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Battle Over Common Ground Rages On in Santa Monica  


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 24, 2012 -- Some residents of Santa Monica's Sunset Park Neighborhood are not satisfied with Common Ground's announcement this month that the non-profit agency would move a controversial program for homeless youth to Venice.

The group indicated in a letter to City officials Monday that it would continue fighting against the non-profit center that provides HIV education and treatment to the poor after it moved south on Lincoln Boulevard from Pico Boulevard to Cedar Street.

The residents plan to pack a community meeting Common Ground officials will hold Wednesday at Olympic High School to express their continued opposition.

“CG is unapologetic about the 10 years of havoc and terror they created at their previous location on Bay Street,” said a flier circulated by the residents.

Residents around the new Cedar Street location fear that despite the relocation of the agency's Homeless Youth and Prevention Program (HYPE), there is no assurance the program will not be brought back to Santa Monica.

In a letter sent to the Social Services Commission, the Friends of Sunset Park board is demanding that Common Ground sign a legally-binding agreement to permanently keep HYPE out of the Cedar Street location.

“CG insists on reserving the right to reverse these decisions,” the board wrote in its letter.

Common Ground officials note that the agency must sign a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) that according to the agreement is “not legally binding but does represent the good faith intentions of all signers.”

“Will we sign a document that says we will never bring the [HYPE] program back?” Common Ground's Interim Executive Director Jeff Goodman asked rhetorically.

“No,” he responded.

But he added that plans to bring the program back to Santa Monica was “a mischaracterization.”

Sunset Park residents are also concerned that with no permanent legal agreement to keep HYPE out of Santa Monica, there is no assurance a that controversial free needle exchange program would not return.

“CG can bring the HIV Needle Exchange program to Cedar Street if circumstances change, despite their public assertions that they won’t,” said the flyer put out by the Cedar Neighborhood Coalition.

But Goodman said that it was “a real silly waste of people's time” to worry about the needle exchange happening at the new location.

“In order for that to even be considered," he said, "Federal law would have to be changed.”

Federal law prohibits a needle exchange at the new site because it near several preschools, Goodman noted.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Olympic High School Auditorium, 721 Ocean Park Boulevard.


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