After years of program refinements, Cesar Chavez Plaza finally got its warm welcome into the Davis community of housing complexes with a grand opening celebration on Saturday.
The celebration was attended by a star-studded list of local Davis and Yolo County politicians, including former Davis mayors, City Councilmember Dan Wolk, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor and state Senator Lois Wolk (D-Yolo).
The 53-unit low-income apartment complex, which is located on 1220 Olive Drive, is helping to mitigate the low-income housing problem in Yolo County, where thousands of individuals are on a waiting list to receive rental assistance.
On a table along with reading material lay a picture of Cesar Chavez and his bodyguard standing in the outdoors. The bearded bodyguard also served as bodyguard to the late New York Senator Bobby Kennedy.
That bodyguard is David Thompson, now co-principal of Neighborhood Partners.
Thompson coordinated that day’s events and had many of his real-life neighborhood partners to thank for their cooperative contributions to the new housing development.
“This is one of the most important projects that Luke and I have ever done,” said Thompson, also on behalf of his business associate Luke Watkins.
Davis Community Meals, Neighborhood Partners and the Yolo County Housing Authority are all joint managers of the now fully operational complex.
“This is the first [housing] project in Davis that specifically wanted to deal with the needs of the at-risk homeless population,” Thompson said.
“Many of those folks are on fixed incomes and they need somewhere to help guide them through, making sure they go to appointments, get treatments, somebody to help them basically to stay housed,” said Bill Pride, executive director of Davis Community Meals.
To that end, Davis Community Meals employee Synda Whitmer coordinates specifically with low-income Cesar Chavez Plaza residents to help them with obtaining food, services, mental health treatment and counseling.
The list of contributors to Cesar Chavez goes on. The Yolo County Food Bank comes by Cesar Chavez once a month to distribute food. Taqueria Davis also donated some food for the occasion.
The opening ceremony also included local Davis artist Susan Shelton to remark on her mural outside the newly-christened Helen Thomson Community Room.
“The feel of the mural is really grounded in the folk art style,” Shelton said.
In the spirit of community Shelton included residents of Cesar Chavez Plaza in painting the mural, which she said represents “hope and optimism for the future.”
Also speaking at the opening was Judge and Presidential Medal of Freedom Honoree Cruz Reynoso, who, during his closing remarks, exclaimed in Spanish, “Que viva el espíritu de Cesar Chavez!”
RAMON SOLIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.