The former Super 8 under renovation in October 2018 at 1788 Palm Ave. Image via Google Maps

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to continue redevelopment of a 24,000-square-foot hotel into transitional housing.

The Palm Avenue Transitional Housing Facility will be part of the San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track (SMART). Public health, law enforcement agencies and departments within the city and San Diego County partnered on the program.

The project will renovate a 61-room motel — the former Super 8 at 1788 Palm Ave. — into a 42-room facility with 84 beds. It will include new fencing, security cameras and rehabilitated computer rooms, along with communal spaces. Two patients undergoing substance abuse treatment will reside in each room.

Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell said the project adds another tool to combat homelessness. The facility will largely serve low-level misdemeanor offenders.

“We must go forward with helping these people or we’re not going to resolve this homelessness problem,” she said.

The council approved the project in December 2017, so construction is roughly 90% complete, according to city officials.

As part of that initial approval, the council ruled the project exempt from California Environmental Quality Act guidelines, because members argued land use for the site would not meaningfully change.

Shortly after that vote, Citizens for South Bay Coastal Access sued the city. The group argued that the council violated CEQA, the California Coastal Act and zoning laws with the exemption.

Earlier this year, a Superior Court judge ruled that evidence backed the city’s exemption, but the Coastal Act superseded the city’s position.

The city appealed that ruling, but received approval from the court to complete the project while awaiting a judgment. The council’s vote Tuesday amended the project’s conditional use permit to include a coastal development permit, because of the court’s direction.

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, whose district includes the planned facility, argued that the city has received bad advice from the city attorney’s office since acquiring the site and that the project violates state law.

“The city is now in what could be potentially the worst possible situation, spending $13 million in (Community Development Block Grant) funding to acquire and improve a property that we will never be able to use,” she said. “And we currently have no plan B.”

Moreno and Councilwoman Barbara Bry initially moved to deny the addition of a coastal development permit.

The council voted against that motion, 7-2. Members approved a second motion to amend the existing conditional use permit as needed.

– City News Service

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