Newport Beach will follow one of several “parallel paths” for a temporary homeless shelter following a City Council vote this week.
Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve a portion of the city’s corporation yard, at 592 Superior Ave., as a possible site for a temporary emergency homeless shelter. Councilwoman Joy Brenner dissented, Councilman Brad Avery abstained (the potential site is located within his district), and Councilman Marshall “Duffy” Duffield was absent.
The action authorized staff to further pursue a “parallel effort” for the creation of a shelter and approved a new Capital Improvement Program for the shelter with a budget of $300,000 for the conceptual development and design.
The temporary shelter is part of the city’s “multipronged approach” to addressing the issue, which also includes negotiating with neighboring cities, according to the staff report.
The Council action also declared a “shelter crisis” in the city because a “significant number of people are not able to obtain shelter and their health and safety may be threatened as a result.” A shelter crisis, in part, provides immunity from liability to the city for ordinary negligence in providing emergency shelter, staff reported.
City Manager Grace Leung made a presentation to Council, sharing various shelter models. Staff recommended the “housing first” model, similar to Costa Mesa or Tustin, she explained.
Priority will be given to individuals with ties to Newport Beach, access will be by referral only and escorted in and out of the facility, and security will be 24/7.
The proposed project calls for an existing vehicle, equipment, materials storage, and office area within an existing garage to be converted into a temporary homeless shelter with approximately 40 beds.
The plan includes pre-constructed modular trailers to be located inside and outside the garage structure. The garage would be retrofitted with fire sprinklers and remodeled to include appropriate life safety measures.
“We want this temporary shelter to be a place…that people have a place to land while they get stabilized to support to move on to the next more permanent solution,” Leung said.
Residents near the proposed location raised concern about the shelter being in their front yard. Problems that already occur in the area like trespassing, vandalism, and theft will increase as well, several locals agreed.
Many citizens urged the Council to consider the 4200 Campus Dr. location (suggested at a previous Council meeting) instead, causing the audience to applaud and cheer several times.
The airport-area location will work well, several agreed. People don’t live by the airport near Campus Drive, but people do live by the Superior Avenue location.
The 4200 Campus site and joint partnerships with other cities are still under consideration, staff confirmed.
Tuesday’s vote doesn’t actually place a shelter at this location, explained Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill, it starts a “scoping discussion.”
There are actually three “parallel paths,” O’Neill said, and the Campus Drive path is still being considered.
“We haven’t ruled Campus out,” O’Neill confirmed. “We need to keep moving down the parallel paths on this as we try and figure out what the right solution is.”
Huntington Beach bought a property, but couldn’t use it because of the CC&Rs, he explained. The city of Newport Beach received a letter from an attorney claiming something similar, O’Neill explained.
“We’re chasing that down,” O’Neill said. “It makes no sense to try and move down a path without really knowing, for sure, that we wouldn’t run into a Huntington Beach situation.”
As with every site they’ve looked at, they’ve gotten multiple letters from lawyers threatening to sue, he added.
Another difficulty they’ve run into with the Campus Drive property is that it does not have sprinklers, and they have to take every detail into consideration for each property.
The Campus Drive location would also be the most expensive and take the longest to get up and running, Councilwoman Joy Brenner added.
They are still in the middle of negotiations, Community Development Director Seimone Jurjis emphasized.
They don’t even know if the property owner is willing to accept a shelter on the location, he added. If they did come to an agreement, there would still be a lot of work to be done at the site, he added.
“That is unknown, I know already that it’s not cheap, it’s going to be an expensive endeavor,” Jurjis said.
Councilman Kevin Muldoon blamed Sacramento for the current situation, focusing on state laws that “softened crime punishments” and released criminals back onto the street. They didn’t take the local communities into consideration when forcing this upon them, he added.
“Newport Beach, like all the other cities, did not volunteer to pick up where the state has fallen short for those who are in the system,” Muldoon said. “We’re trying to solve this problem with compassion and law and order.”
Councilman Brad Avery urged others to consider the issue with compassion.
A homeless individual could be anyone, including a family member or loved one, there’s a lot going on in society currently and there are a number of reasons and causes for someone to end up in that type of situation, he noted.
Everybody knows that, but it’s so easy to lose sight of that, he added.
A homeless person has the same rights as others to “peacefully exist” on the street, sit on a bench, or visit a park, he added.
“It is so important, to me, in this, that we remember, we never forget that these are human beings. These are people. These are our brothers and our sisters,” Avery said. “We need to keep that in the forefront here. It’s so important to keep their humanity intact and all of our comments need to reflect that…We need to solve the issue, but we need to do it compassionately.”