National Community Renaissance

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 12/12/13, 8:25 PM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The troubled public housing at Waterman Gardens could be converted to private ownership and substantially expanded in a project being watched as a possible national model after the Planning Commission gave its stamp of approval on Wednesday night.

The eight-phase project would build a three-story, 74-unit senior housing project with courtyards and 337 multi-family and condominium units, with 80 percent of the total units subsidized, if the City Council also approves it.

The commission voted 7-1 — Commissioner Dustin Barnhardt voting no and Commissioner Kent Paxton abstaining because he was involved with the project when he was on Mayor Pat Morris’ staff — to recommend the council approve the project, a strong showing after the rough hearing the project got in July.

Many important questions were unanswered or answered without written assurance at that time, commissioners said, but Chairman Larry Heasley said Wednesday that delaying the decision until now had given time for satisfactory results.

“Yes, we asked a lot of hard questions, difficult questions,” Heasley said. “And we received the answers.”

While the discussion often turned on technical points, the underlying concern for many who gave the commission their opinion was poverty.

There was an agreement that the city had too much of it, but a disagreement about the best solution.

San Bernardino resident Hans Vandertouw, channeling a common refrain in San Bernardino, said the city’s downfall came largely because it encouraged too much affordable housing. Bring in more, he said, and you bring in more “unproductive” people living at the expense of a middle class that’s increasingly leaving.

“For too long the focus has been on the poor who continue to populate this city at the expense of the middle class and businesses,” Vandertouw said earlier and reiterated Wednesday. “The middle class has been outnumbered by too many poor, marginally educated people without marketable skills.”

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