New housing for North Park, a late opening for the winter shelter
In August of last year, I wrote about plans for the former North Park Inn (2625 University Ave.) to be turned into supportive housing (housing plus services) for formerly homeless, dually diagnosed men completing Pathfinders of San Diego’s recovery program. This morning was the official unveiling of the rehabbed spot that’ll house 17 men and Pathfinders’ administrative offices. Before Pathfinders purchased and remodeled the Inn, through the help of loans from the San Diego Housing Commission and the city’s Redevelopment Agency, it was quite the neighborhood blight. From my 2009 story:
The Inn was home to a few long-term tenants; most guests weren’t there long enough to fully appreciate the décor.
“They were ultimately running it like a brothel,” said Mark Lukacs, CEO of Diamond One Construction, whose company is overseeing the rehab of the former motel. When Lukacs did his first walk-through, he found cellophane-wrapped “Do Not Disturb” door hangers in each room containing complimentary packets of Astroglide lubricant.
Here’s one of the rooms, pre-rehab:
And, one of the studio apartments, post-rehab:
Tenants will have to pay rent, but it’s deeply affordable: $261 a month for a studio and $457 for a two bedroom. Per the loan agreements, the apartments will remain affordable for the next 55 years.
“This is what redevelopment is all about,” said City Councilmember Todd Gloria, whose district includes North Park. “It’s about neighborhood infrastructure and affordable housing.”
Gloria also gave props to the North Park Planning Area Commitee—a citizen advisory group—for supporting the project. Too often, affordable-housing projects like these face neighborhood opposition.
In other housing news, for the first time in a long time, San Diego’s winter homeless shelter won’t be open by Thanksgiving. Bob McElroy, CEO of the Alpha Project, which the city contracts with to operate the shelter, called me yesterday to say that the opening’s been delayed by a week.
“The city has to get itself a permit and it’s sitting on some bureaucrat’s desk and won’t move until next week,” he said. Referencing to the rain and cold weather, “If we go to 17th and Imperial [Avenue] under the bridge, we’ll see a couple hundred homeless people,” McElroy said. “We’ll see more at 17th and Commercial under the bridge.”
I talked to Cissy Fisher, the Housing Commission’s vice president for special housing initiatives. She said she understands McElroy’s frustration. Because the shelter’s going to be located in a building this year—the Housing Commission’s old offices on Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan—and not the usual sprung structure, “we’ve got a lot of moving parts,” Fisher said. For instance, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that a wheelchair ramp be installed before the building can be occupied and the contractor went out of town for the holidays. Because it took the City Council several meetings to finally approve a shelter location, “we got a late start,” Fisher said, on getting the site ready.
“It’s frustrating for all of us,” she added. “We’re getting over the hurdles one at a time.”