Huntington Beach homeless shelter plan is on hold and may be scrapped amid lawsuit challenging location
Huntington Beach’s plan to open a new homeless shelter at 15311 Pipeline Lane is on hold and could be scrapped because of a lawsuit filed by a group that claims the site can be used only for industrial purposes.
"[The City] Council did give staff direction to see what some alternatives are to this particular location,” City Attorney Michael Gates said Tuesday.
“Everything’s on the table,” he said, adding that the council will “consider a variety of options.”
If city staff identifies a new location for the homeless shelter, Gates said, that proposal would go before the council and restart the approval process.
Asked if Huntington Beach is still on track to open a homeless shelter this year, City Manager Dave Kiff said the city is still looking at its options. He did not comment further.
Gates said his office is working with other city departments to resolve conflicts while trying to negotiate an end to the lawsuit.
“Consider the alternative, which is to fight the lawsuit in litigation for the next two years and not have a shelter,” Gates said. “The City Council’s priority is to actually have a shelter than being tied up in a lawsuit [that] doesn’t necessarily provide that opportunity.”
Gates added that the city is working on recouping the roughly $2.85 million it has already spent on the Pipeline site.
Then-Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey announced in June 2018 that Huntington was collaborating with Westminster, the county and American Family Housing, a nonprofit that provides housing and other services to the homeless, to expand two shelters in unincorporated Midway City.
Attorney Michael Leifer filed the suit in Orange County Superior Court in May on behalf of Benzen Properties, XR Space Realty and Saint Enterprises Family Limited Partnership, which are part owners of the Pipeline Lane industrial property, and End the Pipeline, a group of residents, property owners and businesses owners within 500 feet of the site.
In April, the City Council voted 6-1, with Mayor Erik Peterson opposed, to authorize spending about $2.85 million in restricted and one-time funds to buy an 11,200 square-foot structure in the light industrial area near Springdale Street and McFadden Avenue.
The 75- to 90-bed homeless shelter would serve pre-screened men, women and couples for up to 90 days. Stays could be extended if clients are awaiting approval for more-permanent housing.
Registered sex offenders and those with outstanding felony arrest warrants would be prohibited. No walk-ins or walk-outs would be allowed — clients would be shuttled to and from the site and be connected with services such as job training, healthcare and counseling, according to the city.
According to the lawsuit, the city’s purchase of the property as a homeless shelter violated the covenants, conditions and restrictions for Huntington Beach Industrial Park Tract 8694. The plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prohibit the city from implementing the shelter at the Pipeline spot.
The city argued in court documents that the Huntington Beach Industrial Park limited partnership was dissolved in 1999, so the CC&Rs would not apply to the homeless shelter. Even if they did apply, the city said, they would no longer be enforceable.
The suit also contends the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires agencies to identify significant environmental effects of their actions and mitigate them if possible. The city, however, contended in court documents that it complied with CEQA and that the shelter site is permitted under the city’s municipal and zoning codes.
Leifer said Tuesday that he is in discussions with the city attorney’s office and is “cautiously optimistic” that the city is surveying other sites to use as a homeless shelter.
“I sure hope they’re out looking for another site that doesn’t have the same issues that this site does,” he said. Otherwise, the suit will proceed, he added.
A status conference in the case is scheduled for Nov. 5 with Superior Court Judge William Claster.
This is the second time Huntington Beach has faced pushback in its attempts to open a homeless shelter in the city.
In March, the City Council announced it was considering creating a 50-bed homeless shelter at 5770 Research Drive, about two blocks from Marina High School. Then-City Manager Fred Wilson pulled the proposal minutes into a council meeting and said city staff would look for a more appropriate location after “overwhelming” opposition from community members, including officials and parents from Marina High.
5:24 PM, Aug. 13, 2019: This article was originally published at 4:29 p.m. and was updated when City Attorney Michael Gates clarified an earlier statement that the $2.85 million already spent on the Pipeline site could not be recouped. He said the city is working on ways to recoup it.
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