Brother Benno's permit under review following neighbors' complaints
Oceanside’s Planning Commission is reviewing the Brother Benno’s Foundation’s conditional use permit.
The organization provides meals, food, and supportive services to community members in need.
The permit lets them operate in the business park on Production Avenue — as long as its operations aren’t detrimental to the public or nearby properties.
But nearby business owners told planning commission members in a meeting on Monday night that the business park has become dangerous due to some of the people Brother Benno's serves.
"Fights, altercations, defecating on our businesses, on our front door steps, and it goes on and on. The problems have gotten much worse and unfortunately it's directly related to … Brother Benno's," said Bryce Aberg, a business owner in the business park. "(Brother Benno's) is doing a great job for the community trying to feed the homeless, but what it's done is destroy small businesses within this marketplace. These small businesses are losing customers significantly and being forced to move outside of Oceanside."
Tyler Stemley, a leasing agent for the business park, expressed similar concerns.
"I'm all for solutions and dialogue about Brother Benno's staying open and providing services. But bluntly, I would suggest this area is not suitable for them in the long term," Stemley said. "In the short term, I would definitely support an increased amount of security, a third party security that are professionals."
Complaints against Brother Benno’s forced the organization to make some changes earlier this year.
It began closing earlier and hired additional security and sanitation staff.
In spite of those changes, some of the business owners who attended the planning commission meeting called for the nonprofit organization’s permit to be revoked.
An online petition to revoke the organization's permit by a group describing themselves as Oceanside residents, businesses and property owners has collected over 700 signatures since February.
Michael Moskowitz, a Brother Benno’s board member, said that in the month of April, the organization gave out over 12,000 meals and 1,000 housing vouchers to people in need.
"We are not enabling the homeless community, we are supporting the homeless community so that they can survive," Moskowitz said. "The thought that if Brother Benno's would somehow disappear, that the homeless would somehow disappear along with us, is a misconception."
"We are not enabling the homeless community, we are supporting the homeless community so that they can survive. The thought that if Brother Benno's would somehow disappear, that the homeless would somehow disappear along with us, is a misconception."Michael Moskowitz, Brother Benno’s board member
The changes Brother Benno’s implemented have resulted in improvements in the area according to Oceanside Police Captain Taurino Valdovinos. But he said those changes needed to be made a year ago and more needs to be done.
"We did see significant reduction in the amount of unsheltered people around the area however, it can still be improved, significantly," Valdovinos said.
Planning Commissioners were not unanimous about what should happen with Brother Benno's permit.
Vice Chair Thomas Morrissey said it could be time for a change and maybe the permit should be revoked. While Commissioner Kevin Dodds said the services the organization provides are absolutely necessary. They just need to be held closely accountable for following the conditions on their permit, he said.
At Monday's meeting, planning commissioners recommend some changes to Brother Benno's permit including monthly meetings with stakeholders, 24-hour security by a third party and additional sanitation support.
A decision on Brother Benno's permit will be made at a later meeting.