City To Buy Downtown Building To House Homeless Services Center
The San Diego City Council Monday unanimously approved the purchase of a downtown building to house a homeless-services center.
The council agreed to pay $7.3 million for the building at 1401 Imperial Ave. The building will eventually be known as the Housing Navigation Center for Homeless Services. The building is not intended to be used as a shelter for people who are homeless.
“There won’t be a provision of meals, there won’t be any beds or showers,” said Jonathan Herrera. Herrera is Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s senior advisor on homelessness. “It’s meant to be that beginning point. That starting point for an individual, they will most likely be then referred to another more appropriate program.”
Kris Michell, city deputy chief operating officer, told council members the center will end the problem of homeless people having to bounce from place to place to find services.
"We will be one step closer to opening San Diego's homeless navigation center," she said of the building purchase.
Michell said the center will offer a coordinated system pairing homeless people with specialists and organizations to help them with various needs, such as Social Security information, veterans' services, workforce training and finding a permanent home.
According to the city, the three-story building is more 26,000 square feet, and is near Father Joe's Village and next to a trolley line.
The building requires no major tenant improvements and already has furniture, according to the city.
City officials said community development block grants, including from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will pay for the acquisition, which must be handled in escrow by Feb. 7.
Councilman Mark Kersey, who represents District 5, said the building was a good deal in terms of cost.
"We've been talking about this for the entire time I've been on the council," Kersey said.
Meanwhile, the council also approved an ordinance creating an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone within city limits.
The creation of the zone, according to city officials, will allow owners of qualifying vacant or unimproved property to contract with the city, restricting the property to small-scale agricultural uses in exchange for a reduction in their property tax.
Proponents said that along with the tax benefit, local gardens will benefit communities where fresh food isn't always available.
According to the city, the ordinance will result in a property tax revenue loss of $173,673 per year.
About 2,000 parcels, which can be no larger than three acres, are eligible under the program, according to the city.
>> Plans for homeless navigation center were approved by the San Diego city Council on Monday. The city will pay $7.3 million for in -- and East building that will offer centralized help for the homeless. The center could open as early as this year. It won't often -- offer any on-site shelter. Here is the coordinator for the senior center in San Diego. Mayor Faulkner has been talking about a central homeless facility for year. After yesterday's vote what needs to happen to make the center a reality? >> Now that the city Council voted to approve the acquisition of the facility, we are moving forward to identify an operator and intend on having the site operational by July 1 of this summer. >> It still not know who's going to run this facility? >> That is correct. >> House going to proceed? >> We will issue a request for proposal, it will outline the various services and service model that we want to employ at the facility. And then nonprofit organizations will be able to develop and submit their proposals in conjunction with housing commission. City officials will review those applications or proposals and make a determination as to which one is most costly -- closely aligned. >> What is the idea behind the central navigation center? How does a city that will -- hope that will get the people off the streets? >> One of the biggest issues is navigating through a convoluted system of homeless programs, shelters and resources. With this navigation center, it will provide a focal point for these homeless individuals to get on the path to homeless management information system and access supportive services and housing that they need. >> Some homeless advocates have been critical about having one centralized facility. They say that there is original plan where homeless people can enter the system in a number of different areas. Are people going to be pushed from some areas to the centralized facility? >> Now, this is intended to complement the original strategy that we have been developing through the original task force on the homeless. We are thankful for their contributions in developing the service model and look forward to an ongoing partnership with the task force and original partners to ensure we have a crisis response system that can address the needs. >> Now path connections opened a similar facility in 2013. They had city support and a lot of city fanfare surrounding that. And housing and loss of services in the same building and official said back then that this was supposed to solve homelessness, it was to be that one stop center for homeless people to go and connect with services. How similar will this facility, this new navigation center fee to that one? >> I think it will be similar in its intent and purpose in that we will provide a comprehensive array of supportive services. I think the biggest difference is that this facility will not provide any level of housing, it is simply meant to triage. In the case of path connection housing, that's an excellent model and one that is proven to be very effective. But it works within the program itself. The service available to the clients in the program and individuals are able to progress through emergency shelters on-side, to the transitional housing and up to the permanent housing. We are expanding that model to serve across region. This navigation center will be feeding into or referring individuals into one specific program. This will take a comprehensive and strategic approach to a client centered approach. It will ask what does this individual need? Which services or programs best accommodate that? >> How much are officials expecting that the navigation center across the city on the annual basis? >> This is an excellent deal for San Francisco -- San Diego. A recent appraisal had it in the range of 15-$20 million. The purchase prices $7.3 million. It was an opportunity we couldn't pass. The city is contributing $1 million on an annual basis to provide for operations. >> Even if people can access services more easily with the center, since there is a shortage of permanent housing, there will still be people in shelters and on the street. Is the enthusiasm about the center a bit unrealistic? >> Now, this is deftly something we should be very proud of and excited for. It is a missing component in our system that we desperately need to address. I think the unanimous vote by counsel and support it receives speaks to the need for this facility. But to your point, at the end of the day, we need additional housing at all levels. Array, permit of supportive housing, housing for low income and homeless San Diego is, we needed all. That's why there such an emphasis in place. We need to streamline the process for development, cutting the redtape, putting forth ideas for innovative housing designs. We agree, at the end of the day, at the heart of our homeless issue is a housing issue. We will continue to make efforts to address that. >> I've been speaking with Jonathan Herrera, Senior advisor on homelessness coordination with the city of San Diego. Jonathan, thank you.