Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Supportive Homeless Housing Project Gains Momentum

In the sardine can that is Conference Room 1A at City Hall, Tuesday afternoon more than thirty of your neighbors and other interested parties packed the room to hear the City Council, City Staff, and a gaggle of consultants discuss the Homeless Supportive Housing Project in Costa Mesa.  You can read the staff report HERE.

Mayor Jim Righeimer kicked things off then bailed out because he is on the Board of Directors of Mercy House, one of the contractors in this project, so he didn't want any possible tainting of the process.  Before he toddled off, though, he elbowed his way to the head of the line of speakers in Public Comments to give us his views.  Very strange, indeed.  He left the meeting in the hands of Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger.  Councilwomen Wendy Leece and Sandra Genis attended but Gary Monahan was absent.. the meeting did begin at 4:30, after all, and he's got a bar to run.

Among the eight speakers were Kathy Esfahani and Linda Tang of the Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition; Senior Pastor Phil Eyskens of the Lighthouse in Costa Mesa Church of the Nazarene; Long time resident Beth Refakes; Becks Heyhoe of the Churches Consortium; Resident Flo Martin who volunteers to help the homeless and resident Phil Morello, shown, who expressed concern that any homeless housing not be placed on the Westside and lower his property values.

Consultant Kathy Head briskly led us through a Power Point presentation about the process, including a definition of the goals of the Costa Mesa Homeless Task Force:
  1. Define who is a Costa Mesa homeless individual
  2. Protect the health and safety of Costa Mesa residents through enforcement of "civility" laws and provide Alternate Storage facilities
  3. Institute proactive problem resolution with regard to high-crime/vice motels which cater to transient populations and enforcement of local codes and ordinances at problem halfway/sober living homes
  4. Centralize homeless service coordination
  5. Integrate law enforcement, mental health and legal strategy as a coordinated approach to homelessness
  6. Research permanent supportive housing and possible access center for Costa Mesa homeless residents
  7. Review interim housing options
  8. Develop appropriate metrics system to monitor reduction in homelessness
  9. Promotion of Lions Park as a local venue for special events
The program yesterday was focused on number 6, permanent supportive housing.

You can read all the details of the lengthy process on the staff report, including information about the selection of the development team - Mercy/Wakeland - and the the pre-development loan agreement in which the city would fork over $585,000.  The City has also earmarked $1 million in General Fund dollars for "problem properties".

The potential "project scenarios" included:
Base Options
Option #1: Motel acquisition and conversion
Option #2: New Construction of a project with 100% of the units provided to homeless tenants
Option #3: New Construction of a 50% homeless and 50% very-low income households project

Alternate Options
Option #1: Acquisition and renovaton of existing apartment buildings
Option #2: Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program

The development team determined that there are no suitable existing facilities - motels, apartments or multifamily units - available within the City.  They also evaluated Federal, State and County land sites for possible use.  None are available.

They then looked at City-owned sites and boiled them down to the following:
Costa Mesa Bark Park
This was discarded because it is currently heavily-used by an organized and vocal constituency that would likely be opposed to this use AND the soil remediation would make the site very costly to use.

Senior Center Parking Lot
Located on the Westside and seniors have expressed strong feelings of fear and intimidation.

Del Mar Community Garden
At .78 acres, this is too small a project area to support essential Tax Credits, would displace the gardeners and nearby neighbors would complain

Hamilton Community Garden
At .45 acres, this is also too small and has the same problems as the Del Mar Garden

Civic Center Park
This site had been earmarked for a potential site for a Municipal Library for which no funding has been identified after many years.  At 2.52 acres, up to 50 units could be built on it.  It is adjacent to the Police Department for security, City Hall which will allow interaction of social workers and Vanguard University which will provide volunteers.  There is limited direct residential impact and it is located near transit and amenities.  The public may object to eliminating the park and neighbors may object to building the housing there.

So, the upshot of the meeting is that the council will soon hear this issue in an open meeting at which they will likely provide staff and the consultants direction to move forward on the Civic Center Park site briskly, since time is of the essence.  If a site is not identified and secured by February 28, 2014 the City may lose up to $3 million in funds from Orange County.

So, get ready for an onslaught of Public Outreach on this project.  It will happen fast - very likely starting early in January - and discussions implied that multiple-sessions would be planned to provide the public to sign-in on the project.  In fairness, CEO Tom Hatch implied that he'd prefer to move with more deliberation, to follow Mensinger's concern that we "do this right".  We'll see how this plays out in January unless, upon deliberation, it is decided to get the ball moving in December.  We'll see...

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Blogger Gericault said...

Fairview Developmental Center was originally intended to have. 4000 resident capacity. The peak was 2700 , over forty years ago in 1969. They are currently down to less than three hundred. They said 323 as of November, but another site listed the population @ 288. Why wasn't this state owned facility mentioned at the meeting,....or was it ?

12/11/2013 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Fairview Developmental Center was mentioned. It had been a possibility, but the State took it off the table. There was a project planned there earlier this year, but it just disappeared.

12/11/2013 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

My home, since 1970 =0, is just three blocks away from the Civic Center Park. My church is even closer. I welcome the possibility of a supportive housing project at the aforementioned park.

12/11/2013 10:22:00 AM  

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