MARC GARMAN - EDITOR

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Purpose

To highlight some of the complaints about the Casa De Vallejo and Calls for Service the Vallejo Police Department has received for that property.



Background

Casa De Vallejo is a 136 unit Section 8 retirement home for seniors (occupants must be low income and at least 55 years of age) located at 1825 Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo.


A four (4) alarm fire at the site on August 15, 2008 resulted in 3 deaths and 117 occupants being displaced. After extensive renovations the Casa De Vallejo was partially reopened in late 2012 and full occupancy was reached in late 2013.


Starting in Summer 2013 complaints about the Casa De Vallejo from downtown property owners started to occur. The complaints include instances of loitering, residents smoking and drinking in front of nearby properties, and prostitutes soliciting from inside the Casa and actually flagging prospective Johns from street facing windows.

Local merchants and the CCRC (Central Core Restoration Corporation-- a public benefits improvement district serving the needs of property owners in downtown) have met with the property management and HUD, but feel that the problems continue to persist. (See letter from CCRC).


Caveats

1) Caution should be used with Calls for Service. The reasons for a Call for Service can vary from something very minor such as a welfare check to a domestic disturbance, shooting, robbery or murder. In some cases the Call for Service is a duplicate call (from another person) or unfounded.


2) When Calls for Service are significantly higher than surrounding residences/motels etc. it is often an indication of a poorly managed facility that is a public nuisance.


3) Normally, Calls for Service at a Senior Residence facility tend to be relatively low with many of them being for welfare checks, medical emergencies and verbal arguments etc. between residents.



A Call for Service can be used to estimate how much an apartment complex is costing the City. A Call for Service is estimated to cost the City about $500.



Findings


1) There appears to be inadequate security/staffing at Casa De Vallejo. Prior to the fire in 2008 the facility had 15 employees and a 24 hour service desk. Until very recently only four (4) employees were on site. Prior to December 2013, if a security problem occurred at night, residents had to call a maintenance worker who was not always reachable. It has also been reported that homeless people are sometimes sleeping in the lobby at night. In the last month or two the security guard hours were changed to 9PM to 6AM (from more daytime hours) and I was told the maintenance person would soon start living on site.


2) Calls for Service at Casa De Vallejo are increasing and are now unusually high for a Senior Retirement Home. As occupancy has increased Calls for Service have risen to very high levels.

 

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Comments


Once again a Section 8 multi unit facility (Casa De Vallejo) has become a burden on our community. It appears that the property owners were not been willing to make the necessary investments (additional staff, more activities for residents etc.) in their property until recently, perhaps as a result of pressure from the community. Rather they were asking for our community to provide these services. If there was one lesson learned from the problems at 201 Maine (Marina Vista Apartments) it is that the Vallejo Police department will never be able to solve the social problems that exist—they can only respond after a situation occurs. What is needed is pressure on the property owners by the Citizens of Vallejo to fix the problems. A community effort is critical. There is no other effective mechanism.


What is equally troubling is the lack of response from HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) to protect the residents at Casa De Vallejo. Just like at 201 Maine, HUD San Francisco seems willing to turn a blind eye to the property manager’s lack of staffing and extremely limited services. As soon as HUD heard that there were only 4 staff members on site (and the service desk was not being manned at night) why didn’t they demand that security be improved? There are also issues about loitering (in part as there is no place to smoke) and lack of activities for residents that HUD has ignored. The loitering due to smoking continues to be a problem as management has not created areas for residents that smoke.


While the owners have started some activities for residents in the last month and now claim to be manning the service desk at night, only time will tell if these steps are adequate. Pressure needs to continue to make sure real change is forthcoming, not just lip service.


Final Thought

Facilities like the Casa De Vallejo need to have their residents sign “crime free” zero tolerance contracts. These contracts make it much easier to evict troublesome tenants and compels the property owners to do a better job of screening tenants.