Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Supes undecided on Perks Ct.


THE PROPOSAL to move the Hangtown Haven from upper Broadway to Perks Court brought a standing-room-only crowd to the Board Chambers Tuesday. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

From page A1 | September 13, 2013 | 29 Comments

While no one questioned the moral imperative to help the less fortunate among us, how and more importantly where to do that remains a large hurdle. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, Placerville City Council members and a packed chamber tried to deal with the how and the where during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Specifically, the city is asking the county to provide space for the Hangtown Haven Inc. residential encampment at its property on Perks Court off Missouri Flat Road at Highway 50. For the past year, the Haven has operated on upper Broadway in Placerville, serving an average of 30 and up to 40 homeless individuals. The program has evolved from simply providing food and modest shelter into a much broader social service agency — albeit one with a serious problem. Its temporary use permit with the city ends Nov. 1.

Theoretically, the homeless shelter will itself be homeless after that date, and the city has not indicated a strong desire to renew the permit. Calling the Broadway location not “suitable,” Placerville Mayor Wendy Thomas described hazardous traffic, no sidewalks, electricity or sewer facilities to maintain a more permanent camp.

Through Mayor Thomas, the city is asking El Dorado County to develop a “legal temporary encampment at Perks Court for a few years,” at no cost to the public or to local taxpayers.

For its part, the Board of Supervisors eventually voted unanimously to create a “task force” to consider the issue from various perspectives, including the most reasonable location, the facility itself and “risk” to the county.

Board Chairman Ron Briggs suggested that the matter has created a “major shift in policy,” that is, a focus away from simply “helping the homeless,” to a more targeted effort to establish “transitional housing” in the county. Toward that end, he said, “Moving (homeless) people from one place to another isn’t necessarily a solution.” He acknowledged that he is not a “fan” of the Perks Court location.

Discussion took divergent paths. A majority in attendance addressed the success of Hangtown Haven at helping people resolve serious problems and move on to more productive lives. The moral nature of a community can be measured by its efforts to ease the burdens of “the least of us,” some said. And there is a local homeless problem that can’t be wished away.

Another perspective represented by a smaller, but nearly as vocal minority, decried the proposal to move the camp to the Missouri Flat-Highway 50 intersection. While few used the term “blight,” several speakers suggested that a tourist’s early view of the area from the freeway should not be rows of tents or plywood micro-homes on the side of the hill. Additionally, the area is zoned for commercial activity, and existing or future businesses would not welcome “homeless people wandering around, drinking or using drugs,” and “some businesses are already complaining about people going through their garbage.”

Concerns and perspectives were countered or supported by other speakers. A threat of wildfire burning up from Weber Creek concerned Bob Smart, former Eldorado National Forest district ranger and president of the Diamond Springs Advisory Committee. Conversely, Hangtown Haven Director Art Edwards said fire danger would be much reduced by having one contained central fire rather than 40 individual fires out in the woods.

Adding both a professional and historical perspective, former Department of Transportation engineer and current “community advocate,” Kris Payne warned that “Perks Court is not ready for development … and access to the property is not finished.” Payne also said that there needs to be some conditions for mitigation established prior to development, and that the county “bought the properties for use if needed for the Highway 50-Missouri Flat Interchange, not for this.”

Calling the Interchange the “Gateway to our community,” area resident Walter Klinefelter said praising the “Perks Court site would be ludicrous, and why would we put that kind of image at our gateway?”

On the other hand, four-year program volunteer Janice Carney called the Haven “a place of grace and second chances” and a “safe place for the forgotten people.” She said she and her husband had “been there from the beginning with the Green Valley Community Church.” That large, local church has been a significant source of volunteers and donations for the Haven as well as a venue for the “winter nomad shelter” program.

Several speakers challenged the proposal, suggesting that “If it’s such a wonderful program, why is the city trying to get rid of it,” and “if it works, why fix it?”

Perks Court resident Ann Williams pointed to “a lot of ifs that I haven’t seen resolved” and reviewing the notion of the traffic hazards on Broadway, the traffic load in that location is said to be 3,000 vehicles a day. “Missouri Flat has 33,000 a day,” she said. She also noted that the property is “extremely valuable” and could be the location of a “7-11 or a mini-mart.”

Kenneth Green, president of the Haven community, told the board, “We’re not here to be a problem. We’ll do everything you ask us to do.”

District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco described his bona fides as a compassionate person but said that he had to look at it as a “business decision, not an emotional one.”

“Does the county want to go into the homeless business?” he asked. “El Dorado County spends tremendous amounts of money on helping people… but we have to weigh everyone’s position. This is about transitional (housing), not a homeless camp.”

Chief Administrative Office analyst Mike Applegarth was appointed to lead the effort of a task force to “identify the hurdles and determine how to handle them. I’d like our staff to get us some answers,” Briggs directed.

Applegarth said, “It’s clear we won’t have an answer today, but you want one… The issues are complex and maybe we can have something before November, but if we don’t get this correct, we will be back here in a year or two, like the city is now.”

Both Placerville and Perks Court are in Supervisor Brian Veerkamp’s District 3. Veerkamp had recommended that the county hear the presentation and consider the proposal. He also agreed to be the board’s representative on the upcoming task force.

In a follow-up request for information regarding the city’s ability or willingness to extend the temporary use permit for Hangtown Haven, Mayor Thomas replied by e-mail to the Mountain Democrat Thursday morning.

“Ultimately the council does have the discretion to extend the TUP. With that in mind, we must also be very aware of commitments made to our citizens,” Thomas wrote. “The council reluctantly approved the TUP last year due to safety concerns at the current location. Those safety concerns are heightened during the winter months due to shorter days and severe weather conditions. With that approval, the council clearly stated to the leaders of Hangtown Haven that the facility must be closed at that location by Nov. 15. Ultimately the council will be working collaboratively with the county and will weigh all their options going forward, given all necessary information, including the results of the county appointed task force.”

Thomas concluded with kudos to the Board of Supervisors “for their bold position” and the city looks forward to working with the county “to accomplish a proper solution.”

Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or Follow @CDaleyMtDemo. 


Discussion | 29 comments

  • CalMomSeptember 12, 2013 - 10:49 am

    With all the empty store fronts in Placerville, is there no existing structure that would serve as temporary housing for the homeless?? A facility with a roof, 4 walls, a front door that locks, that could be sectioned off into rooms for the residents??

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  • EvelynSeptember 12, 2013 - 12:32 pm

    Though not in possession of a fully-operational crystal ball, I'd guess that the likely resolution of this matter at the hands of the inter-agency task force will be in the trusty black hole where politicians customarily find refuge. At Tuesday's meeting John McCoy alleged political cowardice on the part of the 2008/09 Board. Presumably this was in respect of the nearly $1.5M Community Development Block Grant awarded in 2008 by the State for a 64-bed year-round full-service emergency shelter for homeless persons in El Dorado County. Somehow the Board managed to kill that project without appearing to have done so.

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  • BarbaraSeptember 12, 2013 - 7:41 pm

    Where is the compassion for the down trodden people of this county? The problem does not exist only in Placerville, there homeless are all over this county, in Cameron Park, Pollock Pines, the south county, even in El Dorado HIlls. I moved to Placerville in 1977 and I also worked there for years. There were a few locals that were homeless, everyone knew them and they were harmless. These people used to camp up on Forni Rd. where it meets Main St. They got chased off and then the homeless took over Lumsden Park. I used to take my grandkids there but quit way back due to the homeless population. Now when I go to town, the homeless are all over starting on Broadway near the fast food places all the way east. It looks like skid row. Then you have the group that hang out on Placerville Drive, usually congregating behind the Shell Station at Armory Drive. What the heck is going on in this county? Where are they coming from? Why can't the government officials get together and do something for these folks? Give them a safe haven to go to. This is ridiculous. There should even be a question as what can be done, just do it. I no longer enjoy going to Placerville to shop due to the homeless population,.

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  • JimBoSeptember 12, 2013 - 10:14 pm

    Does anybody else not see the huge conflict of interest Mayor Thomas and her family has on Upper Broadway with all the commercial property they own??

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  • LpSeptember 12, 2013 - 10:24 pm

    Build it and they will come Barbara. They come from all the calls they get from there friends here in P'ville on there free cell phones we pay for. When does it end? What a mess!! Art, set them up on your property!! A proper solution is to close this drug haven down!! A 7-11, or mini mart is perfect!! We need more of those stores in Placerville! And, of course Briggs wouldn't want that homeless camp so close the the new proposed courthouse next to his property....

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  • Total LunacySeptember 13, 2013 - 6:45 am

    Put a year round homeless camp consisting of sheds and tents and transients (some undoubtedly criminals, sex registrants and mentally unstable) less than a mile away from Herbert Green School? If this was such a great concept, why doesn't Placerville keep it in their city near the seventh day adventist school? No one wants a homeless shantytown on perks court along the new bike trail, especially the stroller pushing moms. Ask the best western hotel across the street if they want every out of town guest having their first impression of our area to be a smorgasbord of tents, sheds and vagrants? And what about the residents who live on Perks Court itself? Do the taxpayers want their land (county owned) given out for 5 dollars a year so a few people who need to feel important can preside over a homeless kingdom? I can't believe this issue is even up for debate. From what I can see Hangtown Haven has about 50 vocal supporters who don't care about any of the questions I pose. They are willing to ruin the quality of life for the majority so that 30-40 vagrants can be on a year round camping trip in the middle of the Missouri Flat corridor. They call people like me "NIMBYS" on their Hangtown haven Facebook page, however I don't see Hangtown haven or any of their associates offering up their house, backyard or neighborhood as the site for their invented homeless camp. A false sense of demand has been created for this homeless camp and those pushing it care nothing about the obvious consequences it brings. Just look at upper Broadway and how run down it has become. Empty store fronts, trash, people in the roadway, cigarettes being discarded everywhere...

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  • cookie65September 13, 2013 - 8:29 am

    "Through Mayor Thomas, the city is asking El Dorado County to develop a “legal temporary encampment at Perks Court for a few years,” at no cost to the public or to local taxpayers." In what universe does the taxpayers not pay for everything the government does? Even the "task force" costs the public and the local taxpayers. How do these people win elections? My Labrador is much harder to fool than the average voter.

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  • larry allumSeptember 13, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    My name is Larry Allum. I am the former president of Hangtown Haven Community Council. H.T.H is amazing. I was homeless for nearly a year. The haven gave me a place to RE-BOOT. I have since moved on to Houston Texas Where I am Employed. Without H.T.H. and the support from all the volunteer's, Faith community, Placerville city leaders, Placerville police, Art Edwards and his team I WOULD STILL BE A LOST SOUL. Residents here just need Time. Nothing happens overnight.. I AM PROOF HANGTOWN HAVEN WORKS...

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  • Melody LaneSeptember 13, 2013 - 8:26 pm

    Chris Daley totally missed the mark on this biased article. Don't forget this HTH site is a TEMPORARY solution until a permanent location can be established. These homeless are not typical losers; they are victors over tough life circumstances which could befall anyone of us in today's tumultuous world. Becky especially stood out as an eloquent & shining example of hope when the BOS summoned her back to the podium to address several of their questions. Before you cast stones, watch the video of the 9/10 BOS meeting segment Item #29:

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  • JimBoSeptember 13, 2013 - 8:42 pm

    Cookie, if your family owned half of Broadway and you were run for Mayor by your family to push the homeless camp out of Broadway to increase your family property values, you'd want someone else to pay too. No Conflict of Interest here.

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  • LpSeptember 13, 2013 - 8:54 pm

    Close this mess down. It will only get bigger if we allow it to happen... Art, set up the tents on your property....

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  • LpSeptember 13, 2013 - 8:58 pm

    Better yet... Set this mess up on Nuttings property. Give the homeless a job clearing brush for rent instead of Ray taking our hard earned money for his bank account. Just saying......

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  • Compass2TruthSeptember 13, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    The faith community especially should be commended for actively addressing a solution to the homeless problem. At least it's a step in the right direction to a growing problem. Photos of Hangtown Haven's clean and orderly grounds put the Coloma Resort to SHAME on most weekends during tourist season. Trash is dumped everywhere, drunken brawls on the river in the wee hours and loud amplified events disturb the peace and tranquility of residents within the Coloma valley adjacent to the Marshall Gold Discovery Historic State Park. Where is EDC's code & law enforcement when you really need them?

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  • cookie65September 14, 2013 - 5:14 am

    Larry Allum, you made the choice to turn your life around. No one did it for you. You are the exception, not the rule. The credit for that decision and effort goes to the person you see in the mirror. Perhaps the best choice you made was to leave California where you had the chance to find employment. I don't disagree with people who are down and out clustering together for support and safety but I don't favor giving them favored treatment over business and property owners. Convenience for the homeless should not come at a cost to everyone else. I believe in the broken window theory.

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  • cookie65September 14, 2013 - 5:40 am

    JimBo, I think the reason so many decent, honest and admirable people don't get into politics is because the self-serving motivation is way out of their comfort zone. They lack the ability to look people in the eye and lie to them. Sadly, we have no shortage of those who can, willing to fill the void. El Dorado county seems to be breeding them. California is owned by them. They all seem to have fashioned some nice parachutes for themselves and left the rest of us in a freefall. They continue to win elections because those who vote for them also have self-serving interests. I find myself in the same boat as the kids being force to eat moochelle obama's school lunches, it makes me want to vomit.

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  • richard blenderSeptember 14, 2013 - 7:18 am

    Just moved to Placerville from San Jose where they also have homeless camps next to the freeways. It doesn't paint a very pretty picture.

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  • cookie65September 14, 2013 - 8:12 am

    obamavilles are popping up everywhere.

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  • LpSeptember 14, 2013 - 8:57 am

    Amen to that cookie65! They should change the name from Hangtown Haven to obamaville! Good one!

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  • JimBoSeptember 14, 2013 - 11:57 am

    The Reality of the situation is that the Upper Broadway location has operated with a pretty clean bill of health and very few problems. It is close to services and homeless people can walk to the places they need to go. There is an effort by Broadway landlords and businesses to push the homeless out of Broadway and the City. I've heard many stories about how they have tried to get rid of them including removing park benches along the sidewalks. Perks Court is the wrong location, as it is basically an island surrounded by six lanes on the west and north and leaves the homeless stranded and landlocked from services and unable to get into Placerville. It also will present a horrible eyesore to visitors driving through Placerville - what an entry monument. Nothing is worse than homeless camps right next to the freeway. The entrance to Placerville will look like Shanty Town.

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  • James E.September 14, 2013 - 12:47 pm

    Gosh, I wonder what influential property owner would want to move the homeless away from the upper Broadway area? Wonder, wonder, wonder.

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  • Bob A.September 15, 2013 - 5:06 am

    What creates an epidemic such as this is the "something for nothing" mentality. The homeless situation in Placerville and surrounding areas is partly due to agencies being hell-bent on giving away free services-etc. as a means to an end to solve the problem. What it has done is created an even, bigger problem. And I'm not saying don't give a damn-but attempt to solve the problem in a logical and not an emotional way. First-just get rid of the CRC and the Upper Room, altogether. The only reason the Upper Room is there anyway is its proximity to the CRC. Buy property where you can have small, apartments-not tents and not shanty-type structures. Offer transportation, health and services right at that location, not somewhere else. Since so many churches such as Green Valley want to assist the homeless and let them all get together and those wanting to help to put the money in to do this. And only take people willing to want to change their lives and willing to do case plans to do so. Let them earn their own self respect back.There are people out there that are homeless due to unfortunate circumstances and want to change and there are others that either can't or don't want to. Tear down the tents, the camps, get rid of CRC and Upper Room and stop giving those people services and they will leave the area. Is there really a true, solution for those kind of people-No...because a person has got to want to change, but the answer is also NOT putting them in a tent out near Weber Creek.

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  • cookie65September 15, 2013 - 7:37 am

    Bob A, the "something for nothing" mentality starts in the communist run public school system, where after 13 years and billions of dollars later the majority of the kids aren't qualified to push shopping carts at walmart. But most of them have been indoctrinated with the notion that the primary function of the government is to provide for them.

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  • cookie65September 15, 2013 - 7:48 am

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  • DianaSeptember 15, 2013 - 6:37 pm

    I am a long time resident of Placerville that lives just around the corner from Hangtown Haven. While I believe Hangtown Haven is for a good cause it is a magnet. We have had nothing but problems over the summer with the homeless. Two homes have been broke into, one of them twice. The second time an elderly women was home and they told her "just chill old lady". This women moved out of fear. They sleep in our yards and go through our trash. We no longer feel safe in own community. It isn't just the business owners who are have hugh problems with the homeless. They hang out at the Dollar Store parking lot with their "refreshments" in there paper bags. The city has done its part. It gave them a year and its been a year. Its time for the county to step up and do its part.

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 15, 2013 - 7:45 pm

    Plus having a heart may not look good next to the new sign...Placerville is Preserve America Community The Presidents wife sent a letter and everything...grants...isnt it curious how people have repeatively said--it just doesnt look good by the hwy. “Depending on the size, we will most likely place it next to the ‘Welcome to Placerville’ sign on the south side of Highway 50,” said Community Development Director Pierre Rivas. “It’s a good thing for people to see right away.” I grw up different--we helped our neighbors--honored our seniors--protected and provided for our children...and believed in the Constitution. Now a days...we go after matter who we run over. Different world.

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 15, 2013 - 7:54 pm

    I would like to see the homeless given property--acreage--to learn to run a ranch--put the animal shelter on it. Let the humans and the animals work together. This is our history. Lets preserve it. They could grow and sell their own food--care for the animals-build the tiny homes...learn trades--give them some dignity--so they can go back into the world. But im just an artist-- what do I know of humanity. I hope someone revolts and throws tomatoes at the new sign...Preserving America. We are talking about people...someones children.

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  • James E.September 15, 2013 - 8:15 pm

    Fran, is that a tomato in your hand?

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  • Fran DuchampSeptember 16, 2013 - 8:58 am hands dont work well any more--can't throw where I want. Tried helping my grandson practice with baseball--kept hitting him...lololol Once upon a time--maybe...lololol

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  • LynnSeptember 25, 2013 - 2:40 am

    My name is Lynn, and I am a retired school teacher living off of Missouri Flat Road. I am greatly concerned about the county plan to place a homeless encampment on Perks Court. I rely on the local transit system, and get on the bus at the Walmart stop. I was looking forward to the new bike path and trail from Missouri flat to Placerville drive. I either have to walk, or take transit to get about. I worked very hard in my lifetime, played by the rules, paid my taxes and have settled into my retirement. I am not large, and find the aggressive panhandling to be very intimidating. As an ESL teacher I spent my life's work with a diversity of individuals. I volunteer regularly with my church, and grow produce that goes to those in need in the county. El Dorado county needs a long term, properly built permanent shelter. It does not need a shanty town in the heart of a residential and commercial area. I am a woman of compassion, but this would literally be in my backyard. Please affirm the will of the people, and find a location more suitable than Perks Court. I thank you for your consideration. Respectfully, Lynn Weaver

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