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State looks to explore developing homeless services at Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa

State looks to explore developing homeless services at Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa
The Fairview Developmental Center is at 2501 Harbor Blvd. in Costa Mesa. (File Photo)

Though the long-term future of the Fairview Developmental Center is still to be determined, state officials are again raising the possibility of using the Costa Mesa property to provide services for the homeless.

In a revised budget proposal released Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for designating $2.2 million “to complete a site evaluation of disposition options” for the 114-acre, state-owned center at 2501 Harbor Blvd.

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That effort would “include identifying constraints and opportunities, working with the city of Costa Mesa and Orange County to identify local stakeholder interest in the reuse of the property, particularly related to meeting housing and homelessness needs, and identifying options that will generate the greatest benefit to the state,” according to the budget summary.

At the same time, the state would “explore options to immediately enter into a long-term lease with a local jurisdiction to provide housing and supportive services for up to 200 individuals with cognitive disabilities who are currently homeless.” Fairview would be considered for that purpose.

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Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), who previously proposed the concept through her Assembly Bill 1295, said in a statement Thursday that “these men and women are our hidden neighbors; they come from all over Orange County and need shelter and medical care in order to find stability and hope.”

However, Costa Mesa leaders were cooler to the concept. Mayor Katrina Foley said she believes a better tactic would be for the state to help fund the city’s ongoing efforts to address homelessness — such as a recently opened 50-bed temporary shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene — “to help us help people immediately.”

“From our perspective, we would rather have the governor redirect funding from studying options at Fairview Developmental Center to investing in a plan that we have community support for,” Foley said Thursday. “We have a system of care that has been shown to be effective already, just since we opened in April.”

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), whose district includes Costa Mesa, also said she favors the state putting its resources toward supporting more-immediate, locally based solutions to combat Orange County homelessness.

“We have a list of projects that need funding now, will start to get people off the streets now and will save lives now,” she said in a statement. “The quickest and most effective way for us to build capacity is to invest in existing local programs that are working.”

Petrie-Norris said in an interview that it’s vital for the local community to play a major role in determining the next chapter for Fairview so “we come up with a future use that ... does good and serves a positive purpose for Orange County.”

“I think it’s premature to determine the specific use of that property given how far away that use would be and given how urgent I feel the need is here and now,” she said. “As state leaders, I think the most powerful role that we can play is to use our capacity to amplify the work of the groups that are already getting results on the ground.”

Fairview — like similar facilities around the state that serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities — is scheduled to close as part of an effort to transition people out of institutional-style centers and into smaller accommodations that are more integrated into communities. As of April 24, 57 people were living in the Fairview center, according to the state Department of Developmental Services.

Fairview’s remaining clients are expected to move out by the end of this year, according to the state budget summary.

Previous proposals to house regional homeless services at the developmental center have been met with swift and fierce community condemnation.

In March 2018, then-county Supervisor Shawn Nelson announced that he and state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) were looking into the potential of using the site as an emergency homeless shelter. Costa Mesa City Council members responded by quickly convening a special meeting to voice their unanimous disapproval.

Since then, the city has spent millions of dollars to develop its temporary homeless shelter at Lighthouse Church and purchase a property near John Wayne Airport for potential use as a long-term location.

“We’re having to dip into our reserves to pay for the permanent shelter,” Foley said. “We certainly agree with the governor that the homeless crisis and solutions for people who are suffering mental illness are incredibly important, and we have a plan. We’d love to have him partner with us to implement our plan today instead of someday in the future.”

It’s incumbent on all Orange County cities to “do their fair share in terms of addressing homelessness in their community,” she added, because “if we all participate, then there isn’t one city that has to become a regional space for caring for the most vulnerable in our county.”

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