Not in our neighborhood
Wrangle over proposed women’s drug-and-alcohol treatment center in north Chico heads to Chico City Council Oct. 18
“We were absolutely ignored. We were dismissed as NIMBY hate-mongers who don’t want sick people to get treatment,” said Lynn Cardwell, spokeswoman for Protect North Esplanade, which has appealed the Chico Planning Commission’s approval of a women’s drug-and-alcohol treatment facility in north Chico.
“Two commissioners [Daniel Allmon and Kathy Barrett] said, ‘All I’m hearing is a lot of NIMBYism,’ ” Cardwell continued. “Mr. Allmon chastised us to be more welcoming and be a good role model for these people.”
Cardwell was referring to the Sept. 15 commission meeting at which she and about two dozen others spoke in opposition to the commission’s approval of the Skyway House rehab facility’s move from Oroville to a site on The Esplanade between Amber Grove and Greenfield drives.
Cardwell and her group, which includes her husband, Robert, fellow residents of the Amber Grove neighborhood and some from other north-Chico neighborhoods, will square off against Skyway House representatives at the Oct. 18 Chico City Council meeting.
Cardwell insists that the proposed facility does not conform to the wording of the city’s new general plan.
“[The plan is] filled with lofty goals about protecting neighborhoods and not doing any harm to ‘corridor opportunity sites,’ ” she said. (Those sites include the north Esplanade area.) “But is the general plan just words, or does it actually have teeth to it?”
As stated in its appeal application, Protect North Esplanade’s concerns over relocating the rehab facility to 3105 Esplanade—in the building formerly occupied by Montessori Elementary School—include that the proposed use of the site would be “detrimental to the health, safety and general welfare of persons residing and working in or visiting the neighborhoods of the proposed use” and “detrimental and/or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhoods of the proposed use.”
The group also argues that there was a failure on the Planning Commission’s part “to address the potential impacts that the state of California’s realignment of its prison population (AB 109) will have on proposed use.”
AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act, mandates that those convicted of nonviolent, nonsexual and nonserious crimes go to county jail rather than state prison. That means some nonviolent offenders could be released to day-reporting centers and residential-treatment facilities.
“People don’t understand what the impact of this will be,” Cardwell said. “Our biggest fear is that the nature of the clients at these facilities [the proposed Skyway House, The Well and Esplanade House] is going to change.”
“The opposition has absolutely no factual information as to why we shouldn’t locate our program at 3105 Esplanade,” said Jennifer Carvalho, Skyway House’s executive director. “Their objections are based on fear and misinformation.”
Carvalho called the opposition’s claim that the facility’s clients will jeopardize neighborhood residents, especially families and children visiting nearby Peterson Park, the “most offensive” of their objections.
“The reality is our women walk through the front door of our facility and stay for 30, 60, 90, 120 days,” she said. “They’re not going to go wandering over to the park in the afternoon.”
Clients are voluntary and pay $3,000 per month for treatment at the facility, which is currently licensed for 22 women through the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, Carvalho said. The women, she explained, are up at 7 a.m. every day and busy until bedtime with treatment activities. The only breaks are for meals.
Carvalho said she believes the 1.25-acre north-Esplanade property is a good fit for the facility, as it is “ideal for treatment—serene, quiet, [has] valley oaks, a meditation garden, irrigated garden boxes” and plenty of playground equipment for the women’s children when they visit on weekends.
“There’s a real stigma attached to treatment, and I think that’s because people assume that drug addicts make a choice to do what they do,” said Carvalho. “But the reality is that when people are making choices to get treatment and improve their lives, that stigma sounds a lot like discrimination.”
But the opposition is convinced the proposed facility will have a detrimental impact on local neighborhoods.
“It’s 1.25 acres on north Esplanade,” said Cardwell, “and they’re going to put 22 clients, five staff, 17 parking spaces and a total of 7,600 square feet of construction on it and still try to call it a serene and tranquil environment. I think it’s important to realize that while some of their clients may be there because they sincerely want to make changes in their lives, AB 109 is a game-changer. Nobody knows exactly what AB 109 is going to do.”