Homeless tents in downtown San Diego
Homeless tents in downtown San Diego. File photo by Chris Stone

San Diego officials announced Monday that two parking lots on the edge of Balboa Park will be opened in coming months for “safe sleeping” encampments for homeless.

The first site, a city maintenance yard at 20th and B Streets, is expected to open in July. The second, at the “O” lot of the Naval Medical Center, will open in the fall.

Homeless people camping in the lots will be provided with security, bathrooms, meals and social services support. Homeless individuals would be encouraged to move their tents from other areas in the park and downtown sidewalks.

Mayor Todd Gloria and City Councilman Steve Whitburn announced the plan at a press conference outside a motel in Barrio Logan that is being turned into a homeless shelter.

“I have persistently championed the creation of safe sleeping sites because they will reduce the number of people living in encampments on our sidewalks,” said Whitburn, who represents the Balboa Park area.

“I have spoken to people who are tired of living in squalor on the sidewalk and want to be in a
better place but don’t want to go into an enclosed shelter,” he said. “They have told me they will happily move to a safe sleeping site with bathrooms, security, meals, and services.”

The announcement means the city will not proceed with earlier plans for using Inspiration Point, a location opposed by Balboa Park institutions. Having safe sleeping areas is considered key to a proposed ordinance banning sleeping on public property when shelter is available.

Gloria’s proposed city budget allocates $78 million to homelessness services, including $24 million to continue funding existing shelters and $5 million for “safe sleeping” for unhoused San Diegans currently living in tents.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.