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AHS legal rep disputes city’s claims about residential project
Colorado Avenue facility
Alamo Health Services is seeking to turn the former Las Palmas Estates at 1617 Colorado Ave. into a facility for consumers on the mental health continuum of care (Journal file photo).

A legal firm representing Alamo Health Services claims in a letter to the city that Mayor Amy Bublak met with AHS representatives regarding a grand opening for a planned residential facility just three days before the city issued a press release denouncing the project, and that there is no action the city council can take regarding the matter.

Alamo Health Services is seeking to turn the former Las Palmas Estates at 1617 Colorado Ave. —  an adult residential facility — into a facility for consumers on the mental health continuum of care.

San Francisco-based law firm of Farella Braun and Martel, in a letter addressed to city attorney George Petrulakis, said, “On Jan. 31, at the request of AHS, representatives from AHS met with the mayor and her staff regarding the project’s grand opening, at which time AHS was told the mayor’s office was willing to help expedite the remaining building permit.”

Bublak agreed with part of that assertion.

“That’s a truth and a half truth,” said Bublak, who said she thought the project was a senior facility when she heard the building address mentioned during the Zoom call. “I thought they might know about Brandel (closing), too. Then somebody asked them to describe their patient base.”

At that point, Bubak said she became dissatisfied with what she’d heard and left the conference room.

“That is correct,” said the mayor.

On Feb. 2, the city issued a press release, criticizing “the lack of transparency displayed by various Stanislaus County officials and a Bay Area developer for their plan to transform a long-time elder-care facility into a complex to serve homeless and other at-risk populations with severe mental illness as well as addiction and dual diagnosis disorders.”

The city went on to claim that “Alamo and the County did not disclose to the City that the occupancy would be based upon referrals from the Stanislaus County Behavioral Health Services department.”

A day later, Bublak released a video statement on the city’s website in which she stated “we were never advised of this” in regards to the project.

The released comments by the city ignited a give-and-take with the county.

On Feb. 13, Turlock City Councilmembers Kevin Bixel (District 1), Rebecka Monez (District 2), Cassandra Abram (District 3), Pam Franco (District 4) and city manager Reagan Wilson attended that morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting in Modesto. Later that night, all five supervisors attended the Turlock City Council meeting, with District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa speaking during public comment, which alone lasted 2 1/2 hours with more than 30 speakers taking their turn at the microphone, most speaking against the project. AHS chief executive officer Betty Dominici also spoke briefly.

Later, the letter from AHS states, “It is critical to note that there is in fact no discretionary approval before the city with respect to the project. AHS has not applied for, nor is it required to obtain, any conditional use permit or other discretionary permit to operate the project. Therefore, there is no action for you, the city, or the city council to take.”

The letter — which lists more than two dozen points of contact between AHS and the city from July 2023 to February 2024 — also cites Turlock Municipal Code 9-1-202, which lays out the definition of a group home.

Finally, the letter reminds the city that “it is a violation of California law for a municipality to make any land use division based on the personal characteristics of residents.”

Bublak declined to comment on the legal matters, deferring to the city attorney. Efforts to speak with Petrulakis, Wilson, and Ashley E. Breakfield of Farella Braun and Martel, were unsuccessful Friday.