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Neighbors capsize tutoring plans

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen is still looking into other ways to separate students from loud dining area.

April 09, 2009|By Alan Blank

Community uproar over Someone Cares Soup Kitchen’s proposal to put a portable building behind its Westside Costa Mesa dining hall to house its tutoring operation caused the nonprofit to withdraw its plans, according to Someone Cares Executive Director Shannon Santos.

“We want to keep goodwill with our neighbors and our community,” Santos said.

The tutoring program serves kids from nearby Pomona Elementary School who come in from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday in groups of 15 per hour for homework help.

The program itself has been in place for years — it is set up in a small cubicle separated from the dining area by a thin screen divider — but staff say that the current arrangement is not conducive to learning.

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Tutors have to contend with the noise from dishes and mealtime conversations as the area’s needy are fed a few feet away, then they have to talk over vacuums and clanging pots during cleanup, said Administrative Coordinator Ellie Weaver.

Some neighbors, though, say the kitchen draws in a crowd of people who drink in public and harass passersby. The neighbors were afraid that if the kitchen added the 24-by-40-foot building it would end up attracting larger numbers of clients.

Santos said this is not the kitchen’s intention. The extra dining space that would be freed up by moving the tutoring operation elsewhere would simply help the kitchen more efficiently feed the ever-lengthening lines of people who come for meals as the economy worsens, she said.

The proposal was up for review by the city’s zoning administrator Thursday, but the application was withdrawn before the review could take place. The city received a rash of phone calls and e-mails in recent days opposing the proposal. The zoning administrator would have considered the community’s opposition to the portable as well as its compliance with city codes, according to Willa Bouwens-Killeen, a principal planner.

The kitchen is looking into other ways to separate the dining area from the tutoring operation without drawing so many complaints from people around the area.

If the nonprofit could find a way to create a separate tutoring space without deviating from city requirements governing parking and the like then it would not have to subject the proposal to the judgment of a zoning administrator. A permanent addition is something that the kitchen is investigating, Santos said.

“They’re considering the options and when they have something they will approach us,” Bouwens-Killeen said.


Reporter ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at alan.blank@latimes.com. Reporter ALAN BLANK may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at alan.blank@latimes.com.

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