Residents in a pocket of county land surrounded by west Santa Rosa say that plans to expand a women's homeless shelter would spoil the character of their quiet, leafy neighborhood.
But advocates for homeless women say they need more beds to accommodate an expanding population of vulnerable women.
The Redwood Gospel Mission currently houses 30 women at its shelter on Wild Rose Drive and wants to add 20 beds. As part of the plan, women undergoing an addiction recovery program would move to the shelter know as The Rose.
Neighbors opposed to the expansion lobbied Sonoma County's zoning board, which denied the shelter's permit request in March. The Board of Supervisors will hear an appeal on Tuesday.
"It was a tough call," said Tom Lynch, a member of the Board of Zoning Adjustments. "This is the most vulnerable sector of the homeless population. The neighbors recognized the need for transitional housing, and they were willing to accept some changes. But the feeling was that 50 beds would be too much."
Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose 5th district includes the county island south of W. College Avenue, said he favors adding beds to help homeless women, but said he would make his decision after hearing both sides.
"I am leaning towards supporting the expansion," he said. "There is no question there is a serious need for additional resources to aid our homelessness issue, especially when it comes to women and children."
The zoning board did approve the shelter's request to stay open for 24 hours. In the past, women had to leave each morning and wait outside for the shelter to open in the evening.
Neighbors say the move to 24 hours has helped keep noise and traffic down, but an additional 20 residents would put too much stress on the neighborhood.
"It's a concentration thing," said Todd Smith, who lives on Wild Rose Drive. "Having 50 people on that size of a lot would be too much. To have such a concentration, that's my biggest fear."
The site totals two-thirds of an acre.
The Rose is perpetually full and constantly has to turn women away, said Jeff Gilman, executive director of Redwood Gospel Mission. Most of the women are homeless for the first time, he said, and many are older with no families. Some have young children, who are allowed to stay at the shelter.
The shelter provides the women a bed in a dorm-like room, three meals per day and life skills classes to help them get back on their feet, Gilman said. The Christian-affiliated mission, which survives on donations to meet its $2.5 million organization-wide budget, also offers optional bible study classes, he said.
If approved, the shelter would expand onto land behind the building and add an additional story to one part of the structure. The project would take two years, including three months of construction, and cost $200,000, Gilman said.
If the permit is denied, Gilman would have to continue to turn homeless women away.
"We would have to say no to more people that don't have anywhere to go," he said. "We want to serve more people."
Gregory Wonderwheel, a lawyer who lives four houses away from the shelter, said the two-lot property was not designed for 50 people.