Neighbors of Everett’s proposed housing project feel ignored

EVERETT — People got another chance Thursday to sound off on the city’s plan to build an apartment house for those chronically without a home.

About 30 people attended a public hearing at Everett Station on the city’s proposed Safe Streets Supportive Housing Project. The project is now up for permits.

Everett has proposed building a four-story building with 65 apartments, around-the-clock staffing and on-site social services providers. The building would be owned and operated by Catholic Housing Services, a sister organization of Catholic Community Services.

The project has been controversial for people who live close to the chosen location on the edge of a neighborhood. The city-owned land is on Berkshire Drive, half a block from Evergreen Way and near the Glacier View and Pinehurst/Beverly Park neighborhoods.

People living in the area have complained to the city about the lack of advance notice in the site selection. Neighbors’ concerns also have included the fear of increased crime and falling property values.

In the city’s public comment period that ended in March, 21 people provided feedback. About half of the comments stated opposition, and one of those was accompanied by 139 signatures from people living within a few blocks of the proposed site.

Aaron Powell, the neighbor who lives near the site and who gathered the signatures, said many people are concerned that the drug activity down on Evergreen Way will be drawn up the hill.

“It’s not just a fear of change, it’s the knowledge that drugs will be introduced into our neighborhood,” Powell said.

“We’ve had residents in our neighborhood already move out because they’re afraid of what’s coming next,” he said.

Hearing examiner James Driscoll used the first part of the hearing to ask questions about the building’s design and protocols Catholic Housing would have in place.

He asked Will Rice, a vice president at Catholic Community Services, about the prevalence of drug use or relapsing in the facilities and what the nonprofit’s plans were for that problem.

Rice said that while there is a significant amount of drug use and mental illness among homeless people, his experience is that isn’t the main reason many wind up homeless.

“A much larger percentage is people that have experienced trauma,” Rice said.

In the end, Rice said, Catholic Housing has a landlord-tenant relationship with those living in its facilities. The nonprofit’s goal is to keep people in housing, but those who violate the rules consistently can and have been evicted.

Kent Hendricks, who owns an apartment complex on Pecks Drive, said people had invested in their homes, and felt the development would stigmatize the neighborhood.

For that reason, he proposed the section of Berkshire that fronts the proposed building be renamed, “so that this project no longer be associated with the Berkshire name.”

Bob Creamer, who doesn’t live near the site, questioned whether neighbors were given adequate notice.

“We think the process of installing low-barrier housing in the Pinehurst neighborhood has been one that has ignored the public,” Creamer said.

The public hearing is one of the final steps in the review process of the project. Comments submitted at the hearing are supposed to address those land use elements spelled out in the project documentation.

Two issues were covered: the city’s proposal to subdivide its property so it can transfer one of the parcels to Catholic Housing Services, which would then build and operate the housing project. The second hearing was whether the permits to build the project should be approved.

Driscoll said he expected he would issue his decision by June 7.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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