Days after San Diego received $37.7 million in state funding to help house people living at the San Diego Convention Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, urged city leaders Wednesday not to be too hasty in shutting down the center to people who need housing.
The $37.7 million, part of California’s Project Homekey, is earmarked for the city to purchase two hotels: the Residence Inn Hotel Circle and Residence Inn Kearny Mesa. The purchase of both hotels will be considered by the San Diego City Council in October.
The purchase of the two properties would create 332 permanent supportive housing units, with 72 of the units having two bedrooms, enough to provide housing for more than 400 people.
The funds to purchase the hotels were approved Monday.
Gloria said it would be premature to stop services this year at Operation Shelter to Home — which opened April 1 as a temporary shelter in the San Diego Convention Center during the COVID-19 pandemic and serves about 1,100 people per day.
“The procurement of these hotels cannot be seen as ‘mission accomplished,”‘ he said. “The purchases will likely not be finalized by the end of December and we have many more homeless individuals at the convention center, and on the street, who we must house. Therefore, I am calling on the mayor and City Council to extend the current operations of the convention center through the end of the year. This is in the best interest of public health and will allow us to make more progress in housing our homeless neighbors.”
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said the proposed budget originally included funding for Operation Shelter to Home through December, but the City Council chose in June to reallocate a portion of that to other pandemic relief programs. Officials are seeking additional funding to keep individuals in the Convention Center until health conditions improve.
Last Friday, Faulconer and Councilman Chris Cate wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for guidelines in reopening convention centers.
The convention center has lost more than 100 events between March and December of this year, their letter said. The projected lost figures for those canceled and rescheduled events includes 671,670 hotel nights, $707.8 million in direct attendee spending and a regional impact of $1.2 billion.
“When conventions can reopen is just as critical as how they will be allowed to resume, and the state should be proactive in approving these guidelines well in advance,” Cate said Friday. “The world’s fifth-largest economy cannot turn on a dime and this guidance has been thoughtfully developed with an emphasis on public health and safety by leaders in the industry.”
Through Project Homekey, the state is making $600 million in grant funding available to local public entities, including cities, counties or housing authorities. The funds may be used to purchase and rehabilitate housing, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings, and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing.
–City News Service