After years on good terms, homeless nonprofit sues Anaheim over permit denial – OCRegister

After Anaheim officials last fall turned down its plans to offer transitional housing to 16 homeless women with mental health issues, nonprofit Grandma’s House of Hope has filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s denial of the proposed new facility in the Colony district.
The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Anaheim’s rejection of a permit for the transitional housing and allow it to open and house 21 women. No hearings for the case have been scheduled.
Since founder Je’net Krietner – who was herself homeless in the 1990s – started Grandma’s House of Hope nearly two decades ago, it has grown to operate 10 other facilities around Anaheim.
Krietner planned to turn a two-story, eight-bedroom house in the 600 block of North West Street into a home for more than a dozen homeless women with mental health issues; most would be over 40 and recovering from trauma, according to the lawsuit.
After years of working well with city officials, Kreitner said it was a shock to have the Planning Commission and the City Council reject her latest proposal.
A staff report to the planning commissioners recommended approving the project, she’d never been turned down before, and at the planning and council meetings, “All they could say was good things about what we do,” she said.
But homeowners from the surrounding area showed up at a community forum and public hearings on the project to urge the city to say no. They argued the neighborhood, which is one of the oldest in Anaheim, is already “saturated” with commercial uses, including daycares, sober living homes and short-term rental properties.
In a statement, city spokeswoman Erin Ryan said of the lawsuit, “We are disappointed by this and see it as unnecessary.
“We’re proud of Anaheim’s work with Grandma’s House of Hope offering several successful sites across our city. This has been a delicate balancing act between the concerns of residents and a goal of providing safe spaces for people overcoming challenges,” Ryan said. “We remain open to working with Grandma’s House on locations in our city that work for everyone.”
Kreitner said she’s not giving up on the Colony district site because it’s an ideal location, and she believes her transitional home would be better for the neighborhood than the alternatives.
To appease residents’ concerns, she reduced the number of occupants from 21 to 16 (a successful graduate of Grandma’s House of Hope would supervise the home overnight). No drinking or drugs would be allowed, the women would have a curfew, and they’d stop using the property’s pool and sport courts at 9 p.m.
“I wouldn’t have fought so hard if I didn’t know this was the absolute best scenario for these neighbors,” Kreitner said. “If it wasn’t us, it was going to be an Airbnb,” where vacationers would come to party.
She also pointed to a letter state housing officials sent Anaheim last May warning that the city’s rules for community care homes and supportive housing could be discriminatory against people with disabilities, because they include restrictions that don’t apply to other kinds of residences.
In December, the state issued the city a notice that those policies, which officials used to reject the Grandma’s House of Hope project, are in violation of state law.  Last month the city responded, saying officials believe Anaheim’s policies are consistent with state law, and that the state’s approval of its long-term housing strategy in 2013 backs up the assertion.
Kreitner said her lawsuit hinges on the fact that “transitional housing has a right to be in this neighborhood.” In the meantime, she’s opened the Colony district house to six women (under state law, cities must allow group homes for up to six people without any special permits) and hopes to expand later.
She hopes city leaders will reconsider their position, she said, but “we haven’t had any indication that they will, and this is why it came to a lawsuit.”
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