Hanford in uproar over low-income housing project

The city’s need for more affordable housing collided head-on with outraged North Hanford residents who loudly protested Wednesday night at a special town hall meeting in Hanford’s Civic Auditorium. The residents’ outrage was focused on a planned 72-unit housing project, 22 of which will serve vulnerable populations.

The February 16 town hall was a “Presentation of Background, Development and Project elements related to the Northstar Courts Multifamily Housing Project” according to the agenda. Developing firm UPholdings, with Self Help Enterprises as an advisor, plans to build the $24 million housing project. Construction is projected to begin June 2022 and be completed by November 2023.

With more than 700 people packed into the Hanford Civic Auditorium, the residents let city officials and the developers know in no uncertain terms that the Northstar Courts project violated community standards for safety and parking.

People commented during the meeting they were afraid of being attacked by a mentally ill person having a breakdown.

The housing project will be located at 664 and 682 Northstar Drive, on land east of CVS and the Chevron Station which are in the Fargo Crossings Shopping Center at 11th Avenue and Fargo Avenue.

The evening was punctuated by boos, applause, protest signs against the project, and verbal threats to recall Mayor Diane Sharp and City Manager Mario Cifuentez. At times the meeting had more of the feel of a mob action than a civic gathering. Police were there to keep order.

“This is a train wreck ready to happen,” said Mike Spicer, a retired law enforcement officer. Spicer said the project would create traffic problems. He did a comprehensive crime analysis of the region and said North Hanford is like Mayberry insinuating that the housing project will bring in crime.

He then directed his comments to city council members and said, “What did you know, when did you know it and what did you do?”

One of the themes of the three-hour special city council meeting was poor communication about the  existence and purpose of the project. Also the project did not have to be approved by the city planning commission, or the city council, because as a Neighborhood Mixed Use project the complex is a permitted use, said Cifuentez.

When Cifuentez said there was “no attempt to hide anything” his statement was greeted by shouts of  “no” and boos. However, he conceded that the city could have done a better job of communicating with residents about the project which will also have 33 apartments for current or retired farm workers and 16 units for working families.

Hanford, the Central Valley and the state are experiencing a crisis in affordable housing. Cifuentez said Hanford needed 15,695 additional housing units.

“Most of the people don’t want the project,” said Gordon Jester. “(The) mayor said (it’s) done deal. I don’t put up with tyrannical governments.”

Others such as Rene Estee said putting the project behind Loew’s or behind Chile’s would be a better choice.

“I can’t believe the way this was slipped in. This was crap. Put up a tent village (for the homeless),” she said.

One unidentified male speaker said, “I don’t care how it sounds. You guys aren’t welcome here at all.”

Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves told the Voice that the supervisors are open to considering other locations for the project.

And while less than a handful of those present said they supported helping the homeless and other lower income residents, the majority of the audience didn’t accept their sentiment judging by the reception given the speakers.

This is a reputable company that has built thousands of units for working families, said Susan Long, of Self-Help Enterprise, the developer.

“It’s not a handout, it’s a hand-up,” she said. “Everyone in here at one point is there (needing help),” Long said.  The audience wouldn’t let her finish her defense of the project.

Another speaker said, “this town hall meeting was hijacked by the city council. The city council, board of supervisors disappointed us. You are not going to LA our Hanford,” he said.

Jessica Hoff Berzac of Upholdings said during a question and answer session that while the project location can’t be changed because of financial commitments from the state and federal government, the developer Self-Help Enterprises will work with the community to address their concerns.

As Berzac started to speak about two-thirds of the audience left.

Although some speakers said the county paid multi-millions for the $24 million project, the actual county contribution, which came from behavioral health funds, was $1 million, said Berzac. The bulk of the money, she said, came from the state and some funds were provided by the federal government.

The facility will have 102 parking spaces which will be regulated, she said. The parking, Berzac said, was designed in consultation with city engineers. The facility, she said, will not be used for emergency shelter.

It doesn’t make a person violent because she can afford a $1,000 a month apartment instead of $1,800 one, Berzac said. The facility will have a $500,000 security system with a camera on every corner, she said. In addition, there will be a live-in onsite manager.

15 thoughts on “Hanford in uproar over low-income housing project

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  1. Don’t like the law! Leave California! The US SUPREME HAS NEVER RULED THIS CALIFORNIA LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL! There is no tyrannical government. Just a bunch of fear mongering cowards yelling not in my backyard. Per California law you can’t stop it

  2. The County Supervisors have no involvement in this issue! It is a city project and they want to go in the city! The County Supervisors have no pull on this city project protected by STATE LAW!!

  3. The location is the issue not the ideology of the plan itself. There are many people in the community who can offer sound ideas on a better location if they were allowed to provide feedback. Who better knows the traffic situation in this area than the people who live and trade in this area. To be dismissed in this way is unjustified and clearly not the way it should be handled.

    • You really need to educate yourself about what the State of California sets as housing law. You are yelling at a City who CANNOT deny the project. You should be mad at your Governor and those in Sacramento but instead you yell at the wrong people.

      • That speaks nothing to where the project is located within the city. Sure, there are state laws that mandate affordable housing, but that doesn’t nullify debate on its location. Citizens have the right to oppose the proposed location. If the city decides to ignore the opposition and proceed with the proposed site, then thats a political decision. There’s no state mandate, that says low income housing has to built at that location.

  4. Chad is always against public opposition to any proposed project. We elect politicians to representatives us and unfortunately politicians pass laws all the time with little regard to local issues. Regardless of whether this is the law of the land, city government employees and locally elected leaders should listen to the concerns of local residents. I agree with Susan, public debate is beneficial and those opposed to the project should always be allowed to be heard.

    • Actually you are Wrong! I don’t think in ABSOLUTES. Im opposed hidden valley project. I was against the project to protect condemned fire station building. TRY AGAIN! The meeting was a clown show. These ignorant people saying not in my backyard when the field workers who do the work on farms struggle to find affordable housing.

    • Yah you know so much about me stalker! How pathetic are you to be obsessed with me. I HAVE MORE MONEY THAN YOU LOL. IM RICHER THAN YOU GUARANTEED!

  5. Surprisingly bad display for the residents of Hanford. Self-help and the developer have great projects that are well managed.
    These apartments will look and be managed 10 times better than the run down River Oak Apartments. Disgraceful how people cannot love their neighbor and allow for a good looking, well managed apartment complex.
    This is not a homeless shelter. This is a permitted use and the City of Hanford CANNOT deny the project under State law. If they were to deny the project, the applicant could sue the City and a judge would hit them so hard their heads would spin.

  6. I think this is excellent for single moms with one income to provide for her children and would love to apply and run the complex.

  7. To Mark Pratter; I am ReNee Estes, YOU ARE WRONG!! I NEVER SAID “WE SHOULD BUILD TENT CITIES FOR THE HOMELESS! WATCH THE VIDIO AGAIN! I SAID “WE SHOULD PITCH TENTS TO PREVENT THEM FROM BUILDING, THATS WHERE ILL BE!

  8. I have no problem helping the homeless, mentally ill or anyone in need. I think ALL OF AMERICA needs more affordable housing, FOR EVERYONE! In this situation, the apartment building IS TOO BIG TO BE BUILT ON NORTSTAR DRIVE! 3 such buildings could be built on property behind Walmart! Ms.Berzac said Fargo Crossing was identified as a “high opportunity area”!? WRONG! nothing in this area but Burger King, Star Bucks and a few other small businesses. Part time, minimum wage jobs won’t pay the bills. The poor stay poor! Minimum wage goes up, gas and food prices make the raise in minimum wage seem like a cut in pay. I don’t have the answers, all we can do is PRAY. Mark Pratter, get your facts straight before you put them in print for the world to read. I, ReNee Estes believe in giving a Hand-up to anyone in need. Just PRAY.

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