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Morris Street Update

First, please remember that in this summary about the situation on Morris Street, I speak as one councilmember only. I am not the voice of the full City Council. I am reaching out as one representative of our town, sharing my thoughts and ideas and concerns, and hoping you will give me the benefit of your input. Anything I learn I will take back to the Ad Hoc Committee to which I have been assigned and to the full City Council for decision-making. 
 
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR….
 
Oct 5: Ad Hoc Committee created - tasked with finding an alternative for Morris St RV dwellers: On Oct 5th, the City Council appointed Mayor Una Glass and me to an Ad Hoc Committee for the Unhoused. We were instructed to do a number of tasks, with our first priority being to provide a preliminary proposal for an alternate location for the RVs currently parked on Morris Street. 
 
Oct 20: SAVS Proposal presented to Ad Hoc Committeee: On Oct 20th, as we did our initial outreach, we were presented with a proposal by the nonprofit SAVS (Sonoma Applied Village Solutions). SAVS offered to set up, manage, supervise, and provide wrap-around services for a temporary RV Village to be occupied by the RVs currently on Morris Street. Moreover, SAVS has $368,000 in funds from the County Continuum of Care, and is offering to use those funds to provide a year of full services to the temporary RV Village. The City’s part of the deal: Provide a half-acre to full acre parcel for the temporary RV Village, to host 20 RVs. The deadline: The City would need to provide a letter of intent to the Continuum of Care by no later than Monday November 1st.
 
Oct 27: Council approves Letter of Intent (allowing further exploration): On Oct 27th, the City Council held a special meeting, on an urgency basis, for the Ad Hoc Committee to present the SAVS proposal to the full City Council. Much work had been done in the week since the arrangement had been offered. The primary challenge had been to identify a parcel for this use. Arranging use of a privately owned parcel was not workable in the limited time we had available, which meant that a City-owned parcel was the only viable choice. The property ultimately identified is a half acre lot behind Wischemann Hall. That land is currently being used as a City Public Works lot. That lot, plus a small portion of the gravel parking lot next to it, would need to be claimed to create a half acre parcel. After much discussion, the full City Council agreed to authorize the Mayor to sign a letter of intent to allow the proposal to be fully explored. 
 
Oct 27 Proposal from SAVS: The proposal from SAVs can be seen HERE, and the full Staff Report on the proposal is HERE. They were presented at the October 27th City Council meeting. Please review the proposal. If you’d like to take a look at the recording of the October 27th meeting, that will be available next week HERE
 
Nov 2: Overall report from Ad Hoc Committee: The first full Report Out by the Ad Hoc Committee for the Unhoused was presented at the City Council’s November 2nd regularly scheduled meeting. It’s attached here also. If you’d like to see the recording of the full meeting, that will be available HERE in about a week.
 
Articles in the Press Democrat:  Oct 29 and Nov 7.
Photo: Morris Street in the Rain, October 24 2021
 
KEY UPCOMING DATES:

Nov 30: Likely City Council final decision: The City Council will need to meet to make a final decision about the SAVS RV Village proposal. November 30 is a tentative date. It hasn’t been confirmed. But it will need to happen before December 8….when the final contract would need to be signed by the City.

Dec 8: Final contract signed by City or funds are lost: Our next deadline is Wednesday December 8th. That’s the date by which the City and SAVS must enter into a contract for this project. If that deadline is not met, the $368,000 goes back to the Continuum of Care.
 
WHAT IS HAPPENING BETWEEN NOW & DEC 8:

Due diligence regarding the proposed site: The City and SAVS are moving through our process to fill in all the details regarding this plan. City Staff is working hard to make sure the proposed site is truly usable for this purpose. Being considered are environmental, legal, practical, and many other issues. The City and SAVS are moving forward with a major outreach effort, to get input from immediate neighbors of the proposed site, from businesses on Morris Street and elsewhere in town, from residents, and from the community at large. That outreach has so far focused on the immediate area near the proposed site, with meetings, discussions, and outreach already begun with the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, Wischemann Hall, Greenacre Homes, individual homeowners, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, businesses, and others. SAVS has taken the lead in some of these efforts, and the Ad Hoc Committee has initiated others. This email, to all of you, is part of that effort. We need to gather input from you. 
 
Continuing effort to find back-up alternate locations: We are hopeful that the proposed location in the Public Works lot will turn out to be viable. But it's not certain. In fact, the only thing that is certain is that we lose this funding if we don’t sign a contract with SAVS by December 8. If that happens (no contract), we face the Morris Street situation continuing…into the holidays and beyond. All that health and safety risk, for the RV dwellers and the rest of the community. All that sad, cold, despair right there on our own streets. It’s too much, really. 
 
Other locations explored? Following the October 27th special City Council meeting, the Ad Hoc Committee continued to seek out alternative locations. The Committee has explored many options so far: alternate City-owned lots, privately owned lots within the City limits that might be available for a short-term one year use, even privately owned lots just outside the City limits. I have personally had SO many conversations and meetings that have ended with a variety of locations not being viable. But I have not given up! I have a gazillion phone calls out to people who I know to be excellent problem-solvers. Maybe you’re a problem-solver who can help with this?
 
We want your input: I invite you to take a look through the SAVS proposal and think about your concerns/questions/ideas. The Ad Hoc Committee and City Staff are working really hard to get all the details resolved as quickly as possible. Part of that process is reaching out to gather up as complete a list as possible of questions raised by the public (yes, that’s you again!). 
 
Focused on the goal - making a bad situation better: The goal is to deal in a constructive way with the untenable situation on Morris Street. Between that street and Laguna Parkway, we have approximately 20 RV dwellers living in tenuous and dangerous conditions. It is unsanitary, insecure, and inhumane, and has been underscored by the many complaints received by the City, it’s now causing a public nuisance. It’s not good or healthy for those who are trying to live in those conditions, nor is it good or healthy for the rest of us in the community. 
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Your opportunities to share your thoughts and be involved are as follows:
  • Email me: drich@cityofsebastopol.org. Send me your ideas and comments so that we on the Ad Hoc Committee can consider them. If you’d like me to forward your comments to the full City Council, I’m happy to do that - just please make that clear in your email to me.
  • Subscribe to the City Council meeting notices so you can be alerted to any City Council meetings on this topic. The subscription link is HERE. Please note that there will probably be at least one meeting before December 8th, most likely a special meeting added onto the regular City Council meeting schedule (December 8th is the City’s deadline for entering into a contract with SAVS for operation of the temporary RV Village). 
  • Attend the decision-making special City Council meeting when the Council will decide whether to sign a final agreement with SAVS to set up and manage the temporary RV Village. Date for this meeting TBD. It will likely be November 30th, but if you want to make sure you are informed of the date, subscribe to get meeting notices by email (bullet point just above this one). 
  • Attend the next regular City Council meeting when the Ad Hoc Commitee for the Unhoused will again be reporting out to the full City Council. That will be on December 7th, at 6pm. The agenda and zoom link will be available by the Thursday before HERE
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Do you have an alternate location you can suggest? If you become aware of an alternative piece of land that the City could use for this purpose, please let me know ASAP. Here are the working parameters: (1) at least a half acre, (2) relatively flat, (3) limited private residences nearby, (4) not a space that is already regularly used by the public or already occupied by renters, (5) fairly close to services (grocery store, bus line, etc), (6) preferably with electrical, water and sewer services, (7) easily fenced, and (8) inside the City limits or (maybe workable) just outside the City limits.  A benefactor would be great, but if lease payments need to be made, please let me know. (No, the City Council has not approved any out-of-pocket costs, but if what is offered is land that would be leased, that’s the information the Ad Hoc Committee would provide the full City Council.) 
Let’s join forces and see if we can come up with a good place to move the RVs that are currently on Morris Street. (Yes, we are hoping the proposed location will work out, but its not a done deal yet!). Let’s make this really bad situation a better one. I know Sebastopol to be a compassionate, proactive, collaborative, pragmatic community. Let’s make this happen.  

Diana Rich, Sebastopol City Council
321 S. Main St. #60, Sebastopol CA 95472
drich@cityofsebastopol.org
707 861-0032
FPPC #1430199
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