The county Board of Supervisors will consider this morning approval of an $18 million bond to fund a controversial Section 8 housing development near downtown Martinez.
At the meeting will be Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder and at least two Martinez planning commissioners who will ask the board to postpone its decision until the city has a chance to find out if the developer has negated the city’s approval of the project by changing the tenants from 30 percent Section 8 to 100 percent.
At issue is a 49-unit senior housing complex on Berrellesa Street called Berrellesa Palms. It was originally approved in 2010 over the objection of neighbors and others who said the building was too massive, did not provide enough parking, and did not fit the city’s guidelines for the downtown specific plan.
But proponents of the project said it would serve to bring tenants downtown, who would then use the restaurants and shops, and so attract even more commerce downtown.
The developer, Berkeley-based Resources for Community Development, told the council in January that it could not qualify for the original loan and had instead applied for a state loan that required the entire building to serve Section 8 seniors. Those are seniors considered in the very low income bracket.
Several council members balked at the change, accusing the developer of “bait and switch.” But RCD officials said even with the change in tenants, the project is still estimated to generate over $600,000 annually to local businesses.
Schroder said he will be on hand at the board meeting this morning to ask for a delay in the bond decision.
“We’re going to ask if the board will postpone its decision until the city council has time to evaluate staff’s response to our questions,” Schroder said. “We want to make the board aware that the tenancy will be a bit different that what we had anticipated. We want to take a look and see if any conditions of approval have been violated.”
“We haven’t changed anything,” said Lisa Motoyama of RCD. “We have changed the population to a more frail senior population, that’s all.” She said the building’s design and function remain exactly as approved.
“I have serious concerns about this proposal,” said planning commissioner Harriett Burt. “I asked repeatedly in public hearings if there was any way the proposal could change without the city’s consent. I was assured four times in public that the proposal could not be changed for many decades without the city’s review and agreement. I don’t know if I could ever vote for another affordable housing project again where we’re held hostage by other agencies and non profits that tell us initially that we have control and then change that later.”
The board will meet at 9:30 a.m. in the supervisor’s chambers, first floor of the County Administration Building, 651 Pine Street.