Anaheim Will Buy Piano Empire Superstore, Turn Into Homeless Shelter

Piano store owner Chris Vance in front of his building in 2015, with The Bridges at Kraemer homeless shelter building in the background.

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.


  1. David Michael Klawe

    The vote was 5 ayes on items 1, 3, 4 and 5, the Nay from Councilmember Faessel, and James Vanderbilt absent.

    Item 2, the urgency item mentioned in the last paragraph, passed 6-0, with Councilmember Vanderbilt absent.

  2. It seems to me theither transient population at maxwell are like stubborn children stomping their feet saying “you can’t make me!” And will continue to stay there, even after the beds open up. What’s next? They’ve been given motels, food, vouchers, phones, donated items and our park to live in.
    It will not be enough for them. You watch!

    It will never be enough.

  3. I don’t understand why you have to house homeless in an one of the most expensive countys. I am sure you could find a building of this size in another part of California for much less and have the ability to do more. Will they only live in Anaheim/Orange County? Seem like alot of money when we have local schools that have facilitires that have not been touch since they where built.

  4. It’s not very bright to buy the property in a real estate price bubble. But they will be next the strip club.

  5. We can hardly afford to live here any longer , obviously the rents /homes are to expensive. That’s why the Homeless are here . I agree the more we do the more will come … it’s a flat out shame. SO many truly need and want to get on their feet , but on the other hand SO many choose that lifestyle, no desire to change . and the later type of people are giving the majority of the homeless population a bad name …it is a true dilemma.

  6. I would really like to know why the city insists on encroaching on us businesses with these shelters by putting them in our business community? Why not put them in the downtown area where they can look at it everyday and deal with the overflow of vagrants and homeless? We have investments in these surrounding buildings and the commercial real estate is expensive. Seems like if the court insists on providing housing for those that do not wish to be housed, a town in the desert would be the likely place where they could wander to their hearts content.

  7. All I have to say is that, “The more you pay for something, the more you get of it.” Let’s equate that to homeless shelters, the more beds we provide, the more homeless we get. Let’s address the real issue, where are they from? How did they get here?

    The money we just spent with literally no plan to fund it beyond 2019, would have been better spent on bus passes to send these people back to where they came from, then with less homeless present, you won’t need as many shelter beds to enforce existing laws on the books to prevent it in the first place.

    • David Michael Klawe

      Let me correct something, and explain why the city is doing it.

      First off, the 2 new shelters are funded for 2 years in the recent council approvals, so funded through 2020. The Salvation Army, with its own money (though they are pursuing grants to help defray the cost), will open a 400 bed center at the current Lewis Street location. The city will not be funding it directly, though it might partner with the Salvation Army to apply for grants, which might need to go through the city treasury.

      So a pretty clear and good plan. Interim 200 beds for 3 months until February, then 2 years at the Piano Store (175 beds)/temporary Salvation Army site (200 beds), then transitioning to the Salvation Army permanent facility.

      The city is hoping to sell the Piano Store site in 2021 to allow expansion of the County owned Bridges of Kraemer, which is right across the street, so getting back the funds it cost to buy. The Salvation Army temporary site is on land provided by them, so no capital was invested. The Portable buildings can be sold.

      The big key is satisfying Judge Carter and the Homeless Advocate lawsuit, which calls for 375 beds (number based on the current homeless census).

      There is also the Jones case from the 9th district appeals court. That requires a bed must be currently available for the person you wish to cite for Anti-Camping/Loitering laws. So ne bed, you can’t get them to leave the park and move on.

      CityNet, who is hired by the city to provide Homeless outreach, does offer one-way transportation to “home”, but a legally required process is required, which includes confirming that the other location will accept the person, and house them. But it does happen, heck, one person got a plane ticket, since “home” was Hawaii.

      As to changes needed, one big one is the Sober Living Homes that advertise to come to Sunny California. And as soon as the insurance money runs out, they are kicked to the curb with no way to go home. Multiple organizations have tried multiple times to get a California law passed (or Federal) that would require the home to return the patient no longer receiving service a flight home, with the company insuring the patient is placed on the plane.

      The city is doing everything they can do legally to address the homeless crisis in the city of Anaheim. Alas not all land with the city boundaries are controlled by the city, from the Railroad tracks, to the un-incorporated islands, and Flood Control Channels. But look at all the positive steps the city have taken over the last year.

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