A homeless woman sleeps on the sidewalk
A homeless woman sleeps on the sidewalk in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego Councilman Stephen Whitburn requested recommendations this week on how to use the proposed civic center revitalization project to end street homelessness in San Diego.

Whitburn, whose district includes downtown San Diego, made it clear at Tuesday’s council meeting that homelessness should be a top priority as the city moves forward with the project.

“The homelessness we see on our streets is a humanitarian crisis,” said Whitburn. “It deeply impacts our neighborhoods and it costs our city business which costs us jobs.”

Redevelopment of San Diego’s dilapidated downtown core includes City Hall, Civic Theater, Golden Hall, Civic Center Plaza Building, the controversial 101 Ash building and adjacent properties.

The real estate can be offered to developers under California’s Surplus Land Act, which requires a minimum 25% of proposed affordable housing.

Councilmember Whitburn said civic center revitalization is a “golden opportunity” to free the city of homeless encampments and add more shelter beds.

“There are people out there on the sidewalks today who have agreed to go into shelter, but we don’t have an available shelter bed for them so they stay on the sidewalks,” said Whitburn. “How are we going to get people off the streets if there’s nowhere for them to go? This is our chance to fix that.”

Whitburn requested input to the council from city staff, the public and the Civic Center Revitalization Committee, a panel of 22 civic leaders assembled last month by Todd Gloria to advise on civic center redevelopment.