At a Wednesday-night forum, Coronado residents learned about the historic Hansen mansion (at 7th Street and A Avenue) becoming a home for sex-trafficking victims.
About halfway through the meeting, 80 people were ejected after the fire chief determined more than 200 people had packed the 114-person capacity library meeting room — though organizers said they had only 18 confirmed RSVPs.
The one-hour session stretched to an hour and a half and ended with mayor Richard Bailey promising residents he'd schedule another meeting — in a bigger venue.
The plan is to give a temporary home to six women who have completed an intense course in leaving “the life” — after they've gotten clean and sober and have had removed the tattoos for gangs and pimps, according to Dan DeSaegheron, the executive director of GenerateHope.
Two “house mothers” will also live there, and a number of service providers will visit, DeSaegheron said. "I want you to understand. First they graduate from our recovery center, then they come here to graduate into the community. They look like any other girls in Coronado when they're picking up a latte at Starbucks."
In June, the Hansen family sold the mansion to a limited liability corporation based in Colorado. The new owners offered it to GenerateHope, and because of its size, it seemed like a practical home for the program's graduates to transition to jobs, school, and their own homes. ("Most of our women are college-bound," DeSaegheron said.)
One resident asked Mayor Bailey if it was true that a fundraising event for his mayoral campaign was held at the mansion (he won office in November); Bailey confirmed that occurred.
Some residents welcomed the transitional home, where women will stay for a year to 18 months, according to DeSaegheron. Some were concerned that women who spent a year and a half in a mansion in Coronado may not want to leave.
"A transition should be realistic and attainable. Living in the Hansen mansion is not realistic and attainable," one woman said. Others wondered if crime and illegal habits wouldn't follow the women to the streets of Coronado.
Most of the objectors said they had sympathy for the cause, but they were offended by the lack of control they had over their neighborhoods.
"We bought our homes with the understanding that our homes are residential only. Now we're surprised to find out groups can come in and use our homes for nonresidential purposes," a resident said.
Bailey explained that state law overrides local jurisdiction and that transition homes are allowed in residential areas under state law.
A put-your-hands-up survey revealed that about half the people at the meeting — after the fire-department clear-out — live within three blocks of the mansion.
Those who favored the project chastised opponents with comments, suggesting: "It's about people, not about property." Several residents expressed interest in volunteering with the group.
Chief deputy district attorney Summer Stephan chided residents who expressed opposition — more than a few — with the statement: "The only way evil thrives isn't by evil people. It's the good people who do nothing to stop evil," she said.
Residents who are resisting the project didn't appreciate being scolded.
"We have some genuine concerns and to suggest we're not compassionate is terrible, it's insulting," resident Jim Laslavic said.