News

Neighbors raise concerns about proposed Skyline rehab center

Among concerns: wildfires started by smokers.

Fear of wildfire permeated the room of the Kings Mountain Community Center on Wednesday, Nov. 20, as residents in communities along Skyline Boulevard gathered to weigh in on a proposed drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility nearby, where clients would be allowed to smoke as they try to put their dependencies behind them. The area is a dense dry woodland that hasn't seen a major fire in decades.

A Sausalito-based rehabilitation center for addiction and substance-abuse recovery has applied to the San Mateo County Planning Commission for an amended use permit to convert a forested meditation center at 16350 Skyline Blvd. into a residential rehab facility. The commission next meets on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

The Stillpath Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation Center is applying to take over, but not expand, the 13-building facilities of the Stillheart Institute. Stillpath would offer a holistic approach to rehabilitation, including yoga, massage, spiritual counseling and 12-step programs, the staff report says.

Neighbors, noting that meditation clients not infrequently got lost in the woods and had to be guided back, wanted to know why rehab clients wouldn't do the same, except in possession of cigarettes. Dr. Brigitte Lank, a psychologist consulting on behalf of Stillpath, said there will be designated areas and times for smoking and that the clients will be issued firm instructions to stay on the grounds. Trespassing on neighboring properties would be grounds for dismissal.

"If you cannot physically constrain them from trespassing and smoking (outside of the designated area), then you haven't addressed the fundamental question," said a neighbor.

"I don't want somebody walking off into the woods and starting a fire," said another. "I want to see procedures in place to prevent a fire."

"You're not understanding our concern about forest fires," said Joe Rockmore. "Addicts are not going to listen to you."

"I hear your concern," Dr. Lank replied, a phrase she used many times during the evening.

"It's not a concern, it's a reality," Mr. Rockmore said.

Francoise Bourzat, a neighbor and a psychologist who said she has experience working with addicts, said that people giving up addictions nearly always smoke to compensate. Why couldn't they be required to use e-cigarettes, she asked.

"That's a personal choice," Dr. Lank replied.

"I think the bottom line here is that we want this to be a nonsmoking facility," another neighbor said.

In an interview, former Kings Mountain Community Association president Kathy Kennedy-Miller described a neighborhood centered around a volunteer fire department and a community "that lives and breathes fire protection."

The department recently received a check for $400,000 from the proceeds of several Kings Mountain annual art fairs. "We volunteer at the art fair because we all know what we're doing: raising money for fire protection," Ms. Kennedy-Miller said.

A list of concerns

In 90 minutes of unrelenting and generally harsh questioning, smoking was one of a list of neighbors' concerns:

■ The original proposal to the Planning Commission claimed minimal traffic impacts with six full-time and six part-time staff for as many as 76 clients, none of whom would have vehicles. But under intense questioning by the residents on staff-to-client ratios, Stillpath representatives admitted the original ratios were inaccurate. Accurate numbers would be available before the end of November, they said.

■ At maximum capacity of clients and staff, Stillpath would place an unprecedented 22,000-gallons-a-day demand on the fresh water supply in a system not designed for that kind of load, one neighbor said. He described daily instances of "zero" water pressure when the meditation center, with its smaller population, fills its tank. Stillpath representatives disputed the level of demand and noted that the facility has its own sewage treatment equipment and will recycle non-potable water.

■ At a fee of $45,000 a month, what if Stillpath is not able to fill its beds with at-will clients? Would they take in clients ordered into treatment by the government? Not without an amendment to its use permit, said J.R. Rodine, a former San Mateo County planning commissioner who is representing Stillpath.

■ The facility has no helicopter landing zone, the fire station is a mile and a half away, an ambulance or sheriff's deputy is typically 30 minutes away, and the hospital is an hour away, neighbors said. "The clients are already in trouble and seeking help. They are a medical disaster waiting to happen," said a neighbor. That won't be the case, Dr. Lank said. Physical exams will be given before admission and clients with significant medical problems will not be admitted, she said.

■ Why not build it somewhere else, one neighbor wanted to know. Dr. Lank replied that the remote and scenic environment in the woods is a get-away and an aid to inner healing and self reflection.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Firebug
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Nov 27, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Lots of fuel for a fire, cigarettes, and a population of people (addicts) who have a demonstrated history of failing to exhibit self-control, many of who are emotionally disturbed.

What, me worry?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by skyline resident
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Nov 29, 2013 at 7:56 pm

The concern about fire danger is truly a reality. We pay additonal taxes as a result of the government considering this area to be a high fire risk. The doctor for the proposed facility does not have a realistic plan for preventing the very real probabilty and shows a lack of concern for our community... a lack of concern for our very lives and property. The very definition of an addict is a person that has absolutely no regards for themselves much less anyone else. We work too hard to ensure the safety of the community from fire... why are we even considering bringing to our community high risk individuals...the type of person most likely to bring about our highest fear... a forest fire. The statement that the rrquirement to use e cigs would be the choice of the addict is a blatent in your face statement... the community does not matter. The money the addicts bring to the corporation is more important than our very lives. The rights of the addict over-rides the very real probability they will negatively impact us. Why cant this be built in a safer area... an addict does not require a forest to recover. The facilty can be built elsewhere and build into the facility the atmosphere the doctor deems so important to recovery. Doc.. if you truly believe and stand by your statements ... then sell your home... purchase a home near stllheart... and then tell us after spending your hard earned money for that home and putting the lives of your family on the line if you still stand behind your words and have faith that an addict will not start a forest fire or break into homes for money for their habit. Put action behind your words. You are asking the community to step up .. be an example for us.. you step up first... put your money and your families lives at the same risk you are asking us to take.


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Posted by peninsula reader
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I am so glad that I was able to go to a treatment facility and get clean and sober and did not have to face all you [portion removed - please avoid labeling other posters.] I fear that one of you might have a mother, father, sister, brother, child or relative that may need treatment. Dang don't let near you as you probably will trash them for what they have done and now want to clean up. How about the open fire pit many of you have in yards or the cigarettes, cigars etc you may all smoke. Can you tell the council you never use fire. If you do - I don't believe you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Woodside Resident
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Dec 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Peninsula Reader: Not one person at the Kings Mountain Association Meeting objected to having a treatment facility in the area or were in any way paranoid. "Every" comment and question concerned public safety. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lynn Ross
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm

As a long time resident of San Gregorio, a coastal region adjoining the unincorporated area of Woodside, I too am angered about the future probability of a forest fire caused by the proposed drug and alcohol patients of Stillpath who would smoke, and carry around their cigarettes, matches and lighters as they congregate in the forest and even in their trees houses.
The forest is a continuum, protected by fire safety policies, and carried out by its inhabitants. When there is high fire danger due to extended dry conditions, fire restrictions typically are put into place – beyond the strict fire protection rules already in place. If the proposed rehab center is allowed, "Stillpath" will the 6-acre weak link in the continuum of the forest, and the fire protection policies as well. To believe that addicts will focus on where their ashes are falling or where they put out their cigarette is a ridiculous notion, and a dangerous one.
Reality is that Stillpath would not be able to follow fire prevention policies and fire restrictions rules set forth by either the California Department of Forestry or by the unincorporated neighborhood communities of Woodside along Skyline. San Mateo County Planning is not a stakeholder in this extremely important issue –except that they could take credit for more tax revenue for the county. Wining a law suit to stop the proposed Stillpath is probably the only way to assure that we could maintain high standards of fire protection for the forest, our private property, and our lives. [Posted by lrthinkgreen@gamil.com]


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