The city has apparently found a new location for one of two large bridge shelter tents in downtown San Diego — just a few blocks to the east of where the tent sits now.
According to a notice released Jan. 11 by the city’s Planning Department, the tent could be moved to 1700 Imperial Ave., the northeast corner of Imperial Avenue and 17th Street. The new site is two blocks east and one block north of its current location on property owned by Father Joe’s Villages.
Greg Block, senior press secretary for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, responded to a question about the move with a text that said nothing had been announced yet and he was not ready to discuss it.
Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas said he was aware of the notice, officially called a notice of right to appeal environmental determination, but did not think the deal had been finalized.
The notice states the city would lease the property from Breitbard Properties, but does not refer to a cost or time length. In December, the City Council agreed to spend $1.6 million to cover the relocation cost.
It’s unknown if anyone has formally objected to the plan before the appeal period expired Jan. 28. The proposed site is three blocks from a city-owned storage center used by homeless people to store their belongings. Many Sherman Heights residents had objected to the storage center, arguing that the city was concentrating too many homeless services in their neighborhood.
Time has been running out for the city to select a new location for the large tent, which was erected at 14th and Commercial streets in January 2018. The location had always been considered temporary, as Father Joe’s plans to construct a 16-story, 407-unit housing project on the site.
Vargas said Friday that the tent at the Father Joe’s site is expected to come down April 30. Just a month ago the plan had been to dismantle it in early March to prepare the site for construction, but Vargas said the date was pushed back because of recent inclement weather and to give the city more time to prepare for the move.
The tent is one of three bridge shelters erected by the city that together hold about 700 people. The tent at Father Joe’s Villages has beds for 100 families and 50 single women.
The tents are intended to serve as bridge shelters, meaning they are a bridge between life on the street and permanent housing for the people they serve. In anticipation of the shelter’s temporary closure and move, Father Joe’s Villages late last year stopped accepting bridge shelter clients, or people working with housing navigators to find permanent homes, and instead has been filling any empty bed with women and families in its emergency shelter program.
Vargas said that once the tent closes April 30, it will take about two or three weeks to dismantle it and another six to eight weeks to move and reassemble it.
It’s unclear where the 150 people now in the tent will go in the interim, but Vargas said he believes the city will find a place for them.
It would not be the first time the city had found a temporary location for homeless people. In October 2017, the city worked with the Alpha Project to create a campground for about 200 homeless people, which was open for about two months in an operations yard near Balboa Park.
When the Alpha Project bridge shelter on 16th Street and Newton Avenue flooded in a downpour last December, the city moved 260 people from that tent to a makeshift shelter at SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley within hours.
Vargas said Father Joe’s Villages had been providing people in the tent on its property access to its medical clinic, employment services and therapeutic child care center, and he said he would be open to continuing to provide the services once the tent is moved a few blocks away.