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Newport Beach eyes three potential sites for temporary homeless shelter

Newport Beach potential shelter map
A map shows three privately owned properties in Newport Beach that the city may lease for a temporary homeless shelter or shelters: 4200 Campus Drive, 825 W. 16th St. and 6302 W. Coast Hwy.
(Courtesy of city of Newport Beach)

The city of Newport Beach appears ready for a homeless shelter.

The City Council will convene Wednesday to discuss starting negotiations with three property owners who could be landlords for a temporary shelter.

The locations are:

  • 4200 Campus Drive, currently an Avis rental car lot near John Wayne Airport
  • 825 W. 16th St., just off Placentia Avenue in western Newport’s industrial zone
  • 6302 W. Coast Hwy., the site of the former Pine Knot Motel. The motel burned down in April 2018 but hasn’t been razed and is currently fenced.

Councilman Kevin Muldoon said Friday that he is pleased the city is at this point.

“The mayor and I have been pushing hard for staff to choose potential locations,” he said.

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Mayor Diane Dixon agreed that the issue is a priority for city leaders.

“This is a complex and challenging issue for everyone involved, but it needs to be solved and we’re committing a significant amount of city resources toward short- and long-term solutions,” she said Friday in a statement released by the city.

The council and staff will meet behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss potential prices and terms, although the public is invited to offer input before officials begin the closed session. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Reaction came quickly Friday from the Newport Heights/Cliffhaven Community Assn., representing one of western Newport’s neighborhoods. The group said in an email blast that the west side is “already inundated with homeless and crime” and is “becoming the dumping ground for Newport Beach.”

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The email expressed some support for the airport-area site, saying it would be the most “non-intrusive to the surrounding community.”

The site on West Coast Highway is across the street from the ocean, and “having a homeless shelter one block away from the beach could in fact create more transient activity and should be a nonnegotiable,” the group wrote.

Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill, who chairs the city’s Homeless Task Force, said in Friday’s statement that “this is an important step toward providing a short-term solution to addressing the issue of homelessness in our community.”

“As discussed at our recent task force meeting, immediate action is needed, and providing temporary shelter beds complies with 9th Circuit direction while we continue our work on longer-term housing solutions,” O’Neill said.

A 2018 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals restricts cities from prosecuting people for sleeping on public property if no shelter beds are available. That means Newport Beach, like other cities in the West, is constrained on how it can clear homeless people from the streets.

That’s a sore point for many Newport residents, as demonstrated at homelessness task force meetings this summer where neighbors expressed growing frustration over increasingly visible encampments, especially at the municipal piers and the public bus depot at San Joaquin Hills Road and MacArthur Boulevard.

The city’s statement said that in addition to the three privately owned properties identified, city-owned properties and regional solutions such as sharing a facility with a neighboring city could provide possible solutions. The statement did not specify which public parcels could be converted to a homeless shelter, nor how many beds a potential shelter would have.

Newport Beach does not have a homeless shelter within its boundaries.

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Laguna Beach has had the 45-bed Alternative Sleeping Location, operated by local nonprofit Friendship Shelter, for about 10 years. The Friendship Shelter also provides meals and a place to stay for 32 men and women at a facility on South Coast Highway.

Costa Mesa opened a temporary 50-bed facility at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene in April, and the city has committed to building a permanent 50-bed shelter in a warehouse at 3175 Airway Ave., near John Wayne Airport, that is set to open in the spring. If Newport were to lease the Campus Drive spot, two shelters would be about two miles apart.

Huntington Beach agreed in April to spend $2.85 million to build a 75- to 90-bed shelter in an industrial area near McFadden Avenue and Springdale Street but has put the plan on hold, and could scrap it, because of a lawsuit filed by a group that claims the site can be used only for industrial purposes.

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Updates:
3:00 PM, Aug. 30, 2019: This article was originally published at 11:49 a.m. and has been updated with additional information and comments.

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