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County To Consider An $18 Million Bond For Martinez Section 8 Housing Project This Morning

The Board of Supervisors will consider a bond to cover funding for the construction of the controversial Berrellesa Palms project.

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.

Anne Mobley February 28, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Section 8 folks get government subsidy because they can't afford to live otherwise so where is this $600K/year coming from? Another big lie. Do you really think they can afford a $10 hamburger plus tax and tip? Affordable McDonald's does not have regular hours and even if they did, most seniors cannot walk that far. Doesn't anyone care about the property owners near this project who objected at the outset because of parking and size of this huge building overtaking their small homes? Now that this project will be 100% section 8, it won't be long that it will no longer be a senior housing complex but will be open to all Section 8 people regardless of their age, just like Riverhouse. Those poor folks have NO disposable income to spend downtown. Those that do spend some money are robbing from Peter to pay Paul and end up with no food money until the next check comes in.
Martinez Citizen February 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I agree with Downtown business owner. It seems like a lot of decisions in Martinez are being decided behind closed doors. This Section 8 deal is just one of many.
Lawrence Risner February 29, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Last year the assistant city manager together with RCD reps asked and were denied support for this project by our local seniors - so just who is this project going to benefit? To be pushing this project like a shotgun wedding somebody doesn't care about anything but cutting their losses. It started with a bad investment and only got worse. Biggest losers are in this fiasco are tax payers and neighborhood residences.! Its too bad that the RCD employees and the Martinez city officials don't live there - bet this would never have come about if they did.
Gary Etscheid February 29, 2012 at 04:18 PM
This kind of stuff needs to be printed just before an election.
McG February 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM
This business seems so shady. Shame on the people that are behind this scam. The businesses downtown do not need more people like this. They need people with money to spend.

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