City Council votes to place winter homeless shelter in Barrio Logan

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego City Council voted today to place a temporary winter homeless shelter in a vacant building in Barrio Logan, after spending more than a month considering a range of options for the site, including a giant meeting room adjacent to City Hall.

The City Council initially voted on Oct. 22 to locate the shelter in Golden Hall, but delayed finalizing that decision until today, when it unanimously agreed on a different site.

At today's special meeting, the council heard a long list of problems with the Golden Hall site, including more than $390,000 in additional costs, a breach of contracts with organizations that had scheduled events at the venue during the winter months and the potential for lawsuits from those groups.

“Putting the homeless shelter in Golden Hall may be more difficult than we first anticipated,” Carrol Vaughn, vice president of the San Diego Housing Commission, told the council.

Vaughn said the financial loss to the city from canceling or moving events planned at Golden Hall was estimated at $390,437, and would be in addition to the more than $280,000 it will take to run the shelter for 120 days from November to March.

“So the cost of placing the shelter at Golden Hall exceeds the actual cost of running the shelter?” asked Councilman Todd Gloria. “We're a city with a $72 million budget problem. It seems to me, if you're in a hole, don't you want to quit digging?”

Vaughn also said Golden Hall does not have fire sprinklers or a handicap- accessible entrance, so housing homeless there would require renting a lift.

Kristi Geitz from San Diego's Real Estate Assets Department told the City Council that she surveyed organizations with events scheduled for Golden Hall, and that while they were upset their events might be canceled, none had threatened to sue.

“No one wanted to say, `My event's more important than the homeless, but most are businesses that have agendas they need to fulfill, as well,”' Geitz said.

After hearing the potential problems with the Golden Hall site, Councilwoman Donna Frye suggested the City Council skip a vote on that site, and instead vote on placing the shelter at 1625 Newton Ave. That site was initially rejected at the Oct. 22 meeting because of its proximity to an elementary school.

Frye's suggestion was met with cheers from the audience. Vaughn told the City Council that the Newton Avenue site, a vacant building previously occupied by the San Diego Housing Commission, would require about $20,000 in small repairs and security lighting, and that those tasks could be accomplished in a week.

Council President Ben Hueso at first objected to placing the homeless shelter on Newton Avenue because of concern about the security of nearby Perkins Elementary School.

“I don't want to ever hear that we had a lockdown at Perkins because of some kind of incident,” he said. “If we can provide some assurance that won't happen, I'll support this today.”

Representatives from the San Diego Police Department assured Hueso that police officers would be stationed outside the shelter 80 to 85 percent of the time. The Alpha Project, which operates the shelter for the city, said it will also have security guards on site 24 hours a day.

Before the unanimous vote to place the shelter on Newton Avenue, Frye thanked Hueso for accepting the shelter in his district.

“Your community has taken more than its share,” she said. “I want to go very strongly on record that we expect additional police presence there.”

The City Council voted to place the shelter on Newton Avenue for one year only, because construction of a school is scheduled to begin on the site next April.


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