At special Anaheim City Council meeting this afternoon, the Anaheim City Council voted to approve the purchase of the building that is currently home to the Piano Empire piano superstore, and convert it into a temporary homeless shelter with up to 125 beds. The building is directly across the street from county’s 200-bed The Bridges at Kraemer homeless shelter.
The urgency behind the drive to quickly bring homeless shelter beds on line is the settlement agreement with litigious homeless advocates brokered by federal district Judge David O. Carter. Anaheim cannot truly enforce its anti-camping ordinance until it has 330 beds available for the homeless in city-owned shelters – a number that is exclusive of the Bridges at Kraemer shelter beds. Until then, the city is essentially powerless to get rid of homeless encampments at Maxwell Park, for example.
Once the requisite number of beds are online, the city can enforce ordinances against camping and storing property on public property with the blessing of the court.
The council voted 5-1 to approve the sale, with District 5 Councilman Steve Faessel voting against the purchase. Outgoing Councilman James Vanderbilt was absent.
District 5 is already home to the County-owned 200-bed homeless shelter, The Bridges at Kraemer, which was opened in the face of considerable protest from adjacent property owners and nearby neighborhoods. District 5 is also home to the planned 200-bed Center of Hope homeless shelter the city will install at 1340 S. Lewis Street, to be operated by the Salvation Army. The Center of Hope will ultimately be 400-beds when Phase Two is completed in 2020.
Conversion of the Piano Empire building into a homeless shelter will eventually make District 5 home to three homeless shelters with a total of 725 beds.
Councilman Faessel stated that while he is committed to rapidly providing the building sufficient beds to meet its obligations under the settlement agreement, he believes District 5 residents have done their fair share and that it is unfair for them to bear the responsibility to shelter all of Anaheim’s homeless.
“I believe that District 5 has stepped up more than its share to provide beds and shelter services for those most in need,” said Faessel. “However, as I said earlier, they’re all in District 5.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the city would purchase the building for $3,950,000. Both the building and the store are owned by Cheshire Moon Properties LLC principal Chis Vance. The city will then spend up to $2,000,000 converting the building into a temporary homeless shelter as quickly as possible. The Illumination Foundation would be contracted to operate the shelter.
According to the staff report, “total cost for the acquisition, construction, and shelter services for FY 2018/19 is $7,407,812.50 and will be funded with reserves as a result of land sales and operational surpluses. Funding for the remaining term of the contract will be budgeted in future fiscal years and may come from reserves.”
The proposed facility will serve men, woman, couples and families and in intended to be a temporary facility for up to three years. After that, staff anticipates the completion of Phase Two of the City of Hope will ensure a sufficient supply of permanent shelter beds.
It will be a “low threshold” shelter: basically, homeless individuals with certain types of offenses on their criminal records will still be admitted. However, admissions will be by referral only; no walk-ins will be allowed.
The city council voted unanimously to waive policies governing bidding in order to expedite work on the shelter, as well as adopting other measures to ensure the shelter is completed as quickly as possible. Staff told council they anticipate being able to have the shelter open within 60 days.