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Will 15th and J site be available for winter shelter?

September 24, 2009 - 2:21 pm

In memos sent to the mayor’s office earlier this week, District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightener (PDF: lightner-memo) and District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria (PDF: gloria-memo) both wondered why the city can’t put its 2009/10 winter shelter in the same location as last year’s shelter—a parcel of land in East Village bounded by 15th and 16th streets to the west and east and J Street and Island Avenue to the north and south. As I reported in July, the site’s owner, developer OliverMcMillan, was wavering on whether to make the site available for a second year. OliverMcMillan CEO, Dene Oliver, formerly chaired the regional Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and had a seat on the city’s Permanent Homeless Facility Task Force.

At last week’s City Council meeting, in response to questions from councilmembers about why the site wasn’t going to be available a second year (as I reported, the city’s Redevelopment Agency spent $140,000 to prepare the site for the 2008/09 shelter) Housing and Homeless Services Director Amy Benjamin said that an OliverMcMillan representative told her they’d received economic-stimulus money to do site clean-up and the money came with a deadline. That deadline, apparently, conflicted with the winter shelter schedule: December 2009 through March 2010.

I contacted the State Water Resources Control Board, the state agency administering the stimulus money. Spokesperson Kathie Smith said that an entity called “15th Island LLC” had submitted a grant application under the Orphan Site Cleanup Fund program. (The site formerly housed two gas stations and a dry cleaner. Soil tests found contamination—though not significant enough to prevent a shelter from temporarily being located on the site, according to an environmental analysis conducted last year.) Smith said that the water board’s financial division is still waiting on a final proposal from 15th Island and that the deadline for spending the money is Sept. 30, 2011.

I’ve left a couple of messages with OliverMcMillan site manager Evan Gerber, but haven’t heard back. Mayoral spokesperson Rachel Laing said that the council’s expected to select a shelter site at their Oct. 13 meeting. The only other available site, it seems, is a warehouse on 13th and F streets.

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