The following is a letter sent to the Oceanside Planning Commission regarding proposals related to the conditional use permit for Brother Benno’s. A PDF copy of the letter can be found here.
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
February 8, 2021
Oceanside Planning Commission
300 N. Coast Highway
Oceanside, CA 92054
Re: Brother Benno’s Conditional Use Permit (C-33-90)
Dear Planning Commission Members:
I write to express serious concerns with proposals related to the conditional use permit for Brother Benno’s, which I understand provides critical services to poor and unhoused people, including but not limited to sharing of food and provision of a mailing address, in accord with its mission of “living out the gospel according to Matthew 25:31-45 with love and compassion.”
I only recently learned of the proposals, which I understand include a limit of one year on the amount of time a person may use Brother Benno’s as a mailing address and a requirement that Brother Benno’s would be required “to refuse services and entry to clients who have been engaged in criminal activity as determined by the Police Chief.”
Although I have not had time to conduct detailed analysis, these conditions present substantial questions that should be reviewed carefully to determine whether they violate the legal rights of Brother Benno’s or the people it serves. For example, the conditions may:
Violate the due process rights of Brother Benno’s or the people it serves by depriving them of protected liberty interests in providing or obtaining critical services based on vague and unspecified allegations of “criminal activity” without notice, hearing, or opportunity to respond;
Violate the First Amendment rights of Brother Benno’s or the people it serves by prohibiting them from engaging in the expressive conduct of food sharing motivated by spiritual, religious, or political beliefs. See Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 901 F.3d 1235 (11th Cir. 2018).
Violate the rights of Brother Benno’s under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act or similar laws;
Violate privacy rights by requiring the sharing of confidential information about Brother Benno’s or the people it serves with the Oceanside Police Department; or
Violate voting rights by impairing the ability of unhoused individuals to provide an address for purposes of registration or mail ballot access.
Given these serious concerns, and others that may arise on detailed review, the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties respectfully asks that if the Planning Commission does not decline the conditions entirely, it should defer consideration to provide additional time for legal review and community participation.
Legal issues aside, the conditions present significant policy and humanitarian concerns that should be thoroughly explored and debated. The entire Oceanside community has a strong interest in caring for its most vulnerable members. The community should be afforded a thorough opportunity to contribute to the discussion of these critical issues.
cc: Oceanside Mayor and City Council
Oceanside City Attorney