Esplanade House: Do the right thing

Hats off to the five planning commissioners who stood up to considerable pressure and approved the use permit that will allow construction and operation of an expanded Esplanade House program. The 60-unit facility in north Chico will build on the success it has experienced for the past 10 years in its limited 13-unit capacity.

Of course, the commissioners really had no choice but to approve the permit, as the proposal meets all the necessary requirements. Still, a roomful of angry, demonstrative neighbors is hard to ignore. Opponents gathered at the Planning Commission meeting June 21 to lodge their protests, which center on fear of plummeting property values because the facility will bring in the “wrong types” of people.

Studies show there is no connection between building affordable housing like that proposed by the Esplanade House and a dip in neighboring property values. Therefore, we call on the City Council to show the same fortitude as the commission and not grant the neighbors’ appeal of its decision.

The new facility, which would provide temporary housing for those who qualify, would sit on a piece of property near the southeast corner of Lassen Avenue and the Esplanade, tucked in between a building supply business to the north and mini warehouse to the south. The program is designed to help get families who are homeless, or at risk of becoming so, back on their feet.

The transitional housing is vital to help parents try to break the cycle that will surely befall their children if housing and help are not available. The people aided by the Esplanade House are those who due to bad decisions or just poor luck find themselves and their families facing life on the streets. Ironically, some of those protesting the location of the facility live in the Aspire Homes subdivision, whose residents include homeowners who are graduates of the same Esplanade House program their neighbors are trying to keep at bay.

Far too many of us see Chico in terms of just our own immediate neighborhoods, the downtown and maybe the commercial shopping area in southeast Chico. But the fact is we live in a diverse community that is much more than that. Chico is made up of the Esplanade House, the Jesus Center, Wal-Mart, the Chico Mall and everything in between. If we want to maintain the sense of community that helps define Chico, we must act responsibly and include in our plans those who are less fortunate.

These people are no different than the rest of us. Many of them are children who deserve a break. We can’t warehouse them or try to sweep their presence under the metaphorical rug by placing them in an area zoned industrial, as Councilmember Larry Wahl’s half-baked idea would do. We need to take a page from the books of people like Esplanade House supervisor Mickey Taylor or developer Greg Webb, who’s helped secure the property. We’re convinced that these people are motivated by the highest cause—the fact that it’s the right thing to do.

The City Council should also do the right thing and not overrule the Planning Commission’s decision.