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City Council Votes on Old Coast Hotel

On a fog drenched Monday night, in a nearly five hour meeting, the Fort Bragg City Council approved a forgivable loan agreement with the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center to use funds ($1,162,791) from a community development block grant (CDBG) to acquire and rehabilitate the Old Coast Hotel at 101 Franklin N. Street as a centralized mental health services facility and as the site for five to ten transitional housing beds. The vote was 3-1 in favor, the same tally as at the January 12, 2015 meeting when the matter was first brought before the council and the public. Much of the public outcry at the January council meeting centered around very short notice of the project to the public. Technically the January public hearing wasn't required because the Old Coast Hotel site was piggybacking on a similar CDBG project for 300 N. Harrison that fell apart in the spring of 2014. That explanation from Fort Bragg's new City Attorney Samantha Zutler didn't hold water with much of the populace who only gained knowledge of the project shifting to the historic Old Coast Hotel through local newspapers four days in advance of the Jan. 12th meeting.

The three to one vote on April 27th included the same players: Mayor Dave Turner and Councilmen Doug Hammerstrom and Scott Deitz voting “Aye” while Vice Mayor Lindy Peters voted a vociferous “No.”

More than four hours of the council meeting was taken up by the Old Coast Hotel issue this April evening. Nearly forty public comments occupied the bulk of the time, with almost every speaker taking up all of their allotted three minutes. Those opposed cited more than 300 letters written to the city council in opposition to the City adopting the CDBG grant. Jay Rosenquist and Judy Valadao also cited three separate petitions of business owners, Fort Bragg citizens, and Mendocino Coast residents outside the city limits who work and/or shop in the city. In all, these three petitions claim more than 1,400 signatories in opposition to the Old Coast Hotel as a mental health services center and transitional housing provider. Many of these opponents to the project spoke to the inappropriateness of locating such a facility within the central business district. Councilmen Peters based his “No” vote primarily on a similar theme, citing the General Plan and the 2012 Inland General Plan. Specifically Peters drew attention to the 2012 Inland General Plan Policy LU-3.1 which states in part, “Retain and enhance the small-scale, pedestrian-friendly, and historic character of the Central Business District.”

Peters also quoted Policy LU-3.2, which provides for mixed use development in the “Central Business District that does not conflict with the primary retail function of this area.” The Councilman's point being that this project is obviously not a retail venture in the historic sense of the area where the Old Coast Hotel is located.

In contrast to Peters' well reasoned opinions too many of the public speakers in opposition to the Old Coast Hotel project displayed fear mongering tactics that would have been tasteless beside the Tallahatchie Bridge in 1955 let alone on the Mendocino Coast sixty years on. Less-than-enlightened characters like Kevin Scanlon stated that he'd be afraid to let his daughters or granddaughters anywhere near the Old Coast Hotel if mental health services and transitional housing for the homeless is provided there. On a more enlightened note, Scanlon, who is a general contractor, stated that he worked on the painting of the Coast Hotel in the late 90s and claimed that much of said paint was lead-based.

Rod Jones, the attorney for the group Concerned Citizens of Fort Bragg, like many in opposition to the Old Coast Hotel wants to have it both ways. Jones said that he couldn't find documentation that expressed the extent of homelessness in Fort Bragg. This came right after Jones himself pointed out the general problems of the homeless and the mentally ill. Presumably he garnered some of this observation right here on the Mendocino Coast. Members of the group Jones represents revel in pointing out how many police calls are the result of actions of the homeless or are in the vicinity of Hospitality House, the original branch of the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) that feeds the homeless. This circular demonizing doesn't add up. You can't insist that the homeless are a problem then turn around and say that there's insufficient evidence to show that there's a homeless problem!

Attorney Jones did bring up another more viable point: that the Coast Hotel facility allows far more space for offices than it does for transitional housing. Bingo! Even Mr. Scanlon, while keeping his females a safe distance from the new Coast Hotel, could figure that one: the first step solution for most homeless folks is a freakin' home. The proponents of the CDBG going to MCHC at the Old Coast Hotel have argued, and will continue to argue, that the Old Coast Hotel is just a first step in getting somewhere near enough housing for the homeless.

This ain't an easy issue. Councilman Peters is right that the project doesn't adhere to the General Plan policies regarding the Central Business District. Of course, a facility of this nature is far overdue, but the Hospitality Center with its ties, as a subcontractor, to the privatization of mental health services in this county is an iffy proposition. One speaker who supports the Old Coast Hotel project as a first step in helping the needy also said, “We have to work together to end the privatization for profit of mental health services.”

Therein lies the inherent dichotomy. There are multiple owners of businesses near 101 N. Franklin Street in Fort Bragg who are both working with Hospitality Center board members and are signatories of the Concerned Citizens of Fort Bragg letters in opposition to the Old Coast Hotel as a mental health facility site and home to transitional housing units. If readers want evidence of which side these business owners are truly on, consider that not a single business owner located between the Purity store and Safeway spoke in favor of the CDBG project at the April 27th Fort Bragg City Council meeting.

Despite the cogent questions raised by Councilman Peters, Attorney Jones, and even contractor Scanlon, one can't escape the internet comments of some of the opponents to the Old Coast Hotel project and in particular their “barbs” directed at one of the councilmen who supported the project.

Not long after the city council meeting concluded one Reedy Apodaca started the online “conversation”: “Everyone knows that Hammerstrom is not playing with a full deck or maybe he is in the beginning stages of Alzheimers.”

Joe Wagner: “hahaha i mentioned outside i thought he was getting senial or whatever.....”

Jay Rosenquist: “I was just thinking the same thing.”

Reedy Apodaca: “something is not right with the guy. He is a weirdo!”

Reedy Apodaca: “Oh, did I forget to mention the guy is full of sh*t.” (The actual online comment didn't bother with any asterisks.)

Judy Valadao: “You didn't mention he was full of sh*t (no asterisk in the original), perhaps you should do that now... again.”

Some of these individuals fancy themselves spokespersons for the faithful opposition in Fort Bragg. What they sound like is ample proof that the need for mental health services in Fort Bragg is far greater than even the board members of the Hospitality Center might have imagined.


  1. BB Grace May 5, 2015

    One may find it interesting reading Mendocino County Mental Health Board past minutes, March 19, 2014 under Agenda 4:
    e) Update on 300 N. Harrison
    1) Hilbers, Inc. has purchased the building. The City of Fort Bragg is applying for a City Development Block
    Grant. Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (MCHC) hopes to be able to acquire the title by next January
    2) The plan is for the first floor of the two story building to have office space to co-locate with Ortner
    Management Group along with the use of an existing apartment. The second story has five one bedroom
    apartments that will be used for transitional housing for mentally ill and homeless clients of MCHC.
    3) The steps to make this happen is for the CDBG grant to be funded and the City to approve a use permit.
    The City staff has recommended the use permit but there is some opposition among the neighbors. There
    will be a public hearing Monday March 24 at City Hall where support will be needed. There will also be
    some rehabilitation required.
    4) Anna has hopes that within the next three to four months they will become a tenant of OMG and move into
    the building for the much needed space.

    300 North Harrison appears to be listed for $489,000.00 (less than half the price of the Old Coast Hotel)

    I have not found any Town Hall meeting March 24, 2014, perhaps cancelled due to the shock and grief Fort Bragg experienced when Deputy Ricky Del Fiorentino was shot to death by a transient

    Speaking of safety, I think it’s reasonable part of the discussion being that just last week Anna Charle, the director of the men’s Shelter in Bronx New York was shot to death by a former resident

    San Francisco recently closed a shelter when one of the shelter employees “swept” a homeless woman off the sidewalk and violence broke out. And then there was a viral YouTube concerning a homeless man being beaten to death by police, Thomas Kelley in Los Angeles, Thomas Kelly,

    It appears where homeless shelters appear so does a “police state” as the police are frequently called by the homeless who attack each other and perhaps why Ukiah’s Cheif of Police Chris Dewey letter in the Ukiah Daily Journal, 8 April 2014:

    “Most of us who live in Ukiah love it here, but if you’ve lived here a long time, you’ll have noticed some disturbing changes. While some people still see Ukiah as the safe little town it once was, today our police officers respond to almost 100 calls for police assistance a day; dealing with violent felons, mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves and others, couples who engage in domestic violence, thieves, and others you wouldn’t want to be close to.

    And years ago, we didn’t have the transients we have now—people who come through Ukiah bringing violence and drugs, but who do not consider Ukiah their home and have no interest in being part of our community. These people wreak havoc here. They take a lot of police time—time we’d rather spend on community policing and crime prevention.”

    Least we forget some important facts:

    Fact: Despite 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, violence and even homicidal ideation, and dozens of high profile shootings/killings tied to psychiatric drug use, there has yet to be a federal investigation on the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence.

    Fact: At least 35 school shootings and/or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs resulting in 169 wounded and 79 killed (in other school shootings, information about their drug use was never made public—neither confirming or refuting if they were under the influence of prescribed drugs).

    Fact: Between 2004 and 2012, there have been 14,773 reports to the U.S. FDA’s MedWatch system on psychiatric drugs causing violent side effects including: 1,531 cases of homicidal ideation/homicide, 3,287 cases of mania & 8,219 cases of aggression. Note: The FDA estimates that less than 1% of all serious events are ever reported to it, so the actual number of side effects occurring are most certainly higher.

    Finally, I emailed the the Hospitality House when I heard they may take over the Old Coast Hotel and inquired about the kitchen, “Would there be dining”? There is a trend to offer the homeless a dining experience rather than the soup kitchen for building self esteem. These events are pretty awesome, here’s a gofundme wannabe event I received a reply from Paul at the Hospitalty House who was very clear that they would not be a “soup kitchen” or serving any food! Now I’m reading that they may serve food. And I still don’t know if this is for men, women, both, or how the disabled will make it to the second floor, how parking is going to work, and personally, how safe I will feel if I can’t find a parking space and need to use the Mendo-Lake Credit Union ATM.

    Personally, I think the people of Fort Bragg are very generous and care about the homeless. Hitch hikers have a much easier time here than anywhere I’ve ever been, and I’ve hitch hiked across the US seven times so I know a little about that, and I also know that many transients come looking for trimming jobs, which isn’t in Fort Bragg but the other county districts. Fort Bragg people I know want to help the homeless, make no mistake about that, but they have to survive to be able to help and if you think tourists will be impressed, try being a docent at the Guest House for awhile and listen to what visitors say, “Wow, Fort Bragg is really looking bad.. all those empty stores, it’s so sad to see”. How is making the Old Coast Hotel a mental health processing center going to improve Fort Bragg?

  2. Judy Valadao May 6, 2015

    Shame on you Malcolm for taking the words of very frustrated people and adding them to your story. Did you not have enough words of your own? You were there and saw how most everyone was talking to three people who may as well have been three brick walls. This has been going on for months.

    You come to the conclusion “You can’t insist that the homeless are a problem then turn around and say that there’s insufficient evidence to show that there’s a homeless problem!” Here is another conclusion you could have used to take up some space; “How can the City Attorney say she has no proof the CCFB are taxpayers when she is paid her huge fees from the very taxes they pay?”

    Let’s not play your word game, please. This is a serious issue and the homeless in Fort Bragg should be furious that their situation was used to gain sympathy and as an excuse by the “three brick walls” to vote in favor of a project that is 3/4 office space and a token amount of space used to put a roof over the heads of a few chosen homeless. You have pointed out more than once there is more behind the entire situation than people can see (perhaps not in those words) So Malcolm you can’t have it both ways either. You know there is more to the Ortner/County marriage than the public knows but you want to slam those who are willing to at least try and find what the truth is. This building was purchased through taxpayers money and the one gaining the most is in fact Ortner with their new found office space. Perhaps you could do more good by using your pen to help find the truth instead of placing it deep in the back of those who are willing to stand up and take on the task of at least trying to do something.

    It is true that you and I disagree on more than a few subjects, but your choice of using the words of people who have been shunned by those who are supposed to be at the very least listening to the community input, is to me very sad and disappointing. Sad because obviously you don’t understand such frustration and disappointing because I know you are a better reporter than that.

  3. Charles Brandenburg May 6, 2015

    Mr. Macdonald,

    I am a concerned citizen of Fort Bragg. I am also backing a recall of Dave Turner based on the arrogance he has displayed during this sham process. The Old Coast Hotel has been for sale at $2,900,000 since the peak of the real estate boom.The price was ridiculous even then. Now 9 years later a conspiracy has happened enabling the owners of the Old Coast Hotel to get their 2.9m. Dave Turner has stated that it is the Carines property and they should be able to sell it to who they want at what price they want for it, if it was yours wouldn’t you feel the same? Well Dave, the money the Carines will get is not just the CBGB grant funds but also a HUGE federal tax break, close to 1.7 million as they are “donating” the balance of the property’s UNREAL value of 2.9m to the Hospitality Center for a project you were handed 1400 petition signatures to stop.
    This is Public money including a State of California Grant and a Federal tax break being used to buy this historically iconic property and take it away from its potential of becoming a tourist attraction. Good job Dave. Good Job Anna Shaw.

    Recall Dave Turner

    Charles Brandenburg
    Fort Bragg

    Ps. Mr. Macdonald, we are mad, mad people say things to each other online and don’t expect you to act like thats reporting. its not, its tatling, OK?

  4. Lavada May 6, 2015

    What about the pets? A lot of homeless people have dogs. Has anyone thought about what that might do to a historical location? Are they trained, well behaved or are they starving and abused? Will they attack people or fight among themselves?

  5. Alice Chouteau May 7, 2015

    Malcolm MacDonald needs to develop some objectivity, instead of a constant flow of knee jerk, biased emotional tirades. I find his labeling of Kevin Scanlon, as ‘less than enlightened’, offensive and unfair. I am concerned about the Coast Hotel facility planning to ‘treat’ 30-50 mentally ill clients daily in a town where kids have always been able to walk safely . Of the possibly 150-250 clients treated weekly, a certain percentage of the transient population will be paranoid schizophrenics, psychotics, and sex offenders. (Fort Bragg already has about forty listed registered resident sex offenders.). Statistically, sex offenders are active for as many as sixteen years before being apprehended. So Mr. Scalons fears seem justified. The city and HH have discussed having a police substation in the building, so obviously they are aware of potential problem patients.
    Dispensing psychiatric meds, with often dangerous side effects, seems ill advised with a transient population that is impossible to monitor unless housed in a nonexistent, secure facility, as mentioned in a previous comment.
    IMalcolm omits the name-calling endured by the opposition— ‘thugs’, and the greatest ‘threat’ to the mayor’s development dreams?
    We definitely need an AVA reporter who can stick to straight journalism.
    Alice Chouteau

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