Mayor cites topic as a bad idea after “taking the heat” from capacity crowd at city hall

It was standing room only at Folsom City Hall Tuesday night as members of the community ranging from residents to business owners and others packed city council chambers for the final regular meeting of the month, all for a hot topic surrounding an agenda item requested by Mayor Mike Kozlwoski, which was the review of the possibilities exploring the placement of a homeless resources center near the city’s Historic District.


The agenda item was the only matter of new business on the table Tuesday night, and Folsom City staff presented data from an analysis previously requested by the mayor regarding the potential placement of a “homeless services trailer” on what is best known in the community as the city-owned Wye property. The site was previously a railroad junction on the Sacramento-Placerville railroad corridor. Today, it still retains two railroad spurs and the former station master’s house and grounds, which is a designated historic structure.

Within the Wye property is a section that is undeveloped and has been used by the Public Works Department since 2010 as an auxiliary corporation yard site. Prior to 2010, the city had an auxiliary site on Sibley Street at Levy Road, but that property was developed into the Granite City Apartments, and operations were then moved to the Wye property.


Since the topic became public late last week in the city-issued meeting agenda as well as various news agencies, including Folsom Times that first reported the upcoming topic, followed by that of local television stations and then the Sacramento Bee, many in the community expressed concerns surrounding the meeting item, several of which came with a good share of frustration and anger by residents that are losing patience with the growing issue of homelessness and associated crime across the city, including the most recent incident in which a woman was attacked and injured by a homeless man near the light rail depot in Historic Folsom in what Folsom Police have reported as a hate crime.

After council quickly approved a seven-item consent calendar Tuesday night, Kozlowski addressed the large crowd that was overflowing into the hallway of city hall, many of whom were scheduled to speak on the topic. Kozlowski was quick to clarify his intentions in requesting the analysis and forthcoming presentation, an item that garnered him many emails and phone calls since late last week.


“I asked a super discreet question of the staff and they gave me the answer I was looking for, and it was in service of an idea that came to me almost a year ago when we had a whole number of things that were a hot topic at the time. It occurred to me that we might be able to achieve a few different goals with a single move,” Kozlowski explained.

He continued prior to moving to the presentation, claiming ownership of his previous request and wasn’t shy when it came to including some humility based on the response he received from the community for his idea. “I could be completely wrong because lots of the commentary that I got in my email was somewhere between, ‘you’re crazy and you’re expletive crazy,’ so, acknowledged.

Kozlowski went on to explain his request for the review was somewhat connected to the ongoing efforts and master plan of the city’s river district, which includes the future relocation of the city’s corporation yard operations, which includes those at the aforementioned Wye property. The mayor went on to recap the fact there are many ideas of how the property could be used in the future, such as a rail-themed park or something that would act well as a visual gateway to the district. He also addressed what he called the “angst” among residents and business owners regarding the issues surrounding the increase in concerning homeless activity in the area.


“So, all of that was going on when this thought came into my mind which was thinking that if we could get some money together, we could clean up the Wye, and in the short run, we may be able to put a modest piece of a service center there,” Kozlowski said, then explaining that he recently learned that any funding for such a project the city thought may be available from Sacramento County is no longer an option.

“Most of what I was talking about has no available funding, so the last thing we did was try to figure out what the minimum improvements would be necessary to put a job style on-site only for the purpose to have very limited services by the good people and area agencies that provide outreach to homeless people to try and make them former homeless people and give them a workspace to do that,” he continued. “We as a council have been accused pretty regularly of doing nothing, in either not doing enough to police the city, which I don’t think is true…as we remain handcuffed by the decision of the Ninth Circuit. We have also been accused of not helping the agencies that are doing the work on a daily basis in our city. What I was trying to consider was what we could we do to supplement the agencies that are doing the work.”


Those agencies include Jake’s Journey Home, Powerhouse Ministries, and HART of Folsom. Koslowski took time to praise the groups for their continued efforts. He also took a moment to apologize to Jeanne Shuman, founder of Jake Journey Home for much of the attention she has recently gotten about the Wye property possibilities. “I asked Jeanne to help with some of this, and I never intended for her to get that kind of attention,” he said. “This was intended to be for all the agencies, not just one. Occasionally my softer side leaks out of me and I try to do something to help, that’s what this was all intended to do.”

After his lengthy explanation that spanned nearly 15 minutes of the thought process behind his request for the agenda item, Koslowski proceeded to welcome the presentation of the analysis. He asked those in attendance that came to speak to think about, instead of expressing their opposition for the idea, to share ideas on what residents think the city could or should provide to the local agencies and to keep their “politeness in their hearts and be generous with their comments.

“If anything good comes from the fact that I got all of you out here on a Tuesday night, it could be a couple of good brainstorming ideas we could find useful. If we are going to have services of any kind, we prefer to do so on city property so we can pull the plug at any time if needed. We can’t do that if it’s on faith-based property or private property. I would like us to be able to pull that plug if it’s not working.”

Prior to the presentation of the staff report and public comment, Kozlowski let everyone know he had already made a decision on the agenda item and before the end of the night he was motion to accept the data provided and not take any further action. That motion came later in the night, after a great deal of public commentary that still contained frustration from many, and some new ideas from others.

The staff report and presentation were conducted by City Public Works Director Mark Rackovan. In its analysis, city staff provided two optional sites for a proposed position of a trailer, should the project move forward. The details of those sites are as follows, as stated in the report:

Site one would have been located on the east side of the site, near the Bidwell Street entrance, as shown in Attachment 1. Placing a trailer at this location would also require additional fencing and gates to secure the remainder of the site, and the city would have to relocate the existing concrete washout area. The PSVRR would need to relocate their storage shed, and the Chamber would need to find a new location for their storage containers.

Site two would have been located on the west side of the site, near the Oakdale Street entrance, also depicted in Attachment 1. Placing a trailer at this location would require additional fencing and gates to secure the remainder of the site and would require the PSVRR to move their stored rail crossing equipment to another location. Staff would work with PSVRR to determine if any of the stored equipment is salvageable and would only seek to relocate equipment that was still of potential use; the remainder would be disposed of as scrap.

The staff report noted that neither site has any ADA-compliant sidewalk access, and parking would be limited to approximately three spaces. Both sites would also require a secure, locked gate to prevent access to the site when it is closed, as well as existing fencing along the site perimeter that would need to be enhanced with natural screening (shrubs) and/or privacy slats to make the site less visible.

This analysis currently does not include an assessment of the potential impacts on the surrounding community in terms of increased homeless activity. The report cited that community members have noted that similar facilities throughout the region see an increase in homeless camps and other activities related to those experiencing homelessness, particularly in light of the project’s proximity to light rail and the end of the Gold Line in the nearby Historic District.

Rackovan shared that the estimated initial cost to set up a trailer on the property would be approximately $225,000; this would include establishing water and sewer connections, grading and paving, drainage, other utilities as well as trailer set-up. There would also be an ongoing monthly lease cost estimated at $2,200 per month for the trailer itself. The cost of ADA-compliant pedestrian access is also not included and has not been estimated. There is currently no identified funding for this initial project startup.

“Plus the ongoing cost of utilities, maintenance and care for the trailer,” Rackovan explained. “None of these costs are in our budget; that has yet to be determined if this were to move forward.”

“If we as a community do not address the unhoused situation, the State of California and the continual laws that are created in the dark of night will. The federal funds and state funds the city receives always come with strings attached. They will hamstring our ability to bring any semblance of safety and human dignity. It needs to be addressed and it needs to be fixed,” said Jean Shuman of Jake’s Journey Home, who was the first speaker from the floor Tuesday.

Jake’s Journey Home does mobile outreach in this community for the unhoused six days a week. She shared data collected over the last three months that shows the organization had 1829 interactions with those on the streets, which included 416 unique individuals. They made 83 assessments for programs, 23 of which they did at their shelter and 60 on the street.

“Easy to say we know them, most times by name and we know their stories. We offer basic needs and help to navigate our complicated and confusing system of care,” Shuman added. “It’s proactive, it’s ongoing and non-criminal and does not require police assistance. An assistance center can play a crucial role in addressing the complex needs of at-risk individuals and help them regain stability and independence. Where the center exists remains in question; the goal is to get folks off the street. A permanent center offers one central hub to provide certain things like showers and meals, things they need to feel human and successful.”

Shuman was one of 31 speakers Tuesday night. Many that followed were very supportive of what her organization and the others are doing to help those who will accept assistance. At the same time, many shared their frustrations with the ongoing issues of those that will not agree to help.

Mike Sellitti has been a resident of Folsom for more than three decades. He and his wife live and own a business in the Historic District and have been very vocal over recent months on the topic. Tuesday was no exception; he took the floor with a direct question to the mayor.

“I was here in October when this all started, not because I was tired of picking up trash, broken bottles, needles and washing feces off my front yard and the salon building, yes that sucked,” said Sellati, who went on to recount that his wife and mother in law had been verbally threatened in their front yard. He shared that his wife was physically attacked on the bridge and one of their employees was injured when she had a bottle thrown at her by outside their shop. “I told you guys back then that it wasn’t if, but when, that someone was going to get seriously hurt. Just in a matter of recent weeks someone was nearly pickaxed to death, and woman was just violently assaulted on Sutter Street and hospitalized by a violent homeless person.”

Sellitti continued in regards to a resource center, “Homeless people will leave a shelter and go down to Sutter Street and panhandle, tourists will stop coming just like San Francisco and businesses will close and revenue won’t go up it will disappear. Mr. Mayor at the last meeting you said that having more revenue from people coming from outside the city was vitally important for us to have. Why is it impossible for city council to differentiate the people that Jean is trying to help from the violent criminals that are causing all of this chaos in our city. I don’t understand and I don’t think anyone else can understand that here either.  Why we can’t enhance our police force.”

Kozlowski dropped the gavel on Sellitti as he reached his three minutes of speaking time. He then responded directly to him. 

“It’s an absolutely fair question. I am literally holding both those ideas in my head as we speak and that’s why I made all of the preemptory comments tonight,” said Kozlowski. “This is trying to work on one aspect of the issue, which is the people that we can convert to housed. We have the issue of crime that is separate from what is proposed here. At no point was it suggested that this was a shelter that anyone would be staying for any length of time. It would t most be a service center for induvial counseling to take place. “

Selitti responded to Kozlowski, who then informed the speaker that he was not going to engage in a dialogue. “Where do they go when they are done, it’s not like they can drive home, they are homeless, where do they go? Everybody wants a dialog; everybody has the same question.”

Kozlowski ended the dialogue and called for the next speaker from the floor, who was then Jackie Selitti who took the microphone with an emotional plea.

“The only solutions we are hearing is how to help the homeless. I want to help the people of our city who are getting harassed, effecting our businesses, our retail theft. Where is the talk about the police to protect us,” she said. “Not only do we have none, we have had the three taken away that were supposed to be directed to helping us. I am tired of it.  Half you are going out of the council and not even going to be here, do you have skin in this game?  Why are you dragging your feet, we are in a city of emergency use your emergency funds you have to hire more police to keep us all safe.”

The recent Historic Folsom attack Selleti referenced took place last Tuesday when a homeless man, identified as 59-year-old Mamikon Shushanyan, attacked a woman that was crossing the street near the light rail station after shouting a racial comment and knocking her to the ground and kicking her. Good Samaritan Leo Martinez rushed to her aid and detained the many until police arrived. 

The incident resulted in a fractured arm and cheek bone to the woman.  Shushanyan was arrested on felony charges. Ironically, he was released from Sacramento County Jail at the same time Tuesday’s heated council meeting was underway and Martinez was stepping up to speak at the meeting. Martinez shared his career experience in social work and how he and his wife are opening a new business on Sutter Street which is why he was nearby at the time. 

“The other day I observed someone having a mental health crises and I called 911. 20 minutes later after that call I approached the area and a young black woman got attacked. I attacked the gentleman and stopped him from killing her,” Martinez said. “I am not trying to impress anyone, I think anybody would have done the same thing. But the truth of the matter is that I have have been in areas and I have seen things that do work and don’t work and one of the things I know for a fact is that homeless populations have vulnerable populations within them.”

Matrinez continued, “When we start to build static locations, the strongest ones and the fastest ones are ones that will get there and usually the most vulnerable populations are the ones that don’t the services that they need. The services by these agencies here are amazing. We need to assess these individuals for the need and try to make sure that we can give services for the need that is there and not just bring them to a central location. Because once the denial of services happens, they are there, like somebody said here tonight, where are they going to go next?  They start to encamp themselves around that area and it starts to build up. Someone brought up a mobile service, which I completely support. Take something we’ve learned from the San Francisco mission district, which is my hometown, it’s no longer the same place I was at because these great minds trying to solve the problem couldn’t figure it out. Well we know what doesn’t work.”

Many speakers did express frustrations Tuesday night. At the same time, many of them agreed that a mobile operation could be a possible solution to the problem or part of it. Amber Felts, a Historic Folsom business owner resident and a member of the Folsom Historic District Board of Directors, spoke from both sides of the situation, as a resident seeing the issues as well as the fact her father was homeless and passed away while living on the street. She was one of the many in support of a mobile unit.

Amber’s husband, John Felts, a Historic Folsom resident and a Historic District Commissioner, also spoke with his perspective of what a centralized resource center could bring.

“I go to conferences a lot in my business, to a lot of cities, many I don’t really want to go to. Why do I go to these places? Because there are customers and they are congregating in one place, so it’s easy for me to make a sales,” he said. “Giving a place for unhoused people to congregate brings them all into one spot. There are other salespeople out there, they are a called drug dealers. They target homeless shelters, homeless centers and methadone clinics because its easier to find your customers there. I am not accusing the unhoused of being drug addicts, but its sure an easy place for them to become drug addicts or be offered drugs as he first hit is free. Those drugs, especially with what’s floating around right now are going to end up in our high school and junior high and that’s going to kill kids and an I can’t have that.”

Historic District resident John Felts was one of the 31 people who requested to speak at Tuesday’s council meeting.

During some of the public comments Tuesday, it was mentioned that Folsom Police are not always able to respond when it comes to the clearing or clean-up of encampments. Folsom Police Chief Rick Hillman explained the current status of the department in regards to these types of calls and clarified that they do respond to calls as resources are available.

“We have what is called our Problem-Oriented Policing Team; it was renamed earlier this year. It was previously our Crime Suppression Unit. We took on a different name but the mission is the same to deal with problems that are occurring in our community,” said Hillman. “For years those main problems have been homelessness that you have heard a lot about tonight.”

Hillman explained that the rise in more serious crimes has kept his force stretch thin. 

“In this past year crime has gone up quite a bit in Folsom so we have had to have that team move on to other things, said Hillman. “We have had a more than 400% increase in organized retail theft, over 100 percent increase in robberies and 53 percent increase in rapes.   Crimes against a person are more important to us than cleaning up homeless encampments. That is an important thing as well, we just don’t always have the resources to do that right now.

Hillman noted that at the April 23 council meeting he will return to city hall to speak in depth about the city’s current crime statistics, the departments resources and needs to service the community, 

By approximately 9:30 p.m., the deluge of public comments had concluded, and the meeting wrapped up with council commentary. Vice Mayor Sarah Aquino shared her thoughts on the evening’s topic regarding the Wye property as well as other concerns about ongoing homeless issues related to crime and safety.

“I do appreciate your desire to do something to address the homeless issue. I don’t think what was proposed is the solution or the location,” said Aquino. “I do think we all agree that that is a gateway to the city and a gateway to the Historic District and certainly would like to see something special with that property. “With regard to the homeless issue I do think we need to wait to hear from chief Hillmen and the Police Department on April 23 before we make any decisions but my philosophy is very simple and it has never changed. I think to the extent that we can, connect people with services, we have an obligation as a community to do that but if people refuse those services for whatever reason, I think we need to make it inconvenient for them to be homeless in our city. I don’t say that because I’m am heartless and I don’t care, but I think it has to be inconvenient and uncomfortable in order for them to want to make a change to their situation.”

Aquino continued to speak on Folsom’s homeless outreach during the meeting’s request for future agenda items. She spoke in regards to the city’s winter shelter program that involves local faith based locations during the cold months. 

“I think we have to have some really hard conversations and some people are not going to be happy with me saying this, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think we need to have a conversation about if the winter shelter is doing more harm than good. The reason I say that is we know of a specific instance where we had a gentleman a couple of years ago who was a guest of the winter shelter many nights and many weeks once the winter shelter ended, Aquino added. “I think it would be very interesting to know the people who are a guest in the winter shelter and if they are having interactions with our police department and being cited for whatever in the community,”

Before the conclusion of the intense meeting, Koslowski thanked all in attendance for their time, input, and engagement on the controversial topic, acknowledging that it might not have been the best idea.

“I asked all of you for this job and I am willing to take the heat for a bad idea. I think there is some shred of a good idea buried in there it probably is a mobile unit somewhere, and not at that particular location, that’s all come through loud and clear,  said Kozlowski. “I want this dialoge to continue though. We frequently have meetings where  we very many people in attendance and some this stuff comes up in council comments at the end.  I am really grateful you all came here tonight and for your comments, supportive or pointed. That is why we do these meetings  so that you can get those things out on the table and can take action that supports the community.”

To view the entire Folsom City Council meeting, residents can access the full meeting webcast, including all commentary and presentations, on the city website in the days following the meeting at

TOP PHOTO: Leo Martinez was one of some 31 speakers at Folsom City Council Tuesday night. Last week, Martinez rescued a woman who was being attacked near the Historic Folsom light rail station by a homeless man in an apparent hate crime that resulted in a fractured arm and face injuries.

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan