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As city officials scramble to shelter homeless residents amid the coronavirus pandemic, homeless families are finding there’s actually less space to accommodate them.
Concerns over health and the need for social distancing has forced three of San Diego’s largest homeless service providers to dial back their efforts to serve families newly in need of shelter, reports Lisa Halverstadt.
The San Diego Rescue Mission temporarily shuttered its nightly emergency shelter in March. City officials decided Father Joe’s Villages, which had served families at its Golden Hall shelter, should not take in families at its Convention Center shelter. And the Alpha Project-run Cortez Hill Family Center downtown shut down earlier this year.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced plans this week to shelter homeless families in a motel the city purchased in 2017 to house misdemeanor offenders, but did not say how soon that could happen.
“Put simply, the demand far outpaces the supply of shelter for families,” said one service provider.
Since the Encinitas City Council in January approved a safe overnight parking program for homeless residents, the Sheriff’s Department has not seen any increase in crime in the area, as opponents of the program insisted it would.
What the Sheriff’s Department has seen, though, is unfounded calls from people reporting crimes, and people who have trespassed on the property and for one reason or another, antagonized the homeless people who were living there.
As a result, the City Council extended its deal with Jewish Family Service, the nonprofit group operating the parking lot, after initially promising to revisit the program four months after it started to see if there was any evidence for the concern that led some Encinitas residents to protest its creation, as Kayla Jimenez reports in the latest edition of the North County Report.
Councilwoman Barbara Bry left no doubt where she stood heading into the City Council’s special meeting Friday to approve the sale of SDCCU Stadium to SDSU for a campus expansion.
The deal should have been done more than a year ago, she wrote in an email from her mayoral campaign, and the only reason it wasn’t is because City Attorney Mara Elliott has been trying to kill it from behind the scenes, and has been since it was on the ballot in 2018 as Measure G.
And Elliott was equally unequivocal. In an email statement, her spokeswoman Hilary Nemchik called Bry’s allegation “patently false,” and said all Elliott’s concerns have been known to SDSU since at least mid-2019.
Bry took issue with a city attorney memo last week that outlined problems with the deal, some of which Bry says have already been solved and others that were identified at the last minute. She specifically took issue with Elliott’s concerns over the university’s designs for a river park that Eliott says infringe on city plans for a water recycling project.
“That memo conclusively demonstrated what many of us have suspected for some time: That the City Attorney, who wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to deny San Diegans a chance to vote on this matter, is doing everything she can to block, delay and ultimately torpedo an agreement and block implementation of voter-approved Measure G,” Bry wrote in her email.
Nemchik reiterated what Elliott wrote in the memo: that the city’s public utilities department has been clear with SDSU since last year that the area is critical to the water recycling project, and that SDSU’s proposed project doesn’t address those concerns, which could kill the project or make it significantly more expensive.
“My duty is to protect the interests of taxpayers in this complex legal negotiation,” Elliott said in a statement provided by Nemchik. “The city has gotten shortchanged by past real estate deals because it didn’t pay attention to details. While some may be desperate for any deal at any price, my focus has been on getting this deal done right. Ultimately the council must decide whether the final agreement is fair, equitable, and in the public’s interest.”
Bry argued the city attorney’s concern over its water recycling project must be bunk because it hadn’t come up in a “last-minute proposal to the Chargers for development of a new stadium and ancillary development on the site in 2017.”
Nemchik said she doesn’t understand the allegation, since Elliott took office in mid-December 2016, just a month before the Chargers left for Los Angeles. She said Elliott never worked on any Chargers-related issues as a deputy city attorney.
The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.
Update: This post has been updated to include a response from the city attorney’s office.
Correction: An earlier version of this post improperly attributed an email from the city attorney’s office to Mara Elliott. The email was from Hilary Nemchik, Elliott’s spokeswoman.