Everything seemed to be going so well in the summer of 2019. Mary’s Kitchen, Orange’s daily hot meal supplier to the homeless, had just renewed its fourth 5-year license agreement with its owners, the City of Orange, including a rave review of the facility by city staff recommending the renewal of Mary’s Kitchen license until 2024.
“The program is well organized and efficiently managed. Everyone seems to know their role and the volunteers are very dedicated, ”the staff report of Community Services Director Bonnie Hagan reads. “The facility is incredibly neat and clean. . . . and customers, for the most part, are behaved and orderly, and appreciate the services very much, ”and added,“ MK works closely with the police department to best manage the public space (outside the gates ).
But somewhere in 2020, that Indian summer of peace and quiet between Mary’s Kitchen and the city of Orange would suddenly turn into a winter of discontent from the same city officials who had previously praised the Guardian. eating homeless, declaring an ongoing crime crisis outside. Mary’s Gates Orange PD could no longer control.
They then turned up the heat inside Mary’s Kitchen, with a barrage of verbal assaults from some board members over its operations, even going so far as to attack Kitchen CEO Gloria’s character. Suess, creating a perception of Mary’s Kitchen as “an attractive nuisance” leading to the coup de grace, a termination notice dated June 18 to “transfer ownership” within 90 days.
Stunned MK staff, supporters and other nonprofits who use Mary’s Kitchen to serve the homeless and hungry wondered what exactly is the problem with Mary’s Kitchen that the city would choose to uproot and suddenly dislocate. his only daily charity food. service without sufficient notice or without delay to move?
Despite the council’s heated rhetoric, day-to-day operations inside Mary’s continued largely in a peaceful and orderly manner, as usual. Speculation has swirled around the possibility that adjacent real estate developments could create conflicts with Mary’s. But except for the occasional rant by council members, no constructive dialogue from the city has taken place. In fact, he conducted exactly zero public meetings on the subject, before or since the notice of termination.
City spokesperson Paul Sitkoff told me recently that the city has no plans for the MK property itself and is not aware of any development plans under discussion or in the works on Struck Avenue that may come into effect. conflict with Mary’s presence there.
However, a deeper dive into the activities of the City of Orange’s Planning and Zoning Department reveals a different picture. The property located just south of Mary’s is now owned by one of the largest land freight and logistics companies in the United States, Prologis. And although it currently appears to be inactive, city documents show that the owner does have plans for this property which have, in fact, passed the stage of discussions with the city.
The City has been working with Prologis since 2020 to study and adopt what is called a mitigated negative statement allowing the developer to move forward with the plans already drafted to demolish the existing industrial building and erect a 58,000 trucking terminal. square feet with 84 mooring doors and 188 outdoor trailer stands, operating 24/7, generating over 600 heavy truck trips along Struck Avenue per day.
The City of Orange is identified as the lead agency in a recent Notice of Intent to adopt a negative statement that would allow Prologis to bypass many of California’s usual environmental quality guarantees (CEQA) if the “no impact” or “less than substantial impact” conclusions are reached by the city and its consultants. Categories such as the potentially harmful impacts of air pollution on local residents, traffic patterns, pedestrian and cyclist safety, disruption of utilities and housing are just a few of the factors. factors that the city says will have some “no impact” or “no substantial impact”. impact ”on neighboring properties with the approval of this truck terminal.
Every day, 200 to 300 homeless and hungry people drive, bike and walk up Struck Avenue to Mary’s Kitchen for a hot meal, a shower, to charge their phones or to pick up important mail and receive mail. Help from one of the many nonprofits that serve them inside the gates. This is a population that would certainly be “impacted” negatively by an endless stream of heavy trucks driving up Struck Avenue with noxious fumes flying endlessly over the open-air dining room inside. Mary’s. And yet, the city of Orange finds “no substantial impact” to deter the green light from this truck terminal right next to Mary’s Kitchen.
How could these blatantly conflicting companies pitting trucks against people coexist side by side? Mary’s Kitchen is an intensely people-centric service that suddenly finds itself next to high-value real estate that is about to go viral, and that bothers its developer, Prologis and its trucks a lot.
The solution of the City of Orange: to keep people away.
As part of the standard checklist of mitigated negative reporting questions, the city is asked to identify all properties, businesses and individuals along West Struck Avenue that could be affected by the development of a truck terminal. The MND process calls them Sensitive receptors, and measures many factors of potential harm to businesses, people and their public interests. Mary’s Kitchen is NOT even on this list.
The city simply omitted any mention of Mary’s Kitchen as a nearby business that could be affected by the proposed development, as if it wasn’t even there.
But it’s there, and very much at risk of potential impacts from a nearby truck terminal project, as Mary’s Kitchen co-legal counsel John Given said in his response to the city: “Mary’s Kitchen is extremely concerned about the significant impacts of the proposed project on its facility, workers, volunteers and the many homeless people who receive services there, in particular due to air quality, noise, vibrations and significant direct or indirect adverse environmental effects of the project on humans … The MND does not view Mary’s Kitchen as a sensitive receiver. . . .even if it is closer to the project site than any sensitive receptor location considered for the analysis… ”
By the year 2020, it must have become clear to the city that the impact of a truck terminal on human activity in and around Mary’s Kitchen would be too problematic to ‘mitigate’ in a timely manner on behalf of Prologis. Bad for Prologis as it would complicate and possibly prevent their project by requiring a full environmental impact report, causing further delays. Bad for the City of Orange, as it would delay the return of major trade tax assessments to the city, and possibly even drag the city into the move of Mary’s Kitchen.
Mary’s Kitchen should leave.
Orange City officials have recently gone to great lengths to amplify a perception of Mary’s Kitchen as suddenly dysfunctional and chefless, doing their best to place the burden of guilt on the hapless kitchen itself as a model of service. failed while hiding its main motivation – removing Mary’s Cuisine as a potential obstacle to its most favored Prologis project.
But Mary’s Kitchen is not a failed service model. Every day that he keeps his doors open and accepts the hungry and the homeless, he succeeds in demonstrating that compassion can be more powerful than greed.
Mary’s Kitchen has no intention of sneaking into the story’s garbage heap as the City of Orange had hoped to deliver. Gloria Seuss says she has no plans to waste a day serving the homeless. Her transition will be “seamless,” she says confidently. “We’re going to move somewhere. . . it’s clear. We just need time to find a new home. And despite everything the city has amassed on her, Gloria the eternal optimist still says: “I would like to stay in Orange. It’s our home. This is where our story is. This is where our customers are … . This is where Mary (McAnena) would like us to be. “
In the absence of all recent mediation efforts, Justice Carter suspended the City of Orange’s termination order, but only for 6 months. Gloria Seuss had asked for 18, to ensure suitable housing, settle there and re-establish a “transparent transition of services”.
Carter himself has expressed concern over how Mary has been moved. He speaks of “irreparable damage” to the people who use Mary’s Kitchen every day, suddenly displaced from their lifeline. He called the city of Orange’s alternative plan to relocate hundreds of homeless people as “unsuitable.” And he said the city needs to come up with a better plan, one that will hopefully work with Mary’s Kitchen the next time she relocates.
Instead of looking first to lighten the load on Prologis, its trucks, its terminals, its schedules and its profits, Orange could consider that it has one last chance to put people first, its own people, the homeless who have no other chance than the opportunities we offer them, not the time but the time we give them.
The City of Orange still has the power to extend these gifts of time and opportunity to Mary’s Kitchen and help with her “seamless” relocation based on compassion and cooperation, instead of secrecy and coercion. Finding a new home for Mary’s Kitchen where he can continue his mission of redemption for those living on the fringes will ultimately be the best outcome for all, and in so doing could even redeem the city of Orange itself.
John Underwood is a journalist and media producer working in Orange County with extensive experience in Orange County news and public affairs on print, broadcast and online platforms. Past news organizations he has been affiliated with are the National Public Radio, Orange County Register, OC Weekly, and various other OC-based news publications. His current documentary series NO FIXED ABODE focuses on channeling the voices of OC’s homeless and can be viewed on the losaltv.org website.
The opinions expressed in community opinion pieces are the property of the authors and not of Voice of OC.
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