Every city has a collection of civic-minded individuals that attend City Council meetings on a regular basis. These citizens are truly interested in what is happening in their respective communities and want to be part of the efforts in moving things forward.

They frequently speak on issues before the council and do provide insight and different points of view into policy matters that help members of city councils make good policy decisions. However, sometimes the input is not constructive and helpful, but destructive.

Martinez is no exception.

Our city council meetings are rarely lightly attended, with most of the available seating filled 10 minutes before the start of the meeting.

Input by some council "watchers" can be overly critical and misleading, which is not helpful as duly elected city representatives are trying to have thoughtful discussion of city policies. Although we all have the right to our opinions, the presentation of skewed facts or conclusions are a real disservice to the community.

A case in point is the new low-income senior housing project that has recently been completed by Resources for Community Development (RCD) called Berrellesa Palms.

At several recent City Council meetings, the council has been chastised for not providing housing to seniors, with the Berrellesa Palms project called "a glorified homeless shelter." Nothing could be further from the truth.


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Berrellesa Palms will create 48 new one-bedroom apartments for frail seniors 62 years of age and older with very low incomes.

It will be a wonderful community asset that will serve the most vulnerable seniors in our community. The building is designed with the flavor of the Marina District of San Francisco with crown moldings and bay windows.

The building features throughout the common and private spaces include a community room, a health and fitness room, a game room, two small computer rooms and two informal lounges adjacent to the laundry rooms. The development also includes a private courtyard with community garden plots, palm trees and outdoor furniture.

The project financing represents a $22.8 million public-private partnership with $11 million in private financing through Union Bank, $5 million from Contra Costa County, $6 million from the state of California, $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank, and $300,000 from deferred fee from RCD.

To qualify for residency, one household member must be age 62 or older and meet certain disability and income requirements, and be at risk of homelessness.

A household can be at risk of homelessness if their income is less than 20 percent of the area median income (one person household earning $12,800 or less, or a two-person household earning $14,720 or less), or they are paying 50 percent or more of their monthly income toward rent.

Other examples of being "at risk" of homelessness is living in substandard housing or in an overcrowding living situation, such as living with an extended family.

We are not talking about the guys drinking out of bags in city parks.

When the proposal for this project first came forward about seven years ago, my first response was "not at that location." Just a few years prior, the City Council had adopted the Downtown Specific Plan (DTSP) which is the blueprint for future development and economic growth in the downtown.

The DTSP concluded that if we want new retail stores and services to locate in downtown Martinez it is essential that we have a critical mass of population with a sufficient income to attract and support those new businesses. The Berrellesa Palms project did not provide that required economic income that the specific plan called for.

But because senior housing is of vital importance to any community, I was willing to listen and keep an open mind. I toured several other RCD facilities in Pacheco, Concord and Walnut Creek. I was impressed by the facilities, but most importantly, how they were managed and maintained.

The facilities were modern, clean, and provided not only housing to its residents, but also social activities and resources for independent living. And since the housing market had virtually evaporated, I felt that the Berrellesa Palms project could be a catalyst to other positive development in the area.

Now that the Berrellesa Palms facility is built, the first tenants will be moving in any day. I welcome those new to the Martinez community and those returning home. In a very short time, the tag of a "glorified homeless shelter" will be laughable.

Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at rschroder@cityofmartinez.org.