Storm drainage turns Pixley Park site into Lodi’s newest lake

The site of Pixley Park is still flooded with water on Thursday, April 24, 2014, from storms earlier this month.

Most of the Lodi residents who attended a Thursday night community meeting to discuss the city’s proposed access center for the homeless said they preferred placing the facility in Pixley Slough, and not on Century Boulevard or North Sacramento Street.

The city’s Community Development Department hosted the meeting in Kirst Hall at Hutchins Street Square after receiving backlash from Sacramento Street property owners last month, who claimed they were not properly notified of the intent to purchase the land to locate the access center.

The Pixley Slough site is a 2-acre piece of city-owned land located at Auto Center Drive and Pixley Parkway, and replaces a piece of city-owned land on Thurman Street, after staff learned the Lodi Electric Utility’s planned infrastructure expansion project would need the location.

Community Development Department staff said the Pixley Slough location is in close proximity to transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles, a gas station, a grocery store and convenience store, and restaurants.

Staff said if the site is chosen, a large intake building with the services and resources homeless people need would be located near the Auto Center Drive and Pixley Parkway intersection, with several housing units similar to “tiny homes” located behind it.

Locations still under consideration for the access center include a piece of city-owned surplus property on Century Boulevard, adjacent to Salas Park, as well as a vacant commercial site at 710 N. Sacramento St.

The Century Boulevard parcel is 3 acres in size, and is close to transit, grocery and convenience stores, and restaurants. A large intake building with dormitory-style housing would front the Stockton Street side of the property, and tiny homes would be built behind it.

The North Sacramento Street property is also in close proximity to transit, grocery and convenience stores, a gas station and restaurants, as well as existing social services such as the Salvation Army and Grace & Mercy Charitable Foundation.

The site is about 1.5 acres in size, and the existing vacant structure there would be converted into the intake building, while tiny homes would be built in the parking area located on the south side of the property.

Staff said regardless of which site is chosen, there will be round-the-clock security patrolling not only at the access center, but in the surrounding neighborhood. Janitorial staff will clean the property on a daily basis, and the surrounding neighborhood will also be cleaned several times a week.

Staff said a recent survey sent to 24,000 residents resulted in 970 responses, and of those, 67% favored an access center in the city.

Residents who spoke during the meeting said they supported an access center, but did not want it in their neighborhoods.

“It’s a great idea, I like it, but it’s not good for Century (Boulevard),” Theresa Mack said. “There’s a park there, there are schools and people that walk around at all hours of the night in that area. You can’t say all the drug addicts are just going to disappear. They’re going to sell them one way or another somewhere else. My home is my retirement, and property values could go down. That’s why I’m opposed to it.”

Mack suggested the city sell the Century Boulevard property and use the money toward the access center in another location.

Robin Knowlton, a resident who owns three Sacramento Street properties with her husband, asked staff to remove the Sacramento Street site from the list of options, as there is a third party interested in turning the location into a viable recreation business.

It was Knowlton and her husband who helmed the Sacramento Street backlash against the access center, as they circulated a petition among their neighbors opposing the project.

Not only do North Sacramento Street businesses oppose the access center, she said, but so do 42 of 44 households in the River Pointe neighborhood off Turner Road, as well as 32 residents of the Arbor Senior Living facility on Church Street, she said.

“All of these businesses, residents and managers feel that we have been negatively impacted by the two existing homeless

facilities on Sacramento Street,” Knowlton said. “It’s time to locate the next facility elsewhere. We fully support an access center in Lodi, and we feel the Pixley Parkway site is a location that would have the least impact on businesses and residents.”

Community Development director John Della Monica said staff understood the concerns raised by residents and business owners. Staff members have been trying to create options for the community to discuss, he added.

The Sacramento Street location is still being considered because it remains one of a few viable option for the access center, he said.

Of the 128 sites the city owns, only 47 met the minimum size requirement of 1.4 acres. Of those 47 properties, only 13 were not committed to another use in the future.

And of those 13, only five locations met the minimum requirements for the access center, the city said last week. Those requirements included close proximity to resources, necessities and public transportation.

Three of those five sites were eliminated due to environmental concerns, including noise and proximity to waterways.

Other properties considered included 1125 and 1130 Awani Drive, which is zoned for low-density residential use and near a waterway; a parcel at West Westgate Drive, where Lodi Electric plans to expand infrastructure, similar to the Thurman Street property; a parcel on the 400 block of Lockeford Street, which was too small; and the hotels on Main Street on the east side of town, which were cost prohibitive.

The city also considered parcels on Lockeford Street currently owned by Union Pacific Railroad, which was also deemed cost prohibitive. In addition, staff said there were unknown environmental factors associated with those sites.

“It is clear ... no one is going to want this in their backyard,” Della Monica said. “There isn’t going to be an overwhelming response to say one site or the other. But what we did do is come up with an array of viable options so we could present to the city leadership, and we’re putting them out there for community conversation.”

Sam Regan, a volunteer with the community garden and food pantry located on Elm Street, said that site is currently up for sale, and was told to pass that information along to the city as a viable location for the access center.

He said he thought about bringing some of the city’s homeless residents to the Thursday meeting to get their input as to where the access center should be located, given they were the ones who would use it.

But many were hesitant about appearing because they feel hated, unwelcome and criminalized in Lodi, Regan said.

“Many people at this meeting tonight, they want an access center — just not in their neighborhood, because they view a proximity to unhoused people as a threat,” he said. “Unhoused people understand this hate you project towards them. They can feel this vitriol, and it makes them way less likely to utilize these services. If we want to make this a better (situation), you have to stop projecting hate onto people that really need our help.”

Staff will present the three options to the Lodi City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The meeting will be virtual, and can be viewed at www.facebook.com/ CityofLodi at 7 p.m.

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