The Santa Monica City Council heard a resident’s concern about the halfway house planned for the 1800 block of Pearl Street, but was unable to act upon her request that the facility be moved to another location.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Sunset Park resident Say Chin So read the Council a letter in which she described Step Up on Second’s proposed halfway house project at 1826-1828 Pearl Street as a threat to the safety of children in a family-friendly neighborhood. She said that she had talked to Step Up director Tod Lipka, but that “our concerns were arrogantly brushed off.” Her concern, also expressed by two other speakers from the neighborhood, was that Step Up cares for mentally ill people and that some of these people are unpredictable in their behavior and might pose a risk to the local population, especially children, if allowed to walk around the area without supervision.
The 1800 block of Pearl Street is located two blocks from John Adams Middle School, four blocks from Grant Elementary and five blocks from Will Rogers School. It is also close to the campus of Santa Monica College.
Say Chin So concluded her letter to the Council by saying, “Will the City be accountable if bodily damage occurs?” She requested that the City move the proposed location to an area that is not close to schools or homes where children live.
Mayor Robert Holbrook wanted to know if the City Municipal Code addresses the issue of “transitional housing” or live-in medical facilities in R2 (residential) zoned neighborhoods. After some discussion, the Council decided that Step Up’s halfway house fell more into the definition of “congregate” housing, in which a facility provides services for its residents for “six months or more,” including meals, beds, washing facilities, etc. But there was nothing in the Code that specifically could be applied to the Step Up facility, and as the Code is in the process of being amended at this time, the City currently has no power to stop Step Up from moving ahead with its plan.
Councilmember Ken Genser recalled that when Step Up originally opened its main facility on 2nd St., there was some concern in the downtown neighborhood, especially as the facility was in a storefront next to Laemmle’s Monica movie theater. But over time, he added, things calmed down and Step Up was accepted, having proved to be a “good neighbor.”
“Mental illness can be a very scary thing,” said Genser. “[But] all around this community, there is mental illness. Mentally ill people are living everywhere. Some people are dangerous; some are not. We need to look at this some more before we reach any conclusion.”
In other actions, the Council gave a first reading to, and discussed, amendments to Article 9 of the Municipal Code to modify project design and property development standards for uses in residential, commercial and industrial areas. The Council also heard from the City’s Homeless Initiatives Special Representative Ed Edelman, who reported that a Homeless Court is being developed in Santa Monica and that the homeless feeding program is being moved to an indoor location.