The Grover Beach City Council voted 4-1 on Monday night to deny the South County People’s Kitchen’s application to continue to serve meals to the homeless and needy at its current site, City Manager Robert Perrault said.
The volunteer organization, which has fed Five Cities community members since 1992, appealed to the City Council after the Grover Beach Planning Commission turned down its application to serve meals at a facility at 286 S. 16th St.
The South County People’s Kitchen moved to the county-owned lot near 16th Street and Grand Avenue in July after its previous location, Shouts of Grace Church, could no longer accommodate it.
The organization, which previously operated at the 16th Street site for six months in 2008, applied for a conditional use permit that would allow it to serve hot noontime meals there seven days a week until July 2014.
But the Planning Commission voted 2-2 on Sept. 10 to block that request. (A 2-2 vote results in a denial because a majority vote is needed to approve a project.)
Among the concerns voiced by critics is the possibility that the kitchen would lead to increased crime in the area.
On July 31, the Longbranch Neighborhood Coalition submitted a petition to the Planning Commission, signed by approximately 200 residents and business owners, claiming that the kitchen’s presence resulted in “a noticeable increase in the number of transients loitering around and repeatedly creating various public nuisance situations including panhandling, vagrancy, vandalism and theft …”
In the South County People’s Kitchen appeal filed with the city Sept. 17, group President Betsy Ehrler said that the organization has worked hard to combat such issues.
“We do not condone negative behaviors such as pan handling or illegal actions of any kind,” she wrote, adding that “we should not be blamed for every problem caused in a certain area by those who may be transient and/or homeless area residents.”
“The location where we are serving now is nowhere close to ideal, but it will suffice until something better can be found,” Ehrler wrote in the appeal.