San Diego County scraps tiny house project for homeless in Spring Valley – San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego County canceled a plan to create 150 tiny houses for the homeless in East County after pushback from neighbors, creating new uncertainty over how the region plans to care for a number growing number of people living outside.

The Board of Supervisors had only approved in March — in a bipartisan 4-0 vote — spending millions of state and federal dollars on construction in Spring Valley before reversing course Tuesday.

County officials have committed to locking down a new site, potentially in Lemon Grove, but in the meantime, leaders will have to continue to rely on a hotel voucher program that costs taxpayers far more. Similar projects in Lakeside and Santee also failed due to local opposition.

“It seemed like a great place to do it at the time,” President Nora Vargas said from the podium, “but it needed more community input.”

May was the 26th consecutive month that the crisis was nationwide, according to the Regional Homelessness Task Force. East County has long needed more beds for people on the streets, but this region is not alone. Even the city of San Diego doesn’t have enough shelter nearby for everyone to ask for, and officials are currently considering whether to create more shelters in the short term.

The San Diego City Council met again behind closed doors Monday to discuss leasing an empty warehouse near the airport near Kettner Boulevard and Vine Street, but no agreement has yet been reached on a facility that could ultimately accommodate 1,000 people. Mayor Todd Gloria and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said in a statement they would soon hold a public hearing on the proposal.

The sleeping cabins were reportedly located at 8534 Jamacha Road, on land owned by the California Department of Transportation. The property borders several backyards and Avondale Elementary School and Mt. Miguel High School are a short walk to the north.

The tiny homes could have taken up to two years to create, and officials had promised to include a number of services, including case management and security. Supervisors budgeted $8.5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help cover construction and planned to accept an additional $10 million from the state of California.

A number of people objected in the weeks after the project was initially approved, and in June Vargas issued a statement saying she would “rescind” the plan for “health and safety reasons.” Spokeswoman Meghan Breen later clarified that the full board would have to rescind the measure altogether.

More than two dozen people spoke Tuesday, most of them opposed to the Spring Valley site. Many residents said, in English and Spanish, that they already face threats and drug use from some in nearby encampments and are concerned about what more permanent structures might bring. A few wondered if their neighborhood was chosen because it is not as wealthy as other communities.

Finding housing or affordable housing almost always creates a vicious cycle. Those already living in the area may fear the arrival of neighbors who may be suffering from addiction or mental health issues, but the more isolated the area, the further away residents will be from the services they need.

The vast majority of people on the streets have repeatedly reported losing housing in San Diego County, which has become one of the most expensive places in the country to live, and the most recent point-in-time count found nearly of 130 people. homeless in Spring Valley.

The county had planned to use the cabins to replace the 150 beds currently offered through the Regional Homeless Assistance Program, which is best known for offering vouchers covering rent at local hotels. Paying for 150 of those spots a year costs about $9 million, according to county records. The small houses would have cost between $5 million and $6 million.

Tuesday’s vote was 3-1, with Jim Desmond absent. The only supervisor willing to stay the course was Terra Lawson-Remer.

“This feels like a great loss,” she said in a statement. “Eliminating homeless encampments and moving people into tiny shacks is a better option than letting people continue to sleep on the streets. »

Although the county may find other uses for its American Rescue Plan Act dollars, the $10 million could remain in the state if another location is not found.

Supervisor Monica Montgomery Steppe recently wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom proposing an alternative in Lemon Grove, on Troy Street, and her colleagues agreed to explore that option.

This site already has at least some local support: Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez and Councilmember Alysson Snow spoke Tuesday to say they would welcome small cabins in their town.

A separate county proposal to create a secure parking lot in Lakeside, where homeless people can sleep in vehicles, remains on track. The Willow Recreational Vehicle Senior and Family Parking project is expected to eventually have 17 spaces at the intersection of Willow Road and Ashwood Street.

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