Wednesday, February 08, 2006 | The City Council voted Tuesday to defeat a proposal to relocate the region’s detoxification center to Pacific Beach after elected officials said they would present a better alternative site.

Volunteers of America, the nonprofit organization that contracts with the county government to operate the region’s detox center, proposed relocating its facility to Pacific Beach after the land it currently rents in East Village was slated to be developed into condos.

Drunken individuals carted in from around the county are held at the detox center for four hours instead of being jailed. Volunteers of America also administers rehabilitation programs that range from a week to six months.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who is the newly elected representative for the area on the City Council, said that Volunteers of America’s proposal was rammed through without adequate community input or proper study of its environmental impact on the surrounding community. The requested site was nearby auto dealers, homes and public schools, but not public transportation or other social service providers, opponents of the plan said.

Faulconer complained that the plans to relocate the detox facility were being pushed while Pacific Beach was without an elected representative. The District 2 seat, which Faulconer holds, had been vacant after Councilman Michael Zucchet stepped down in July amid a federal corruption conviction. Zucchet was later acquitted of most charges by a federal judge and will stand trial again on the others.

“My overall problem and the community’s problem is that the community’s voice has not been heard in this process,” Faulconer said. “We will find a site that works, let’s not rush into this because somebody wants to have a real estate deal concluded and transacted.”

Volunteers of America had planned to purchase a site in Pacific Beach, whereas the downtown facility was rented.

“There has been incomplete information that has intentionally misrepresented the services that will be provided at Del Rey location,” McFadden said, referring to the street in eastern Pacific Beach where the proposed site is located.

Gary Smith, president of the Downtown Residents Group, said the detox operators were “good neighbors.” He said he didn’t have an opinion on which way the council should vote, but noted that downtown overwhelmingly bears the burden of housing the region’s social service providers.

Faulconer said he was able to convince the owners of the East Village location to give the Volunteers of America until June to vacate the current detox site rather than March. Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, whose county district includes Pacific Beach, said the county in the meantime will study alternative sites for the facility. The county’s Health and Human Services Department contracts with Volunteers of America to operate the detox center.

Slater-Price also said the city should also waive a rule that bars nonprofits such as Volunteers of America from setting up shop in light-industrial zones as a way to ease concerns homeowners anywhere would have. Faulconer said that was an option he wanted “to keep on the table.”

Nonetheless, Faulconer said he would find a site for the facility within District 2, which stretches from southern La Jolla down the coast to Point Loma and downtown.

The City Council voted 6-to-2 to reject the Pacific Beach site, with Councilmen Tony Young and Ben Hueso dissenting. Young said the community simply didn’t want an organization such as this in their backyard.

“The arguments I’m hearing sound like you don’t want people who run this facility anywhere near your neighborhood. That’s the true reason,” Young said.

Council President Scott Peters said he would side with Faulconer’s request to find another site, but said that the interpretation of the state law mandating environmental impact studies that the new councilman shared with City Attorney Mike Aguirre was “novel.”

The city’s Development Services Department determined that an environmental impact study was not required.

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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