The California Assembly unanimously passed Assemblyman Heath Flora’s bill that would allow the sale of the Qualex building purchased by the now dissolved Manteca Redevelopment Agency to be sold for $1 to Inner City Action for use as a homeless resource center.
The 76-0 vote on Thursday — four members were not present — sends AB-1732 to the State Senate. It will first have to get past two committee hearings as it did in the Assembly before the full senate takes the measure up. The committee hearings aren’t expected to take place before June or July. If it passes the State Senate and there are no amendments that would send it back to the Assembly, the bill would then go to Gov. Gavin Newsom who can either sign or reject the measure.
Newsom has made addressing homeless issues in California a top priority.
“I’d like to see the city proceed as quickly as possible (once the bill is adopted) to get a contract in place between the city and Inner City Action,” noted Mayor Ben Cantu.
It is a sentiment that has also been expressed by at least two other council members — Debby Moorhead and Gary Singh.
The use of the 57,329-square-foot building at 555 Industrial Park Drive as a homeless resource centerwould require a conditional use permit.
Inner City Action submitted a request for the conditional use permit nearly three weeks ago. It takes about six months for the permit process to take place.
Unless AB-1732 hits a snag, by the time it is signed into law — assuming the State Senate is on board as well as the governor — Manteca should be five months into the conditional use permit process.
Inner City Action has indicated they plan to sell property they own in McFarland that has nearly $1 million in equity to finance upgrades needed for the building.
“There are homeless people in need of services,” Cantu said of his concern that the city keeps moving forward with preparing to consummate a deal to keep lag time between final state approval — should it happen — and Inner City being able to start converting the former photo processing building into a homeless resource center.
The plan is to condition the sale to Inner City so that it can only be used as a homeless resource center and not a homeless shelter per se or for any other purpose. If it ever is, a sale of the property will be forced at auction with the proceeds split among 10 local taxing agencies.
When the state dissolved redevelopment agencies they mandated that all RDA properties not already encumbered with a viable development plan to be sold at auction and the proceeds split between the taxing agencies.
The city through the Manteca RDA spent $3.6 million 13 years ago to buy the building to convert into a new police station. They spent another $1 million on the structure to upgrade the basic shell for occupancy until state law changes that made earthquake standards for public safety buildings even more demanding as well as requiring new police stations with holding cells to have 24-7 correctional officer staffing made the project not pencil out for the city.
The Qualex building today has an estimated market value of $1.5 million. If the building was auctioned off at that price, the city’s share of proceeds would be $254,000. That would mean the city had spent $4.6 million and gotten no public use out of the tax dollars and would end up taking a $4.35 million loss.
There were 218 unsheltered homeless in Manteca in January based on a point-in-time headcount. Officials stressed that the count is as accurate as it could possibly be given homeless do not have set residency.
Cantu, who had been an advocate of a traditional drop-in shelter, now believes the robust homeless resource center that Inner City Action operates is the most effective way to address the homeless issue by far.
The mayor said it addresses issues that are making people homeless and works to resolve them unlike a drop-in shelter that can end up enabling people to be homeless.
Inner City, in working with the Manteca Police Department and non-profit agencies over the past 30 months has helped get more than 270 people off the streets of Manteca. Some are reunited with families often thousands of miles away willing to take them back in. Others are helped addressing issues and obtain job training and develop work ethic so that they can secure housing on their own.
Inner City works with employers that have been pleased with the non-profit’s track record to provide solid workers. Inner City will get the former homeless when they are in transition to jobs and will use donated items to help them set up households when they are in a position once again to pay their own rent. One aspect of the Qualex building’s use will be to store and distribute donations as well as to develop work skills.
Jason Laughlin, Flora’s field representative, noted that Assembly members were all aware that the Qualex structure would not be used as a homeless shelter. Laughlin relayed that a number of members said they were impressed that Manteca was taking an innovative approach to reducing the homeless on city streets.
Cantu noted that many city residents believe the city is making a drop-in homeless shelter possible which it is not — and that Inner City will lure homeless to set up encampments nearby and simply enable them to stay on the streets.
“To get people to understand what they (Inner City) do is we need to get it up and running so they can see it firsthand,” Cantu said.
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