Nonprofit group told to relocate

The Huntington Beach City Council gave the Beach Cities Interfaith Services organization a 60-day notice Tuesday night to leave its facility in the Main Street Library and relocate to a property off Gothard Street.

The motion passed with a 5-1 vote, with Councilwoman Jill Hardy absent and Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper dissenting.

BCIS, a nonprofit organization that helps those in need, will have until the end of March to relocate, potentially to the former job center site on 18131 Gothard St.

Though BCIS, with the help of the city, has previously considered moving to Gothard Street, there has yet to be a final agreement with the county, which owns the property.

"I'm not willing to push them to that location by voting on a deadline today," Harper said regarding his dissenting vote.

Councilman Joe Shaw suggested giving the organization until the end of June to get its priorities straight, but the idea was shot down.

Shaw said he understands there are problems occurring around the BCIS, but at the same time he sympathizes with the organization.

"I've been very torn on this whole issue since the agenda came out. What is the fair thing to do?" Shaw said. "The only conflict we have here is whether we're going to get them out right now or if we're going to get them some time to get all of the processes in order so that they can continue to serve the homeless the way they like to until they can move to a new location."

Residents waited patiently during public comments to voice their concern regarding the "transients" in their neighborhood.

Karen Bravata, 45, and her family live across from the library, and she complained about the harassment she's received from those gathering at the BCIS.

"We can't open the blinds in our front room. I don't feel safe sitting in my front patio," she said. "My daughter, who is 6 years old, won't leave for school [using] the front door and will go around to the back alley and leave from there."

Police Chief Ken Small agreed with residents, saying the BCIS' services belong somewhere else and it will help relieve problems for downtown when the organization moves.

"I don't think the residents should expect all of those problems to go away, but I think it will diminish the problems," Small said.

Carol Sneary, program administrator for BCIS, asked the council for more time and reiterated that the organization is more than just a food bank.

"BCIS is a community service center that is volunteer-run and works on a very small budget," she said. "We just ask for more time for this transition to the Gothard Street site so that we can continue with the services that we do provide."

Many churches assist BCIS with its efforts to help the needy, including Saint Wilfrid's Episcopal Church.

Father Michael Archer, who is also a BCIS board member, asked the council not to lump those seeking help with those causing trouble at BCIS.

"Please don't not fall prey to the temptation to accept the stereotypes of those who are ministered to by BCIS and help us to continue this ministry for many years to come," Archer said.

Councilman Joe Carchio told Archer that the council has no problems with what BCIS is doing for those seeking the organization's help, but rather with the location, and with those causing trouble around the neighborhood.

"This isn't something that we've sprung on you all of a sudden. This has been going on for several years," Carchio said to Archer during public comments. "Some of the people in charge of BCIS knew this was coming. We let them know several years ago. I was on that committee, and they just ignored it."

Carchio added that the organization has run out of time and needs to move.

"We need to find [BCIS] a location that is going to be maybe in an industrial area and away from where children are," Carchio said. "As far as giving them additional time, I'm completely against that."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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