Using the old Pine Knot Motel on West Coast Highway for a temporary shelter was quickly scrapped by the Newport Beach City Council on Wednesday, Sept 4, during a special meeting on possible locations for housing homeless people.
Converting the old motel would require a lengthy review by the Coastal Commission, so council members agreed unanimously it wasn’t suitable for further consideration.
Instead, the city is starting negotiations for 4200 Campus Drive, where there is now an Avis rental car lot near John Wayne Airport, for uses as a temporary shelter. And its looking at its own municipal yard at 592 Superior Ave. The council also chose to not to go forward with negotiations for a warehouse at 825 W. 16th St.
“There are no perfect sites,” City Manager Grace Leung said. “There are issues at every single site to consider. This is the start of a discussion from a process point-of-view.”
Like several other Orange County cities, Newport Beach is grappling with a growing homeless population. People have gathered along the piers and at the Orange County Transportation Center near Fashion Island – “hot spots” the Newport Beach Police Department is now monitoring.
City leaders told residents because of a recent federal judge’s ruling, the city can’t break up encampments or enforce no-camping laws unless there is a suitable alternative to staying on the streets, such as a temporary shelter.
Residents packed the Sept. 4 meeting – and an overflow room – with dozens lining up to voice concerns over the homeless issue and shelter locations the council was considering. Some suggested partnering with nearby cities that already have temporary shelters up and running, such as Costa Mesa. City leaders said a collaboration is definitely on the table.
“I pay $10,000 in taxes,” resident Monique Christensen said. “I choose not to let that go to the homeless. I resent that they’re robbing and burglarizing us. I’ve seen fighting in the women’s restroom in the library. There was a hole punched into the wall in the handicap restroom. Who will pay for that? They are not residents of Newport Beach. There is no constitutional right to have a shelter or roof over your head.”
Bill Ashmore asked Leung why the city was so behind the ball on addressing the growing issue. “It’s embarrassing – I’m a Newport Beach resident – that I have to get in front of you. This is a bad job. Now, we have to tell you what needs to be done.”
Several parents who have children at schools near the 16th Street site initially considered were concerned adding a homeless shelter a half-mile away would pose a risk. Several people representing restaurants and hotels near the airport were concerned about the Campus Drive location, saying a homeless shelter isn’t the first thing arriving passengers should see when they come to Newport Beach.
“We understand there is no perfect shelter site,” Leung said.
She also said city officials are “in full conversation in partnering with other cities.”
Leung said Newport Beach has taken several steps, such as creating a Homeless Task Force and committing $1 million over five years to a contractor who will assist with street outreach and case management services. Hoag Hospital also will contribute $3 million over 10 years toward the homeless shelter as a condition of the hospitals’ development agreement.
Newport Beach Police Department has a full-time homeless liaison. Through City Net, a local nonprofit, 182 homeless people have been contacted since April and 10 are in housing, Leung said. “We know we have chronic homeless that are service resistant.”
Source: Orange County Register