Commission’s Decision Not Based on Facts, Land Use Principles, or Community Benefit
In a detailed analysis refuting the Escondido Planning Commission’s purported reasons for denying permission to operate a youth care facility, on Friday the San Diego ACLU formally appealed the commission’s decision to the Escondido City Council.
The ACLU submitted a point-by-point dissection of the commission’s rationale for its 7-0 rejection of Southwest Key’s proposal to operate a 96-bed former skilled nursing facility as a housing center for unaccompanied immigrant children who are waiting to have their legal cases heard before an immigration judge.
“The Escondido Planning Commission got it wrong on every count; none of its findings are substantiated by the facts,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We are appealing its ill-informed decision because when you do consider the specifics, the impact of the proposed facility would be virtually indistinguishable from that of the nursing home which operated on the same site for more than thirty years.”
The ACLU examined numerous arguments made against approving the youth care facility and addressed each one; the key points are included here:
- Residential character: The proposed facility would have the same number of residents and provide services similar to the previous use. In fact, the neighborhood would be improved by preventing the vacant building from becoming an eyesore due to decay or vandalism.
- Traffic: The youth shelter would generate less traffic than the previous use, and the Escondido city staff’s report raised no concerns about traffic.
- Parking: The commission’s general concerns did not address how 53 parking spaces would prove inadequate, or why any concerns could not be addressed through appropriate and reasonable conditions.
- Security: Since the police department’s statement on the youth facility said there were “[n]o apparent law enforcement concerns at this time,” and requested—and Southwest Key agreed to—only that a 6-foot fence be constructed, there is no plausible basis for the commission’s statement that “the fencing for the site appears inadequate for the anticipated security needs of the proposed facility,” especially given the undisputed fact that only 0.004 percent of approximately 9000 children served by Southwest Key made unauthorized departures in the previous year.
- Noise: The Escondido city staff’s report raised no concerns about increased noise, and acknowledged that most of the activities would occur indoors; outdoor recreation would take place at nearby parks and schools.
- Size: The commission inexplicably determined that the proposed facility had “too many people” in “too small a space” but gave no reason to believe that the staff or resident population would be greater than the previous use. The proposed facility would have no more residents than the nursing home had.
The San Diego ACLU filed the appeal this afternoon on behalf of Southwest Key Programs. The Escondido City Council typically schedules a hearing for such an appeal within 30 days of receiving the request.
The ACLU has been monitoring Escondido closely since 2006, when the city passed a ban on rentals to undocumented immigrants that ACLU and others immediately challenged in court, resulting in the issuance of a temporary restraining order finding that the ban was unconstitutional, followed by a stipulated permanent injunction against enforcement of the ban.
“Because the city has a long history of trampling on the civil and human rights of immigrants in the U.S., and because this proposed shelter would serve unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge from increasing violence in their homelands, the ACLU seeks to ensure that the City of Escondido does not continue its history of discrimination by using unlawful pretexts to deny a permit,” said Loy.