50-bed homeless shelter proposed in Huntington Beach amid pressure from federal judge

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday will consider starting a 50-bed homeless shelter at 5770 Research Drive.
(Bing Maps / Daily Pilot)

Amid pressure from a federal judge, the city of Huntington Beach is considering starting a 50-bed homeless shelter near McFadden Avenue and Springdale Street.

The proposal calls for entering a three-year, $330,720 lease agreement for a half-acre property at 5770 Research Drive. Funding would be pulled from the city’s 2018-19 Residual Receipts Fund. Additional operating costs would be considered later.

The City Council will consider the plan Monday. If it is approved, the city will issue requests for proposals for an independent shelter operator, improvements at the site and 24-hour year-round security onsite.

Mayor Erik Peterson said Thursday that officials are still working out the details and will probably partner with a nonprofit that is experienced with emergency shelters.

The plan was developed in closed meetings, Peterson said, because when dealing with land leases or acquisitions, “we can’t make everything public.”

“Everything will become public eventually,” he said.

Though Huntington Beach has not been sued by homeless advocates, its proposal was announced shortly before all Orange County cities are being asked Tuesday to report any updates on emergency or transitional shelter sites to U.S. District Judge David Carter.

Carter is presiding over a lawsuit filed in January 2018 against Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Orange County and the city of Orange by homeless advocates who sought to halt the removal of an encampment along the Santa Ana River trail.

He tasked cities with identifying potential shelter sites after a county proposal for temporary ones in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel was scrapped amid protests from residents and city leaders.

Then-Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey told Carter during a hearing in June 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.

The project — which would add 55 beds to the shelters, which currently have 20 — hit a standstill months later because of zoning and financial issues.

Officials have declined to specify the shelters’ location, and it wasn’t clear how much money the cities and county would contribute to the proposal. But Huntington Beach spokeswoman Julie Toledo said March 15 that they were still working on it.

Homelessness has been a contentious topic in the city as several residents have taken issue with homeless people sleeping in parks, beaches, libraries and other public properties.

The 2017 Point-in-Time Count of the homeless population identified 119 people in the city as unsheltered, according to a staff report. Seventy-three were male and 46 were female. Officials expect the number to increase when new Point-in-Time Count numbers are released later this year.

Some residents have opposed the idea of a homeless shelter in town, while others have contended the city hasn’t done enough to help.

But until cities like Huntington Beach provide a shelter, they can’t enforce their anti-camping ordinances. According to a 2017 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, it’s unconstitutional to prosecute homeless people for sleeping on public property when they don’t have access to shelter.

“By having this type of facility in Huntington Beach, our police can enforce some of the ordinances we can’t enforce now,” Peterson said.

Costa Mesa and Anaheim recently agreed to open homeless shelters.

Monday’s Huntington Beach council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 2000 Main St.


This article was originally published at 7:15 a.m. and was later updated with additional information and comments.