City Council Cancels Town Hall Concerning Buying 6th Street Building for Homeless Services
Hanford City Council voted January 15 to declare the Bastille and the land surrounding the historic building as surplus. The vote was 5-0.
Declaring a property as surplus is the first step in selling it. Barrelhouse Brewing expressed interest in buying the building last October.
As usual it was standing room only, but most attendees seemed to be at the council meeting to listen rather than participate. Though most of the buzz was generated over the possible new brewery, most speakers wanted to talk about the proposed homeless service center on 6th Street.
Out of the seven people who spoke during public comment about the location of the service center, all seven were against the proposal.
But first on the agenda was a discussion of declaring the Bastille as surplus.
Dianne Sharp, former city council woman, said during public comment that when she posted the Bastille proposal on her facebook page the “comments went viral, at least for me.”
She said she got 75 comments, 98% of which were positive in terms of selling. Though there were concerns about preserving the exterior, most people were excited about the prospect of Barrelhouse coming to Hanford.
Michelle Brown, Director of Main Street Hanford, was gung-ho about any move towards improvement and commercial use of the Bastille, whether it be Barrelhouse, a steak house, or another brewery. Brown posted pictures from a recent visit to the Bastille that garnered 1500 views and 230 comments that revealed the community’s intense interest n the building.
Nate Odam said it would be great to have another venue for Hanford’s local talent that the Barrelhouse could provide.
Hanford purchased the Bastille for one dollar from Kings County in 2014. The city council has since had many discussions on how to pay for the necessary renovations needed before leasing it.
Aware of the costs, Barrelhouse has showed an interest in doing the necessary repairs and opening a business. The brewery is a family friendly hot spot that offers a local venue for all ages and has locations in Visalia and San Luis Obispo.
Because the Bastille needs $1 million or more worth of seismic upgrades, electrical work, and general repairs, the city is willing to sell the building to Barrelhouse or another qualified developer for one dollar.
Mayor Sue Sorensen wanted to make sure that the city did its due diligence in protecting the building’s historic value.
Community Development Director Darlene Matta said that the Bastille is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks and that a new owner is restricted on what they can do to the exterior of the building.
Barrelhouse has to wait a few months before the Bastille will be available. Now that it has been declared surplus, notice is given to all public agencies that have first right of refusal to buy it. If no agency shows interest, the Hanford Planning Commission weighs in on if selling the building is consistent with the General Plan.
If the planning commission agrees the zoning is consistent with the General Plan, the city can offer to sell the building to Barrelhouse Brewing.
Homeless Service Center
Rescheduling a proposed town hall on buying 421 E. Sixth St 6th to use as a homeless service center was next on the agenda.
The town hall, originally scheduled for November, was canceled to allow the new city council to take up the discussion.
Because of an organized effort by downtown business owners, and a general lack of community support for the location, the city council decided to permanently cancel the town hall meeting.
The concern about the location was that without shelters or housing, the center would attract homeless without having anywhere to send them. Two speakers said the downtown was at a precipice and that the service center could be the final nail in the coffin for the district.
A board member on the historic China Alley District said that the influx of homeless has been “horrible” in the last month with one person breaking into the museum.
“That’s Kings County history being destroyed,” he said.
Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever suggested the money proposed to buy the homeless service center instead be used to buy the Hanford Armory on 11th street. It is currently owned by the state of California and is up for sale.
The Police Activities League (PAL) is currently housed in the building and Severs said fits their needs perfectly.
All five council members supported buying the armory with Vice Mayor John Draxler wanting reassurance that the city was not going to end up with an empty building.
Severs said that the estimated price of the building is $400,000 and that the state has expressed a desire for the city to buy it. There is currently about one million dollars available in the Community Development Block Grant that could be used to buy the Armory building according to Matta.
Severs said this doesn’t mean we forget about the homeless. He said that the new governor of California, Gavin Newsom, has made a new budget that provides funds for homeless for which Hanford would qualify.
Sorensen also agreed with Severs suggestion of buying the Armory Building but wanted to remind the attendees that finding a location for a homeless service center was something the city had been working on for a long time.
“It was not the blind leading the blind,” she said.
The city paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a consultant to address the homeless issues in 2014. In the report it specifically said the city first needed a service center for the homeless as a first step in dealing with the problem and that the center should be located near or in downtown.
Sorensen said that the city had looked at numerous locations and each one “had their stumbling blocks.” When the city was considering buying the 6th street location it was well thought out.
Sorensen held up the report and said that it’s been five years out and the city still doesn’t have any services for the homeless. “This is where we need to start then we can work on getting the other services,” she said.
She reminded the audience that if the center did not work they could close it the next day but, “the city will never know if the service center will make it or not if we don’t try.”
At the end of the council’s discussion the vote was 5-0 to reallocate the funds for the service center to buy the Hanford Armory. It was then decided to discuss the homeless service center at the city’s annual goals setting workshop the first week of February.