Compatibility concerns

Unease over location of Narcotics Anonymous meetings

This building on Cherry Street holds Narcotics Anonymous meetings in a student neighborhood.

This building on Cherry Street holds Narcotics Anonymous meetings in a student neighborhood.

Photo By tom gascoyne

The landlords and parents of Chico State students who reside near the intersection of Cherry and Sixth streets are a bit up in arms these days over a new neighbor who’s moved into the building that for years housed Ed’s Printing.

The new neighbor is a local Narcotics Anonymous group, which holds meetings in the building. The meetings began in May. The building, located at 550 Cherry St., is owned by the “Gordon G. Living Grier Trust.”

The concerns voiced by the landlords and parents are directed at the people who come to the 17 weekly NA meetings, stand outside the building and smoke cigarettes, and, according to some, spread needles on the sidewalks. They also allegedly go through trash receptacles and make unsavory remarks to the young women who live nearby or walk past on their way to school.

Robert Combs is the parent of a student currently attending Chico State. He says his daughter and roommate had to move out of a nearby house because of the presence of attendees at the NA meetings. Combs is a Chico State graduate and is president of the school’s Parent Advisory Council.

In an email titled “Has Chico Lost its Sense of Place?” Combs writes that his daughter “was very concerned to see those seeking counseling were loitering outside the facility prior to meetings, smoking, going through the students’ garbage and making lewd comments to our young adults, many of whom are on their own for the first time.”

Combs said in his email that while he is supportive of recovery programs, he is also concerned that the city is allowing such meetings to take place in a student neighborhood.

Greg Redeker, an associate planner for the city, said zoning allows for such activity. The property is zoned residential/mixed-use, which allows professional offices in the location.

“We’ve heard many complaints, especially from property owners in the area who are understandably concerned about the ability to maintain rental rates, and the vacancy rates for their rental properties,” Redeker said.

“Generally speaking, we have things in the housing element and the public-facilities and services portion of the general plan that talk about making sure we have various services available for all demographics in the community,” Redeker explained.

He said there are code-enforcement investigations going on in connection to the NA meetings on Cherry Street.

“I believe we were going to send a letter to the organization and the property owner encouraging them to be better neighbors,” he said.

There are also NA meetings held at locations on Park Avenue, The Esplanade, Linden Avenue and Fourth Street, but they have not generated complaints, Redeker said.

One landlord, who owns a number of properties near the Cherry Street building, did not want to be identified and subsequently targeted as someone against a program to help drug addicts. But he said he is concerned about the potential problems of losing tenants and property values. There is also a parking impact when the meetings take place, he said.

A young woman walking past the building said she lived on Cherry Street a few blocks to the south. She said it can get “creepy” when she walks past, but that she’s never really felt threatened.

Two young women who do live close to the building said they are not students and that they moved into the neighborhood in January. They, too, asked for anonymity.

“Most of the time the college students around here are the most obnoxious,” one said.

“I did park in front of their building once and a guy told me I had parked in his spot,” she said. “It’s a public parking space and I only parked there because someone had parked in front of my house.”

The other woman said it was a strange combination to have NA meetings held in a student neighborhood.

“Sometimes it gets a bit nerve-wracking to go outside of the house and have a cigarette,” she said. She then nodded to a student residence across the street from the NA building.

“They have parties over there and sometimes the [meeting attendees] go over and join them. It’s kind of strange.”

The Narcotics Anonymous group could not be reached for comment by press time.