A proposed transitional living facility in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica for young adults affected by various mental illnesses has caused concern for some nearby residents, who say the facility may have potential negative impacts on the neighborhood.
Step Up on Second — a nonprofit organization that helps individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental illness reintegrate into the community — is planning to acquire a new transitional living facility for adults aged 18-28 who are in the “earliest stages” of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, Step Up on Second executive director Tod Lipka said.
The property, at 1826/1828 Pearl St. in Santa Monica, is currently in escrow, being purchased by Step Up on Second for the Daniel’s Place program, Lipka said.
During the two-year program, the young adults will receive training for independent living skills and learn the skills needed to manage their illness, he said.
After program members leave the facility, Step Up on Second will help them find more permanent housing.
But some residents who live near the proposed facility say their neighborhood, which is near Santa Monica College, already supports organizations such as OPCC (formerly Ocean Park Community Center), and another transitional housing facility would be a “burden” to the area.
“The neighbors want to maintain the integrity of a family-oriented neighborhood,” said resident Laura Thixton, who lives close to the proposed facility.
Thixton said some of her neighbors are concerned that they will be “directly affected” by the facility, claiming that it will pose a threat to the health, safety and well-being of the neighborhood.
The neighborhood, which is near a number of grammar and middle schools, is a residential area, where children and young adults travel the streets on a daily basis, Thixton said.
Some neighbors are also upset because they were not notified of Step Up on Second’s plans to maintain housing in the area for people with a mental illness that can exhibit serious symptoms, she said.
“It was happenstance that we found out about it,” Thixton said.
But Lipka said the young adults who will be staying at the facility are already in treatment voluntarily through the program and will be required to go through “rigorous screening” before they enter.
The facility will accommodate only tenants of the housing program, he said.
“We have an excellent track record as being good neighbors,” Lipka said. “These are people who are actively engaged in trying to recuperate their lives.”
While Thixton said her neighbors support programs for the mentally ill and such transitional living facilities are “needed,” they believe a different area of the city would be a more appropriate location.
Step Up on Second chose the location because it is in a “very dynamic area in a vibrant part of the community,” Lipka said.
“Our goal is to help people reintegrate into the community,” he said. “We have a right to be there as part of the community as well.”
While some residents say they are concerned about potential effects on the neighborhood, Lipka said he believes the facility will have no noticeable impacts on the community.
“I think the community will notice nothing different,” he said.
Escrow is expected to close on the Pearl Street property within five months and Step Up on Second could begin to move in as early as late spring, Lipka said.
Neighbors said they have been in contact with city officials about the proposed facility and plan to attend community meetings to address their concerns. Some neighbors spoke out at a meeting of the Friends of Sunset Park group September 7th, where Lipka was also in attendance.