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State Moves To Turn Dilapidated Downtown Properties Into Affordable Housing

A vacant, boarded-up building owned by the state of California is seen here a...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A vacant, boarded-up building owned by the state of California is seen here at the corner of Ash Street and State Street, Aug. 29, 2019.

California lawmakers approved a bill Friday that would push the state toward redeveloping two underutilized blocks of land in downtown San Diego, with the intent of building affordable housing.

The bill targets the State Building at 1350 Front St., which houses staff from 16 state agencies, as well as the block immediately west, which has a parking lot and two dilapidated vacant buildings. Roughly half of the State Building's office space is also unused, said Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who authored the bill.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

"Right now, the state occupies two city blocks in downtown San Diego with a hazardous and crumbling building and blighted surface parking lots," Gloria said in a statement after the bill's final approval. "This is prime real estate that could be used to build affordable housing and get our homeless off the street."

The bill would officially designate the two blocks of land as surplus, meaning the state would have to offer them to local government agencies or nonprofit affordable housing developers, Gloria said. It now awaits final approval from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom, meanwhile, has been moving forward with his own plans to redevelop the properties, and more than 100 other state-owned parcels across California.

RELATED: MTS Approves Affordable And Student-Oriented Housing On Trolley Parking Lot

In January, Newsom ordered state officials to compile a list of excess properties and to seek proposals for the land from affordable housing developers. Both of the downtown properties are on the list, as is a California Highway Patrol building on Pacific Highway near a future station along the Mid-Coast trolley extension. Also included are properties in Oceanside and El Cajon.

On Tuesday, state officials unveiled an interactive map showing all 115 state-owned properties that Newsom hopes to make available for affordable housing.

The two boarded up buildings west of the State Building were purchased by the state in the 1960s and have been vacant since the 1970s, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services.

Public land can play a key role in building more affordable housing because government agencies can choose to offer the land at a discount for the right kind of development, said Sue Reynolds, CEO of the nonprofit affordable housing developer Community HousingWorks.

She added that many of the properties on the state's list appear ripe for redevelopment.

"They're big enough to do something with, which is very exciting, and there's over 100 of them," Reynolds said. "We think this has real potential to make another dent in our housing problems."

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