Costa Mesa unveils proposal for ‘bridge shelter’ for the homeless; City Council to review Tuesday

After months of scouring the city for a suitable site and vetting more than 30 different properties, Costa Mesa officials unveiled a proposal Friday night to open a new homeless shelter in the Westside.

The recommended plan calls for purchasing a 12,000-square-foot office building at 1040 W. 17th St. and renovating the property into what the city refers to as a “bridge shelter.”

Purchasing and redeveloping the site is expected to cost approximately $5.7 million, according to a staff report. Estimates peg the annual operating costs of the shelter at between $2.2 million and $2.7 million.

Additionally, staff proposes entering into a partnership with the Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene — at 1885 Anaheim Ave. — to improve and expand on the existing inclement weather shelter and homeless check-in center there so it can be available as an interim option during work on the long-term shelter.

The City Council is slated to discuss the proposals during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The fact is that our first responders are spending more and more time grappling with the issue of homelessness, which as a result, [is] putting the rest of our community’s public safety at greater risk,” Mayor Katrina Foley said in a statement Friday.

“Additionally, homelessness costs our county’s hospitals $77 million annually, making healthcare more expensive for all of us. We must resolve homelessness — not only because it is so costly to taxpayers and erodes our local quality of life — but also because it leads to profound human suffering in our community. Solving this challenge is the humane and right thing to do.”

Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who represents city District 5, where the shelter would be located, added, “Finding permanent solutions to homelessness, improving public safety and reinvesting in our Westside neighborhoods were key priorities in the recent election. Staff’s proposal is designed to address all of these issues while meeting our city’s legal obligations. It is very important to hear from our residents and businesses, and I encourage the public to read the staff report and share their input with council members ahead of our Tuesday meeting.”

City officials have said such a shelter is needed to satisfy direction from U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is presiding over a lawsuit filed last January against Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Orange County and the city of Orange on behalf of homeless people cleared from a former encampment along the Santa Ana River trail.

Carter has called for cities to develop enough transitional and emergency beds to serve 60% of the 2,584 unsheltered people documented during a 2017 countywide count and threatened to issue an order that would prevent cities from enforcing their anti-camping ordinances or citing homeless people for sleeping in public.

That survey recorded 103 unsheltered homeless people in Costa Mesa, meaning the city would have to secure 62 local beds. Twelve of those will be provided through a partnership with College Hospital — an acute-care facility at 301 Victoria St. — and be available to people suffering a mental health crisis.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for Feb. 4, according to a Costa Mesa staff report, “at which time, the court is expecting the city to present a solution to providing shelter for those experiencing homelessness.”

“At this time, no enforcement of anti-camping laws is taking place and the city of Costa Mesa has few beds for homeless residents to seek shelter,” the report continues. “In order to successfully settle the litigation, 50 additional shelter beds must be provided.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.

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