www.montereycountyweekly.com march 14-20, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 In his introductory remarks at a community meeting on Feb. 13, 2019, Seaside City Councilmember Dave Pacheco leaned into the fact that it was Valentine’s Day eve, offering seasonal cookies. He seemed hopeful that the spirit of love would influence the matter at hand, a proposed homeless shelter on Countyowned property at Noche Buena Street and Broadway Avenue. “We’re going to be cooperative, happy,” Pacheco said. “We’re all going to be positive and try to find solutions, rather than complaints.” As the next hour-and-a-half unfolded, that proved to be wishful thinking. While some residents expressed support, many expressed vehement opposition. “We finally get the town built up—now you want to take it and destroy it,” one speaker said. “I have no objection to housing homeless—what I don’t understand is the location,” said another. “You have enough property to go elsewhere—these are our neighborhoods.” On it went with variations of a narrative that is commonplace in proposals related to any level of the housing crisis: I don’t oppose the premise of your goal [affordable housing, high-density market-rate units, a homeless shelter, etc.] but I don’t want it in my neighborhood. The but is laden with fear—of declining property values, diminished views, too much traffic and not enough parking, drug use and violence. Despite the neighbors’ objections, Seaside and County of Monterey officials moved forward. Nonprofits Community Human Services and Gathering for Women teamed up to create the shelter. When I visited on March 15, 2022 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of what became Casa De Noche Buena, the fears that had been voiced three years prior felt like an alternate reality. Instead, Casa was a clean, comfortable, inviting place with a playground. Casa didn’t go someplace else—it went right in the neighborhood (my neighborhood, as it happens). Property values have soared. It’s a busy, safe corner where I regularly walk alone, day or night. It is in a community, instead of on the outskirts. It is within walking distance of stores and restaurants, schools, a bus stop—it’s a regular place where regular people live. Homeless people are regular people too. On that first anniversary, despite pandemic-related challenges, Casa De Noche Buena reported 61 people had been sheltered, including 21 children; there had been 32 exits to permanent housing and four to transitional housing. This week, CHS and Gathering are celebrating the shelter’s third anniversary and report that 223 individuals have been served (80 of them kids) with 22,957 bed nights provided. More than half have landed in permanent housing; a quarter have returned to homelessness. Casa is an imperfect solution, but it is unquestionably part of the solution. It serves women and families and can accommodate up to 35 people, just a tiny fraction of the more than 2,000 people in Monterey County who are homeless. But it’s a project that illustrates some of the hardest lessons related to homeless solutions. First, various funding sources and services are available to just a small segment of the population—women, or single men, or veterans. The homeless community, like the community at large, is diverse. Local leaders working to address the issues include Roxanne Wilson, Monterey County’s director of homeless services, and Anastacia Wyatt, the City of Monterey’s housing manager. They’ll speak about some of what works in a panel discussion on March 14 (I’ll be moderating) in celebration of Casa’s third anniversary. They’ll talk about bureaucratic hurdles—how to get and utilize funds for certain types of state and federal programs, for instance—but also a part of the solution that’s entirely up to us: community buy-in. Community opposition can be enough to derail good projects. In the case of Casa De Noche Buena, leaders did not capitulate to NIMBY fears. Listening back now to concerns raised in 2019 makes them seem completely out of touch. Homeless people are part of our community whether we like it or not, and we have an obligation to solve this problem right here, not somewhere else. Solving Homelessness: A Community Conversation is at 2pm Thursday, March 14 at Carpenter Hall, Sunset Center, San Carlos and 8th, Carmel. Free. 658-3811, chservices.org. Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Thinking Big Looking back at what’s working to solve homelessness to guide the future. By Sara Rubin Different Shades…Squid is lucky to live under the sea, where Squid’s lair is decked out in all sorts of different colors thanks to the kelp forest. But how about the colors of the homes where land-dwellers reside? Not great, unless you like all the many “different” tones of beige. During one of Squid’s recent outings to Monterey County Superior Court, Squid came across a case that mentioned shades of gray. Naturally, Squid was intrigued to read more and see who was getting hot and heavy in the courtroom. The reality was much less sexy, but just as juicy as Fifty Shades. Susan Strathy is suing Las Palmas Ranch, saying the Salinas development’s Architectural Board continues to deny her home’s repainting, no matter what color she requests. “Many, many” homes in the development have been painted shades of white, green and yellow, she contends. But when it comes to gray, the board apparently practices “selective enforcement” among the homeowners, according to Strathy. Squid suggests the board limit the number of gray-shaded homes to 50, as it might be a strong selling point to potential buyers who also happen to be fans of E.L. James’ writing. Strathy, meanwhile, might have better luck requesting tried-and-true beige. She’s set to make her case in small claims court on May 2. Tough Talk…One recent night, Squid was low on shrimp-flavored popcorn, so Squid oozed over to the store to stock up the pantry. In the parking lot, Squid’s beak fell open when Squid saw a Tesla Cybertruck. At first, Squid wasn’t sure what to think. Was it a wartime vehicle, or a visit from extraterrestrials? Just the latest from Elon Musk. Described as an “ideal police vehicle,” this massive 800-horsepower beast is advertised as able to go from 0-62 mph in 2.9 seconds and tow up to 14,000 pounds. “You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” Musk said during a 2019 vehicle debut. “You want a truck you can take a sledgehammer to, a truck that won’t scratch, doesn’t dent.” (Two windows broke in a demo. Whoopsies!) It seems no amount of tough exterior can make up for driver error, however. Around 4:30pm on Monday, March 4, the Marina Fire Department responded to a report of a Cybertruck stuck on Marina State Beach. According to California State Parks spokesperson Douglas Johnson, the Nevada driver cruised over the curb at the end of Reservation Road, past a sign stating “No Vehicles on Beach,” and promptly got stuck. First responders helped release air from the tires (not rocket science), the vehicle was cited with what will be at least a $280 fine, and the driver took the bullet-proof (but not sand-proof) tank back onto the pavement, where Squid hopes it will stay. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. “Go elsewhere— these are our neighborhoods.” Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com