In a city known for its premium home prices and focus on education, homelessness is not frequently on the agenda. With complaints from neighbors and attention from city staff, however, it is becoming an issue in downtown Davis.
Neighbors on D Street and the surrounding area downtown have become increasingly frustrated about the impact of homeless services located in the area, according to a city staff report.
Many neighbors have cited crime and public safety as an issue resulting from what they say is a high concentration of services catering to the homeless population on the block bordered by Fourth, Fifth, C and D Streets. Most of the block is occupied by Davis Community Church.
In response to these concerns, city staff organized a City Council subcommittee to address the issue, but the way it was set up raised concerns among some who said the focus should be more comprehensive, looking at issues beyond D Street.
“Davis is more than just a bunch of unrelated neighborhoods,“ said resident Allan Bronstein. “We are a community bound by common values. There‘s a lot more at stake in this issue than just the neighborhood that surrounds the D Street area.“
City staff said they wanted the subcommittee to focus only on the land use issues associated with the site, not on homelessness and its impact on the community as a whole.
Mary Lynn Tobin, pastor at Davis Community Church, said she did not think that approach was possible.
“I find it somewhat inconceivable that this subcommittee can do its work without considering the question of communitywide homelessness issues,” she said.
Tobin also said she felt members of the homeless community should be included in discussions about the problems facing the area and potential solutions.
UC Davis evolution and ecology professor Brad Shaffer, who lives in the neighborhood, said he thought a citywide approach would be valuable, but that the subcommittee should be able to focus on the single issue of zoning.
After working in December to get feedback from city departments and stakeholder groups, city staff will work on an analysis of the impact the current land use has had on the area, with a report due back in January.
Meanwhile, homeless service providers in the county have had to work around significant budget cuts this year. The Yolo Wayfarer Center lost $100,000 in federal grant funding earlier this fall, reducing the number of people it can serve in its shelter by 20.
Estimates of the size of the local homeless population vary, but there were between 1,119 and 2,238 homeless people in Yolo County in 2007, according to the Homeless Census Data Report.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.