Q & A

Q1. Why are you proposing a homeless shelter in Mission Hills?

A1. We are not. We have never considered a homeless shelter at the Burton Mesa property for two reasons:

First, the County zoning on this property does not allow for shelters; the County would have to grant us both a Zone change and a General Plan amendment which are expensive applications and ones not likely to be approved.

Second, we do not think this is an appropriate area for a homeless shelter.  We don’t see a resident homeless population in the immediate Mission Hills area and do not think that it makes sense to relocate homeless persons to this area for housing.

Furthermore, Firebird Properties, LLC is a private business entity with no experience in licensing, financing or operating a homeless shelter.  A “shelter” is prohibited from charging for overnight accommodations, therefore a private-sector developer would not likely be able to cover the operating and capital costs of a shelter.

Brisa Encina is not a proposed homeless shelter, and never has been.

Q2. I heard from the County of Santa Barbara that you are proposing a homeless shelter – how could that happen if you are not proposing one?

A2. We have tried to track back how the rumor that we are proposing a homeless shelter got started, and here’s what we have found: Someone saw the large County sign on the property and/or received a notice in the mail about the proposed development then called the County and asked if this was going to be a housing for the homeless…and the north County planner (not accurately remembering an initial meeting we had with her last December) said, “Yes, I believe so.”  She has since reviewed her notes on our meeting and has apologized to us several times for this accidental misstatement. Regardless, the rumor of a homeless shelter was started.

[A homeless shelter is not being proposed.  We are proposing to build permanent supportive apartment housing.]

Q3. What is Supportive Housing?

A3. The State of California defines it as this: CA Government Code Section 65582.0

(g) “Supportive housing” means housing with no limit on length of stay, that is occupied by the target population, and that is linked to an onsite or offsite service that assists the supportive housing resident in retaining the housing, improving his or her health status, and maximizing his or her ability to live and, when possible, work in the community.

(h) “Supportive services” include, but are not limited to, a combination of subsidized, permanent housing, intensive case management, medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, employment services, and benefits advocacy.

(i) “Target population” means persons with low incomes who have one or more disabilities, including mental illness, HIV or AIDS, substance abuse, or other chronic health condition, or individuals eligible for services provided pursuant to the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Division 4.5 (commencing with Section 4500) of the Welfare and Institutions Code) and may include, among other populations, adults, emancipated minors, families with children, elderly persons, young adults aging out of the foster care system, individuals exiting from institutional settings, veterans, and homeless people.

Examples of supportive services may include but are not limited to, any of the following:

  • Services that are designed to develop and improve independent living and problem-solving skills;
  • Education and training in meal planning and shopping, budgeting and managing finances, medication self-management, transportation, vocational and educational development, and the appropriate use of community resources and leisure activities;
  • Assistance with arrangements to meet the individual’s basic needs such as financial benefits, food, clothing, household goods, and housing, and locating and scheduling for appropriate medical, dental, and vision benefits and care.

It should be noted that our study of the market indicates that enough of our target population currently live in the Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village are as to fully occupy the apartments of our facility.  And while not every qualified local person may wish to apply to live here, it is clear to us that we will not be drawing from far outside the Lompoc valley areato lease all of the units in this development.

Q4.  How can you prove that seriously mentally ill people will not be living here?

A4.  The State of California has outlawed housing discrimination, including discrimination against the mentally ill, for ANY housing development, rental or for-sale. No one in California may legally say, “Mentally ill people cannot live here”.  Just as a mentally ill person might qualify for a loan and purchase a house in your neighborhood.  However, we are allowed a screening process to eliminate rental candidates with violent,illegal, or disruptive behaviors that will not be allowed in our community.  We pay for a full criminal background check to ensure that we do not accept persons with a history of any of the following criminal behaviors:

  • violence,
  • sex crimes,
  • drug dealing,
  • arson,

Also, our lease is structured so that a resident may be evicted immediately if they participate in illegal behaviors. The same cannot typically be said of persons living in a private home or non-supportive housing apartment.  Our residents will be more highly screened than others living near you now and our eviction procedures will be more swiftly enforced.

Q5.  How can you prove that homeless people will not live here?

A5.  Again, we are not allowed to discriminate against anyone, including homeless persons, but we are allowed a financial screening process as follows:

  •  We perform a credit check on all applicants,
  • We require three (3) previous rental referrals, and
  • We screen income statements to ensure that residents are not spending more than 30% to 40% of their income on rent.

Given these requirements, it is unlikely that a homeless personwill qualify. Although our residences are intended to support people with limited income, we still need to be assured that rent is going to be paid and in a timely manner. Many of our residents work part-time as well as get disability aid. 

Q6.  We understand that a property owner has a right to develop his/her property, but will you please develop something else?

A6. According to the County’s Zoning code, other uses that could be developed here with minimal discretionary review (less than we are required) include:

  • Oil or gas pipeline
  • Flood control project
  • Animal hospital
  • Liquor store
  • Cannabis sales
  • Daycare center
  • Service station as a part of a shopping center
  • Temporary farm labor housing
  • Agricultural labor housing
With a Conditional Use Permit, the following could be developed here:
  • Drive-in and Drive-through facilities
  • Sports and outdoor recreation facility

These uses may have greater parking, traffic, time-of-use, noise, and visual (height and lot coverage) impacts than the proposed residential community.

However, in reality the subject property is not very interesting to commercial developers because of the relatively low number of vehicle trips that pass by the property. The adjacent shopping center is not fully developed to its maximum potential according to the County’s development code, yet it struggles to support the 13,320 square feet of commercial space which was developed in 1963-67.

In 1989, plans were approved to expand the shopping center to 39,980 square feet (nearly triple the current size) in anticipation of over 300 homes being built on the vacant tract of land located east of the shopping center.  Before the homes were built, the State of California and the County of Santa Barbara determined that the vacant tract supported significant amounts of Burton Mesa chaparral and was put into land preservation status, thus voiding the approval of the 300+ homes.   The anticipation of this housing development explains why Burton Mesa Boulevard is a wide, 4-lane roadway.  The legal taking of the property by the state explains why Burton Mesa Boulevard dead-ends just east of the shopping center.  It was planned to be a through road to Cebada Canyon and Highway 246 and connect to the Country Club, Vandenberg Village and Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Since the termination of Burton Mesa Road, there is no hope of increased traffic passing by the two parcels zoned for Shopping Center. Traffic from the existing 350+ homes located north of the SC zoned parcels is largely all that passes by. As a result, there has been little interest in the property by commercial developers for decades. Supportive housing, such as this project, is one of the only types of residential development allowed in the SC zone (that or Agricultural Worker housing or Temporary Farm Labor housing).

For our part, Firebird properties has experience in residential development.Our experience and market analysis indicate that Supportive Housing is more of a need in the Mission Hills area than are Agricultural Worker or Temporary Farm Labor housing types.

Q7.  So according to the Zoning laws in place, you can’t build regular market-rate apartments?

A7.  No because they are not a permitted use in the “SC” zone on this property – Shopping Center zone. The only residential development allowed in the SC zone is “supportive housing” or “agricultural labor housing” or “temporary farm labor housing”. The County recently modified its Zoning Ordinance to permit or conditionally permit “supportive housing” in most zones because this use has proven to have few impacts on surrounding areas and is in critically short supply.  Allowing supportive housing in most zones is the County’s attempt to encourage this type of development in as many places as possible.

Q8.  Are there going to be 140 people living here with 140 cars and only 88 parking spaces?

A8. No. We have developed and operated too many of these facilities to answer this question any other way.  Typically, we see only one person per unit, but rarely we have experienced up to 20% of the units occupied by two people, making it possible but unlikely that we could see up to 84 persons residing at Brisa Encina.

Rarely do people living in a supportive services community have vehicles, yet we are providing 88 parking spaces – 10 more spaces than are required by the County’s development standards.

Rather than having an overflow of parking onto the streets, we have had problems with neighbors parking cars and other vehicles in our lots because they have so many vacant spaces

A professional traffic and parking study will be prepared and available to the public in the next couple of months which we anticipate will confirm our assertion.

Q9.  Will your development impact the traffic in our area?

A9.  As stated above, most residents of supportive housing do not have vehicles. Therefore, the number of peak-hour and total trips for our development will be generated by employees and will be quite small. We will have a van to transport our residents in groups or they will use the COLT bus service located right across the street from our property instead of relying primarily on private cars.

The traffic impact of most of the alternative permissible uses listed above would generate more traffic than will our supportive housing development.  We are contracting to obtain a traffic impact study which we anticipate will confirm as much. This study will be available in September 2018.

Additionally, we are working with the County Fire Marshal to determine whether our residents can “shelter in place” in the event of an emergency, since loading people needing physical assistance into vans and evacuating them quickly might not be possible in some instances.  A positive result for the neighborhood of our residents sheltering in place would be a reduced peak impact on the local roadway evacuation routes by delaying or avoiding emergency evacuation traffic.

Q10.   How many people will you employ?

A10.  The “regular” management staff would include 4 people during the day: a community manager, assistant community manager, janitor/grounds person, and a services coordinator.  We would also have 2 “awake” managers for the other two shifts of the day for a total of 8 management staff in a 24-hour period.  Additionally, we anticipate 3 part-time staff: a cook/nutritionist and 2 kitchen/serving staff per day.  Beyond the basic management staff, we have planned office space for as many as 10 supportive service professionals at a time in the office/service building (which would be its maximum capacity).

Q11.  Are you going to have security around your facility to protect the neighborhood from your residents?

A11.  We will have two on-site managers, similar to a typical apartment facility, but our community will have two awake managers on duty at all times – which is different.  We will also have surveillance cameras and a perimeter wall adjacent to the alley and the shopping center.  NOTE: The purpose of these safety measures is to protect and serve the disabled population that will reside here rather than protect the neighbors from our residents.

Q12.  Is this a high fire hazard area?  

A12. Yes, the Mission Hills community has been designated “moderate to high fire” since November of 2007.  However, we expect that the Fire Department will find that the homes around our project will be safer with Brisa Encina developed than they were near a vacant lot through which a fire could easily pass. Most of the homes in the area were built in the 1960’s and 70’s and are wood-based construction. Under the current adopted County codes and standards, the exterior surfaces of new construction, such as Brisa Encina, must be protected from range-land fire by using stucco and tile exteriors, minimizing wood siding and combustible elements, and using fire-rated windows and exterior doors.  New developments over 5,000 square feet (which includes this project) must also provide interior automatic fire sprinkler systems, fire and smoke monitoring systems, and automatic notification and alarms. Back-up batteries and an onsite generator will ensure that these systems work during a power outage, which often accompanies a fire.

Additionally, we will be required to plant and maintain low-hazard landscaping to further reduce fire dangers into the future.

Q13.  We are in a drought – how can you propose to build anything in this area?

A13.  Our development is not seeking to draw in persons from elsewhere in California or from out of state.  We will be serving people who already live here in the Lompoc Valley or close to it.  They already have an established water use here.  We will, of course, be required to install drought-tolerant landscaping and all current water-conserving technologies in this project making each residence more water-efficient than the older homes in the surrounding neighborhood.  We will leave the native trees and bushes in place which grow without supplemental water.

Professional engineers, Coast Engineering and Survey, Inc., together with the Mission Hills Community Services District have conservatively estimated that our proposed community would increase the demand for water by 6.67 Acre Feet per year, or 3.5% increase to the district’s total demand. The Mission Hills Community Services District recently granted this project a preliminary Can and Will Serve letter indicating that both the water supply and sewer plant that serve the Mission Hills area have capacity for development on this property.

Our project will pay approximately $20,000 annually for our water and sewer connections to ensure that water and sewer rates of the exiting customers do not increase.  This was a condition of the Mission Hills Community Hills Service District board members – no rate increases due to new development projects.

NOTE: There is not a building moratorium in place in Santa Barbara County, or the City of Lompoc.  In fact, you see commercial, industrial and residential development being built all around southern California despite the current drought cycle.

Hydrologically, each area of Southern California has a different source of water.  The Mission Hills neighborhood, including Mesa Oaks and other nearby County areas is served by the Mission Hills Community Services District which draws water from wells in the “Lompoc Uplands Ground Water Basin”.  Deep wells (approximately 600 feet) tap water that has percolated through old sand dunes formations below the surface.

Q14.  I thought that you are proposing a community “Dog Park”?

A14. We were, but the overwhelming response from neighbors was that it would not be considered a benefit to the neighborhood, which was our intent. Instead, we are providing a pedestrian path along the northeast side of the existing vegetation and will use the area below that to collect the site’s rainwater run-off in a basin.

Q15.  You know that some of the neighbors and beyond don’t want this facility, will you go away?

A15.  Although we have received some angry inquiries about our “homeless shelter” project (which is not a homeless shelter), we also get a number of quiet – often anonymous – inquiries from hopeful neighbors who support the facility and who have a loved-one or know someone who would benefit from living in one of our residences.

Perhaps a daughter with a developmental disability who is a high-functioning adult and wants to live independently from her mom and dad. These families and individuals are cautious about speaking out because of the threatening nature of the dialogue currently going on among the Mission Hills neighbors, and even among people miles away in Vandenberg Village.  We hope to educate the neighbors, and people in Vandenberg Village, about what it is that we are proposing, and what impacts,- both positive and negative – it will have on the area.

We have a long history of housing many different underserved populations (seniors, special needs, families, homeless) in many communities – including Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria.

Housing developers often experience resistance to their projects. However, we are committed to listening to the community in order to tailor our development so that it is accepted into the area.  If we walked away from every project with resistance, we might see the residents of our many supportive communities forever living at home or with extended family members.  Or, if that situation does not exist, then living on the streets.

Thank you,

Firebird Properties

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