the lead contacts for both offices:

Councilman Chris Ward (left) stands next to Stephen Russell during the recent meeting in Mission Hills. Photo courtesy of Helen Rowe.

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