Not in My Backyard: City Council Agrees on Civic Center Concourse for Winter Shelter

Michelle Gannon, spokesperson for city council president Ben Hueso, phoned this correspondent Thursday evening to set the record straight; the email sent by Stephen Hill stating that it was Hueso's decision to include Balboa Park's Municipal Gym as a potential site for a winter shelter was incorrect.

According to the council president’s office, it was San Diego Housing Commission's idea.

However, during the Friday, October 23, meeting of the city council, Hueso supported transforming the park's gym into a temporary winter shelter. He also stated that he chose to include the site on the list of potential locations.

"I put forward the idea of the Municipal Gym because in 1993 the council put it there," said Hueso. "I'm very sad today...it's all about 'not in my backyard.' And that's what's happening with this council."

Hueso then provided reasons against placing the winter shelter at 1625 Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan.

"The children of Barrio Logan rarely get respect. We often live in communities with poor air quality and heavy crime," added Hueso, who then went on to report that every year for the past eight years the elementary school in Barrio Logan shuttered its doors because of public safety issues. "They've had numerous emergency shutdowns."

After brief discussion, the council then voted on councilmember Frye's motion to place the temporary site on Newton Avenue, as well as direct the housing commission to set aside $75,000 for family vouchers for hotels. Councilmembers Hueso, Tony Young, Carl DeMaio, and Kevin Faulconer voted against that motion.

Frye then proposed using the site at 13th and F streets. That motion failed as well.

DeMaio then proposed Balboa Park's Municipal Gym. Councilmembers Frye, Faulconer, Marti Emerald, Sherri Lightner, and Todd Gloria rejected the proposal.

After an hour break, councilmembers agreed to use the Golden Hall facility, part of the civic center concourse, as the winter shelter. The site does come with some issues, such as existing contracts for the Bar Exam and naturalization ceremonies, among others. Foregoing those events could potentially cost the city approximately $175,000. Councilmember Faulconer was the only member in opposition to the proposal.

City staff will meet with the city attorney's office to review the contracts. Council will vote on the issue again on November 3.

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The reason Golden Hall was selected as the shelter site for the homeless is that it matches nicely with the desire to declare the Community Councourse totally uninhabitable, and consequently justify the construction of our new City Hall. Still, it makes a nice location for the homeless. We can only hope they enjoy sitting through the city council meetings to stay in out of the cold during the day.

RE #1:

Even better: offer some of the Golden Hall homeless positions as council member interns as a way of reducing the City budget gap.

The ones who qualify could take the first semester evening classes for legal assistants at very little cost at City College, only blocks away.

Golden Hall may have been a last-ditch compromise for a temporary homeless shelter, but it gives our city council staffs the ability to show their human side and help others out while keeping city administrative costs down.

Reply #1 Your idea for the homeless to start attending City council meetings is a good one, then they can learn to use the Public comment portion to continue the dialogue about getting a permanent shelter and also bathrooms located throughout San Diego in case the other homeless not living Downtown have to GO...

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