By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
A local group that began serving free meals last year to hungry and homeless people in various locations around Crescent City has left the downtown spot that it began renting last week.
Our Daily Bread Ministry celebrated its lease at 284 L St., claiming a permanent spot to prepare and distribute meals across from Grocery Outlet.
But a notice of petroleum contamination from a former gas station at the property, along with calls from city officials requiring a special use permit and architectural review, proved too cumbersome, according to group leader Mike Justice.
"It was disappointing cause we really looked forward to the site," Justice said.
The group will offer its meals at New Life Community Church at 2nd and D streets, instead.
City officials have known of the L Street contamination for more than a year but have not cited property owner Colvin Oil for violating city health and safety code violations or for breaking rules required under a special use permit that the city granted, said city planner Will Caplinger.
"Basically, it's still considered a contaminated property," Caplinger said.
Colvin Oil officials could not be reached for comment.
A city conditional use permit that allowed Colvin Oil to rent the spot to Brookings-Harbor Ford last summer called for disposal of the petroleum-contaminated soil, Caplinger said.
But the Grants Pass, Ore.-based company moved the soil to another of its properties, placing it on a dirt mound at a gas station on the corner of U.S. Highway 101 and Elk Valley Road, Caplinger said. Brookings-Harbor Ford closed its car dealership after slow summer sales. Since then, city officials will not allow any use at the property until Colvin Oil Co. meets state and local rules to properly treat the material.
But a soup kitchen fails to fit the general commercial zoning in the city's visitor district meant for tourism, anyway, Caplinger said. And while nonprofits can seek a special city use permit, Our Daily Bread Ministry operates under an extension of another church organization's nonprofit status.
"That's a sticking point with us, as well," Caplinger said.
Our Daily Bread has served more than 2,000 people since it started hosting meals last year at various spots. Group members also helped run a temporary shelter last week at Del Norte County Fairgrounds to house homeless people during cold weather.