After months of bitter fighting, the fate of Pasadena's Union Station was decided peacefully this week in a hearing alternately marked by eloquent speeches, thunderous applause and raucous laughter.
Before a crowd of nearly 800 people, the Board of City Directors unanimously voted Tuesday evening to accept a compromise that allows the soup kitchen and temporary shelter for the homeless to move from downtown to a largely industrial section of southwest Pasadena.
The proposal to relocate Union Station to 410 S. Raymond Ave. prompted one of the most heated neighborhood battles in recent years, rallying residents and business owners in a five-month fight against the church that oversees the shelter.
150 Meals and Beds for 40
The controversy centered on Union Station's request for a permit to build a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot shelter that could offer more than 150 meals daily and house up to 40 people each night.
Operated under the auspices of All Saints Episcopal Church, Union Station needed to move because its cramped facility across the street from City Hall could no longer accommodate the growing number of people coming there each day, said Bill Doulos, shelter director. Also, Doulos added, All Saints Church wants to use the downtown site for commercial development.
Although the relocation had already received the necessary approvals from both the Zoning Committee and the Zoning Appeals Board, the Board of City Directors, under intense lobbying from both sides, made an unusual move last month and agreed to decide the matter.
In deciding to hear the issue, the board admonished both sides to settle their differences before presenting their cases to city directors. Before the hearing Tuesday night, the directors said they had received hundreds of phone calls and letters regarding the shelter, the majority of them in favor of the relocation.
For the last three weeks Doulos and a small group of local businessmen, who felt they would be adversely affected by the relocation of the shelter, negotiated an agreement that satisfied most opponents and proponents of the move. Their efforts were praised at the hearing by director John Crowley as the "most responsible demonstration of citizenship that I've seen in recent years."
Doulos, who had maintained that the shelter would have to move or close, said at the meeting that the agreement represented a willingness "to work together on common problems."
'Accept Our Compromise
"We urge the Board of City Directors to accept our compromise," Doulos said. "We urge our supporters here tonight to accept our compromise. There is no battle to win here tonight. We need you to fight the battle of poverty and hunger, our real opponents."
The compromise replaces some of the more stringent conditions imposed upon the shelter by the Zoning Appeals Board and calls for the formation of an advisory panel to monitor Union Station's operation. The seven-member panel will include representatives from the Police Department, the city manager's officer, Union station and nearby residents.
The panel will have the authority to recommend closure of Union Station should the shelter fail to meet the terms of the compromise agreement.
Must Clean Up Litter Daily
The agreement stipulates that Union Station will allow no more than 225 people on the site during a 24-hour period and that the number offered lodging will not exceed 40. The compromise also states that each day Union Station employees will remove litter within a 500-foot radius of the site. The shelter must also provided a staff member from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to handle any complaints from nearby residents and businesses.
Not all of the opponents of Union Station, who have claimed that a soup kitchen and shelter for transients would lower property values on South Raymond Avenue and that its patrons would urinate and defecate on their lawns and sidewalks, were pleased with the agreement.
Craig Milum, owner of Milum Textile Services at 443 S. Raymond Ave., said Tuesday night that many local businesses, including his, were not included in the negotiations.
Activist Is Opposed
"The compromise is really the urgency of All Saints Church to use the present Union Station site for other reasons," he said, referring to the commercial development plans.
Community activist Rosalind Makuh also opposed the agreement, pointing out that the shelter is the subject of a Housing and Urban Development investigation into possible misuse of federal funds and that transients carry communicable diseases and would not receive proper medical care at the facility.
The HUD office in San Francisco is looking into Union Station's use of federal funding, according to a letter from Deputy Inspector General Paul A. Adams .
Based on a Complaint
The 3-month-old investigation is based on a complaint made to HUD by Dovie DeVillagran, a former actress who lives on a five-acre estate about nine blocks from the Raymond Avenue site. DeVillagran headed a group of residents and business owners opposed to Union Station's relocation.
The audience Tuesday night, however, overwhelmingly supported the shelter.
"I think everyone in this room ought to be ashamed of themselves," said resident James Hulse. "All this talk about the church selling the property for a profit. What's the church going to do, open a casino?" The crowd responded with rousing applause and laughter.
Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman grew increasingly frustrated with critics of the shelter and publicly chided them, much to the delight of the audience.
"We all want to feed the hungry. We all want to help the poor," she said. "But 'not in my backyard.' And all this talk about (the investigation of alleged misuse of federal) monies--where the hell has all that concern been ever since I've been in this city?"
The audience cheered.