Saturday, February 16, 2013

Relationship Between Crime and Affordable Housing Debated in Novato

High density affordable housing means high density urban problems.

Editor's Note 1/7/2018:  The Los Angeles Times has linked this article today with the unfair suggestion that it represents racial intolerance in Marin County.  It is part of over 3000 blog posts about housing and politics on this site.   This article republished from the Novato Patch simply states the crime occurrence in several large apartment complexes in Novato. The problems now have abated since 2013 with better property management.  

Our comments following the article simply makes the point that Marin County Supervisors targeted our  tiny community of 6 square miles with 83% of all the new low income apartments for the 843 square mile Marin County.  It was grossly unfair and resulted in the ouster of our long time Supervisor, Susan Adams.

Race was never discussed in this article or others as a cause for alarm despite the use of a photo of a MS 13 gang member first published in the Los Angeles Times. (I naively thought it could have been the back of a California surfer).  Gang problems do exist in Marin County but not to the degree in other parts of the State. In 2015, Novato had a grisly gang crime that involved the decapitation of a high school student and the near murder of his friend.

Marin county is trying to fulfill an agreement with HUD to make Marin more racially diverse or face steep fines.  Obviously, if it is to meet this goal virtually every Marin County sponsored apartment projects would have to have a high percentage of minorities from outside the county and house them in our tiny community.  We think this is bad social policy and racist.  Housing islands of minorities in large apartment complexes would only further isolate them from the rest of Marin.  We advocate distributing complexes in EVERY neighborhood of Marin, not just one small bedroom community in the unincorporated county.   Clearly the Marin Supervisors were using Marinwood to avoid political problems in their own district.  Former Supervisor Steve Kinsey,  (now famous for unethical practices on the California Coastal Commission) only put two housing units in his district that encompasses over 600 square miles.

The charge of "Racism" is meant to discredit us and distract from the real issues of concentrating 83% of the housing for Marin County in one small community.  Marinwood-Lucas Valley is far more diverse than most communities in Marin County and all are welcome.   It is ironic that most Marin supervisors live in the whitest neighborhoods.  

Article from the Novato Patch:

Relationship Between Crime and Affordable Housing Debated at Novato City Council Session

Police chief and housing management representatives shed light on realities of life in low-income, high-density complexes.
As part of Novato’s community-wide informational download on all things related to affordable housing, the Novato City Council hosted a work study session Tuesday night to go over crime statistics and rental property management at multifamily complexes in the city.

Police Chief Joseph Kreins crunched numbers that showed crime is significantly lower in the city than it was 10 or 20 years ago, and fares well when compared with Petaluma, San Rafael, Walnut Creek and Beverly Hills, but warned that “you can’t just focus on statistics because they don’t paint a total picture.”

Art Gerrans, a Novato resident since 1969 who was police officer for more than 40 years, said people used to move to Novato because it was safe. He said he raised seven kids

“When you get a situation with public housing, you’re going to have crime,” he said, adding that he worked on homicide and narcotics units with San Francisco police. “These are people who bring their problems with them … and will reflect on our society here. … If you bring these people here, the good people of Novato will leave.”

Kreins went through his presentation and acknowledged that Wyndover Apartments, a 136-unit complex near the downtown area, has been a particular problem for the police department for about four years.

“Quite frankly it was a mess when we started focusing on them,” Kreins said of Wyndover.
Starting in September 2010, the police department initiated meetings with Fairfield Wyndover management company to address the high volume of calls for service and improve quality-of-life issues for the residents in the 800 block of Diablo Avenue. Kreins said his department increased foot patrols and drive-throughs in the area, shared information about observed resident activity with on-site management and set up a liaison between the police and the Marin Housing Authority.
“Working with the on-site management is absolutely key and critical to working with that multifamily housing unit,” Kreins said.

In the time between Oct. 1, 2010, and March 31 of this year, there were 10 evictions and 25 probation/parole checks at Wyndover, Kreins said. Since the start of this year, the complex’s management company improved lighting on the site, locked the external gates and started a Neighborhood Watch group. Kreins said there has been a noticeable drop in person crime and property crime in the past three months there.

Crime statistics for 10 Novato housing complexes were compared and showed Wyndover as No. 1 in total calls for service over the past two years, No. 1 in calls for service per 100 units and No. 1 in percentage of all calls answered by the police department.

“Where is Fairfield Wyndover tonight?” asked resident Toni Shroyer, an outspoken critic of the Wyndover management. “They have a lot of questions to answer. … They are making more than $1.6 million per year and not paying any taxes.”

However, Kreins pointed out that the Bay Vista section of Hamilton had higher numbers than Wyndover when it came to person crimes and property crimes, the two that are more closely related to criminal activity.

Wyndover had 321 service calls for disturbances or suspicious circumstances in the past two years, more than double that of Bay Vista and significantly more the other eight complexes. But Kreins said that those responses only rarely result in arrests for person or property crimes.

He added later that in some cases a low percentage of residents can create a high percentage of crime in a given complex or neighborhood. “You can have one location that creates a tremendously high level of calls for service,” Kreins said, “and in those cases we can continue to move those people out.”

Ned York, an assistant vice president with the John Stewart Company, spoke about his firm’s properties at Bay Vista and Creekside in Hamilton. At Bay Vista, built at the former Hamilton Air Force Base after it was decommissioned, crime has been a major concern and calls for service are much higher than the average in Novato.

The rents at Bay Vista range from $745 to $1,782 for the 220 two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, and the density per acre is about 13 units. The typical household income at Bay Vista is $32,303, just more than half the average in Novato.

York said applicant households are rejected if anyone planning to live in a unit has committed a felony, and background checks date back seven years. Credit checks are a key part of the screening process, too, he said, because “we want to make sure the folks who live at our site have the minimum amount of income to give us confidence that they can pay the rent.”

Marie Chan, an advocate for sustainable affordable housing, begged to differ with anyone who doubted Kreins’ crime statistics.

“It is totally unfair to categorize Novato as crime-ridden,” she said. “… Novato doesn’t need to have this black eye within the county so that other people think we’re a crime-ridden community.”

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Editor's Note:

The Novato citizens comments about article: are very worthwhile reading for citizens of Marinwood Lucas Valley.  They document the actual experience of Novato with affordable housing. You could also ask neighbors in Santa Venetia what they think of the 28 unit affordable housing unit at 10 Labrea Way (off San Pedro Rd).  The non profit developer EAH housing  is a major affordable housing developer like Bridge Housing ,  the potential developer of Marinwood Village.  The surrounding neighbors complain of loud music, public drunkeness, drug dealing, trash, and police calls. The schools have suffered impacts of crowding.

Marinwood Village will be three times the size. 

  We are going to have a much higher percentage of affordable housing in our neighborhood according the Housing Element for unincorporated Marin. In fact 71% of all affordable housing for unincorporated Marin (and 83% of the lowest income families.
At least 25% of our population will be extremely low income to moderate income living in rent subsidized apartments.  
Where are the jobs for all these new arrivals?  

Isn't Marin County simply creating a new warehouse for low income people paid for by the community of Marinwood-Lucas Valley?

 It is time to wake up.

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