The Board of Supervisors Tuesday delayed a vote on issuing $18 million worth of bonds for a 49-unit Section 8 housing project in Martinez, agreeing to hold off on a decision until the City Council has a chance to revisit the project.
“We want to make it clear that this is not a role the county is playing,” said supervisor Federal Glover, who represents Martinez. “This is a request that comes from the city. I’m asking for a continuance because it’s unclear whether the city is supporting this project. I don’t want the county to be seen as supporting it when it’s not clear the city is supporting it.”
The county is “acting as a conduit” for issuing the multi-family housing bonds, according to county planning staff, and if the supervisors decide not to issue the bonds, the developer – Resources for Community Development of Berkeley – could find another issuer.
The city approved the 49-unit Berrellesa Palms project in 2009, and won a court ruling after opponents sued the city, saying the project was too big, did not adhere to the Downtown Specific Plan, and was not in a safe location for seniors.
In January, when RCD advised the city that it could not find funding for the original plan of 30 percent very low income (Section 8) tenants, and would instead seek funding for a 100 percent Section 8 population, some members of the City Council balked.
Councilman Mike Menesini was especially put off by the change in tenancy, and city staff was asked to investigate whether the change in tenant status violated the conditions of approval.
Meanwhile, councilwoman Janet Kennedy remains a staunch supporter of the project, and believes that it remains an important asset for the community.
“It’s exactly the same project,” Kennedy told the supervisors on Tuesday. “It’s just all low-income population now. It’s still an independent living facility. There’s no change in use, just a change in income. It’s a $20 million investment in our city.”
But opponent Kathi McLaughlin told the board that the project was “an unresolved local land use issue. This is a three-story building originally designed for active seniors who can mostly take care of themselves. There is only one elevator in a three-story building.”
“We were told this would bring $800,000 of spending into our community,” said Planning Commissioner Harriett Burt. “We felt it would be a nice addition to our community. Then in out of the blue was this change.”
The supervisors voted unanimously to postpone a vote on the bond until the city determines if it supports the latest iteration of RCD’s plan.