Cloverdale city council

The fate of the housing site was up for discussion during last week’s council meeting

During last week’s Cloverdale City Council meeting, the city was tasked with discussing and weighing potential options for the Cherry Creek housing site.

Two upcoming deadlines — the lease with Cloverdale Community Outreach Committee (CCOC) ending in the fall and a $1.9 million bond balance spending cap of 2022 — meant that the council had to discuss both what to do with the site in the future, and how to spend the money. The CCOC operates a housing facility on Cherry Creek, and an outpouring of public comment was in support of the city maintaining that relationship and allowing the CCOC to continue operating past the September 2019 lease expiration.

Councilmember Mary Ann Brigham recused herself from the discussion, because she lives near the property.

The Cherry Creek housing site was purchased in 2007 by the city and the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County. The property was purchased to be used for low-to-moderate income housing. As a result of the Great Recession, the land trust exited the deal in 2009 and Cloverdale took over ownership.

The city then entered into an agreement with the CCOC to operate an affordable housing program on the site. The program has been operating since then. However, the lease with the CCOC is set to expire on Sept. 30.

On top of the lease ending, the city also has $1.9 million in unspent bond proceeds from the city’s former redevelopment agency. The proceeds are meant specifically for providing affordable housing and the city has until September 2022 to spend them. City staff presented the city council with two options for providing affordable housing at the Cherry Creek site.

“I think all along it’s been the intent to use that money on the Cherry Creek site in one way or the other,” Assistant City Manager Kevin Thompson said when giving background for the discussion.

The first option is to put forth a Release of a Request for Proposals (RFP) from outside developers who have experience with affordable housing development. As part of the RFP agreement, the city would be able to put forth its expectation for the developer and the development, and the city would help provide site control and the unspent bond money.

“In our discussions with the county, we feel that that’s a pretty attractive RFP proposal for us,” Thompson said.

In 2017, the city hired ArchiLOGIX, an architectural services firm, to complete an initial design and create a budget for potential construction on the Cherry Creek site. The RFP process would seek a project similar to the design created by ArchiLOGIX, which has already been through the Planning Commission.

As a possible component of the potential Cherry Creek development, there was discussion of creating a navigation center on the property.

“There’s a part in there that I know is causing heartache in the community, which is the navigation center,” Thompson said. “Where that came from was the discussion that the city manager and I had with the county regarding the possible corner use of that site as a navigation center. The way we envisioned the navigation center — it was never to be for beds or any type of overnight stay. It would be more of a place where people in need could go to find out where services are.”

The possibility of a navigation center was opposed by many who spoke during public comment, fearing that the center would attract homeless individuals to Cloverdale.

The second option presented suggests extending the lease agreement that the city has with the CCOC. If the city were to extend the agreement, the bond money would be put toward rehabilitation of the buildings that are already on the site.

“This is a project that we’ve been working on for quite awhile. We have a really close working relationship and because we anticipated that this is a prospect, we’ve been working to find developers that we can work with that won’t push us out,” said Colleen Halbohm of Wallace House.

According to Halbohm, some low income housing developers expect service providers like Wallace House to be “plug-ons” and require them to get their own funding.

“If we don’t have Cherry Creek Village, pretty much our agency ceases to exist,” she continued. “I’ve located a developer who’s willing to work with us as a managing partner, we would be a partner in this and we wouldn’t be a plug-on. As a result, we would be able to receive half of the $1.5 million in developer fees. We have a project, we have a proposal, it’s ready to go.”

If the city decides to extend the lease agreement, Halbohm anticipated that the project would be completed a year in advance of when the bond money would have to be used by.

“We would have about a year’s leeway between when the project was completed and when we hit the deadline of September 2022,” she said. “If we go an RFP route, we’re really pushing it. I would strongly advocate for going sole-source on this thing, so we can go and do it. I believe that if we get any proposals at all, they’re just not interested in that small of a footprint. Ours is a family project.”

Once the discussion opened up to public comment, a handful of people spoke out in support of Wallace House’s work.

“I think you need to keep the Wallace House where it’s at. What you’re opening up is a can of worms. If you have a navigation center there, it’s not an information-only building. It’s open for the homeless to come with their belongings, their tents, it’s basically a legalized tent city. At the end of the day, that’s what it is,” Angela Cordova said during public comment. “If that site is currently being used by the Wallace House … without incident, mind you, I think it needs to continue. They’ve been successful. I’ve been in Cloverdale 15 years, and I can honestly say that today was the first time that I found out that the location is Wallace House. I was shocked. It was so well maintained, it was quiet, I’ve never seen any incidents there.”

“The Wallace House is a godsend. Colleen is a godsend,” Patrick King said. “I just want to talk about the RFP process. It takes so much time for our city and our resources to go through the whole proposal process and put it out to bid when we have somebody who put together a proposal over the last 10 years, and really put in due diligence and time. I think we should really table the RFP process and really dive deep into what she has done.”

Similar public comments followed, echoing sentiments of those opposed to opening up the development to the RFP process and encouraging the city to sole-source the project to the CCOC and Wallace House.

“I do not want to see the city lose control over that property, and I want to be sure that it does not change later into some type of a homeless center,” Vice Mayor Gus Wolter said. “I think the reference to a navigation center does not need to be put in the RFP, I think it brings up things. It means something different to everyone … I would like to see us sole-source this.”

The remaining three council members spoke in agreement with Wolter, supporting the sole-sourcing of Cherry Creek to the CCOC.

Following Wolter’s comments, Finance Director Susie Holmes commented, inquiring if the bond money contains possible limitations that require the city to go through a competitive bidding RFP process. City staff is looking into whether or not the city is able to sole-source the bond funding to Wallace House, or if they need to open it up to a RFP.

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