With San Diego's move to buy an Imperial Avenue building for a new homeless "navigation center," some East Village downtown property owners are saying it's the last straw.
- The city has announced it will spend $7 million to buy 1401 Imperial Avenue and turn it into a one-stop housing “navigation” center for the city’s homeless.
- At least one East Village stakeholder is calling for a guarantee from the city that no more homeless facilities will be planned for the area, after this. But city officials as yet is offering no guarantees.
- Business and resident groups in East Village have complained for months that too many homeless housing projects are being clustered there.
East Village pushing back on homeless: Here's the full story
With San Diego's move to buy an Imperial Avenue building for a new homeless "navigation center," some East Village downtown property owners are saying: enough.
"They are creating a skid row that's not going to go away," said Sam Patella, a commercial real estate broker who represents five blocks in East Village poised for redevelopment.
Patella and others say their appeals to the city to spread out the homeless facilities burden continually fall on deaf ears.
"We just feel like we keep getting rolled," said David Hazan, a past-president of the East Village Association who represents downtown developers.
"We've tried to be nice and meet with elected officials but nothing gets done."
On Jan. 29, the city council moved to accept a so-called fire sale deal to buy a 26,000-square-foot former skydiving center that will become a place where the homeless can be matched with programs and resources that fit their needs.
While an outside operator still needs to be found, the site wouldn't offer any overnight beds, city officials said.
Patella said he and others want a guarantee from the city that no more homeless facilities will be planned for the area, after this.
But city officials on Friday offered no guarantees.
"We all want more homeless services, but no one wants homeless services in their neighborhood. We agree that more parts of our city, as well as other cities in the region, need to take more of a role in providing homeless services," said Greg Block, a city spokesman, in a response to the Union-Tribune.
Block suggested that a facility like this needs to be easily accessible to the people who need it most.
"The highest concentration of people who need those services is in downtown," he said. "The city's first housing navigation center will help to make downtown neighborhoods cleaner and safer by providing easy access to services under one roof, rather than forcing people to wander from location to location."
Business and resident groups in East Village have complained for months that too many homeless housing projects are being clustered in their neighborhood, which is a big swath of gentrifying former warehouse land on downtown's southeast edge.
Father Joe's Villages got approval in November to build a 16-story, 444-unit apartment tower at 14th and Commercial streets aimed at providing permanent housing for homeless people and the working poor.
Affirmed Housing in currently applying to build a 88-unit low-income housing project at 17th and G streets that could become focused on housing the homeless, officials said.
An accounting by the East Village Residents Group suggests that the majority — its estimate is 84 percent — of the low-income permanent supportive housing units in downtown are located in East Village.
Nearly 1,000 downtown residents since late August have signed a petition online and in print asking the city to put more homeless beds in other neighborhoods — specifically two beds elsewhere for each one added downtown.
"We are the only neighborhood they are constantly looking to," said Dora McCann Guerreiro, East Village Association executive director, who stressed that her group hasn't yet taken a position on the navigation center project.
"We're frustrated that we haven't heard of any immediate action to satisfy the regional needs for a workable solution."
The East Village Residents Group in a Jan. 29 letter to the city said that if the navigation center becomes reality, the Neil Good Day Center for the homeless should be moved to another homeless gathering site, such as Mission Valley.
Patella -- who is treasurer of the East Village Improvement Association, a group formed last year by developers and other stakeholders — said he and others will have to step up their lobbying.
"This is the first step of getting their attention and making it public what's going on in our community," he said Friday. "Hopefully it puts on some pressure so they start giving us some consideration."