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Newport Beach gets no bids to operate planned homeless shelter

Homeless in Newport Beach
Tony Yim, a homeless liaison officer with the Newport Beach Police Department, speaks with homeless people staying at the Balboa Pier last year. In October, the city posted a request for proposals to run a local homeless shelter. Potential bidders downloaded the documents but did not return any.
(File Photo)

Newport Beach has received no bids from potential operators for its planned homeless shelter.

The city posted a request for proposals in October to run a shelter on a three-year contract with options for two one-year extensions — although it hadn’t, and still hasn’t, committed to any of the three options it has most actively pursued in the past several months to find beds for people living on the streets and beaches.

According to the city zoning code, a shelter can have up to 40 beds.

Potential operators downloaded bid documents over the two weeks they were available, and city staff met with some, but none submitted bids.

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Staff members “were told that the number of shelter beds was too small to justify the operators’ bids,” Mayor Will O’Neill said.

“Without an operator for an in-city site, Newport Beach has continued and will continue a regional approach called for by the state and the county.”

Assistant City Manager Carol Jacobs said the lack of applications doesn’t push the city in one direction or another, but it does give “breathing room” to make an informed decision after months of intense public interest last year and some recent progress with outreach to people living on the streets.

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Jacobs said the city’s street-level social services provider, City Net, and recently organized “rapid response teams” drawn from several city departments have been able to help and house some people, though Newport is still looking for a shelter option.

“It’s a really small group of folks that are in this business,” she said. “They’re in high demand.”

Newport Beach accelerated its response to homelessness over the summer and into the fall as local encampments became more visible and residents became more vocal in their demands for city action.

Capacity crowds at meetings of the City Council and a newly formed homelessness task force voiced criticism, frustration, anxiety and compassion while city officials navigated land-use restrictions affecting the potential development of a local homeless shelter, which the city needs before it can enforce anti-camping laws.

The City Council has not committed to a shelter site from among possibilities that include leasing and converting part of a privately owned rental car lot near John Wayne Airport; partnering with Costa Mesa on its forthcoming long-term shelter, also near the airport; or installing modular trailers in a corner of the municipal public works yard on Superior Avenue to temporarily house up to 40 people.

The Superior site has proved to be the most controversial possibility, triggering a protest and intent to sue by neighbors.

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