San Mateo County buys two Redwood City hotels for housing for seniors and homeless

REDWOOD CITY – As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disproportionately affect the Bay Area’s homeless population, San Mateo County supervisors have purchased two hotels in the city to convert them into permanent housing.

Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to purchase the TownePlace suites on Twin Dolphin Drive and the Pacific Inn Hotel on El Camino Real as part of Project Homekey, a program launched at the start of the pandemic to give local governments federal aid and state to rehabilitation hotels and old apartment buildings in long-term housing for homeless people.

The two hotels will add 169 units of permanent housing for the county’s homeless population as public health officials urge people to stay home and avoid contact with others to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The TownPlace Suites – which the county bought for $ 29.2 million – will be used to provide 95 rooms for people over 62 with extremely low incomes, while the Pacific Inn – purchased for $ 21.5 million dollars – will offer 74 rooms plus a manager’s quarters for those experiencing homelessness.

Supervisor Warren Slocum, who represents Redwood City, said the purchase of the two hotels was part of the county’s goal of reaching a “functioning” homeless population as quickly as possible. Next week, the county plans to buy another hotel in Half Moon Bay for the city’s coast homeless population.

Slocum said the 74 homeless units in the county will be used to meet that goal and keep people at home during the pandemic.

And with a “gray tsunami” coming as the county’s population ages, Slocum said the county purchased the other 95-room hotel specifically to provide a safety net for the elderly who have been harsh. affected by the pandemic and the state of the economy.

“We really want to do this for low-income seniors who are at risk of homelessness because they are the most vulnerable people…” Slocum said. “I said to myself: wouldn’t it be a tragedy to see them in the street? These hotels are ready to be installed turnkey for these people to populate them.

But the hotel purchase plan was not without criticism. A dozen people gathered at Redwood Shores last week to protest the county’s intention to purchase the TownPlace Suites, which adjoin the San Carlos Airport just off the bay, due to its proximity to the largely suburban neighborhoods in the region.

Opponents of the purchase say the county did not give sufficient notice or provide the level of planning needed to make the decision to buy. Slocum said the county faces a tight deadline for the state to make purchases before Wednesday, but residents like Redwood Shores Elementary School PTA chair Shannon Guzzetta said ” the process and monitoring plans need to be improved ”.

In a letter sent to supervisors on Tuesday, Guzzetta said she and others were concerned about the lack of community dialogue and the lack of “logistical details” on the hotel’s sustaining plan. She said that while the county has the money for the acquisitions, she wants to know more about how it will maintain and manage the new properties.

“How will the placement process ensure adequate background checks for service providers and residents?” How will the county maintain transparency on these issues when it has failed to engage in community dialogue at this important part of the process? Guzzetta wrote. “How will security be approached, especially since Redwood City has frozen police stations open for next year?” “

Another Redwood City resident who identified himself as Frank in a letter to supervisors said hotel conversions are of “great concern” to the city and will “unfairly split” the communities of Redwood City and Redwood Shores.

“There are a total of 20 towns and villages in San Mateo County,” Frank said. “Other towns in the county also have housing needs and all apartment buildings should be distributed fairly throughout the geographic area of ​​the county. They should not be concentrated in one city.

But for supervisor David Canepa – who represents the predominantly blue-collar community of Daly City – the opposition the council has received is “disappointing” and called the arguments people are using to dissuade leaders from building housing for them. homeless of “despicable”.

“There’s this perception that affordable housing is going to bring crime and these other things, and it’s just absolutely wrong,” Canepa said. “What happened at Redwood Shores is so out of touch. It is despicable and reprehensible and I thought it was callous to people who need help. We need to make sure, as a society, that we are focused on uplifting people and helping those who need help. “

Canepa and Slocum both said they wanted to continue using state and federal funds to convert largely vacant hotels like the two in Redwood City to help address the homelessness issue. County.

“I want us to do more and keep going,” Canepa said. “There are a lot more people we could help. “


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Kevin T. McElroy

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