It’s far from a done deal and it might not happen but the Manteca City Council Tuesday unanimously decided to see if there is a way a former photo processing building vacant since 2004 could see new life as a homeless resource center operated by Inner City Action.
The council removed the 57,329-square-foot former Qualex building at 555 Industrial Park Drive from a list of surplus redevelopment agency properties going to auction next month.
At the same time they directed staff — in working with Inner City Action — to devise an action plan that needs to be delivered to Assemblyman Heath Flora’s office by April 26 so the crafting of legislation that would be required to possibly make the Inner City Action deal work can be drafted and introduced for the current legislative term.
The directive issued by the council also requires Inner City Action to present to them at the March 18 meeting what funding strategy they have to bring the building up to code as well as modify it so it can be used as a homeless resource center.
Staff would also have to work to get local taxing agencies that have a stake in the Qualex building if it is sold — Manteca Unified, San Joaquin County, Delta College, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and the San Joaquin Mosquito and Vector Control District — to agree to a plan not to auction off the structure and therefore forfeiting their share of revenue if the building were sold at auction.
“If it doesn’t (pan out), it doesn’t,” said Councilwoman Debby Moorhead who has been working on the issue with Flora’s office. “It’s not going to hurt to spend some extra time to see if this can be a solution.”
Moorhead noted — and the council concurred — that if an action plan can’t be put in place to allow Flora’s office to craft legislation to carve an exemption from state law that directed all surplus property of redevelopment agencies to be sold by auction under a 2011 state order disbanding them, the Qualex property would be put up for auction.
Mayor Ben Cantu agreed noting he thought the city should “at least try” to make it work.
Cantu, in referencing what some believe is the best possible site in Manteca for a homeless resource center, pointed out “nobody wants it in their neighborhood.”
Council members Jose Nuño and David Breitenbucher were intrigued by a staff suggestion that the city go ahead and sell the building at auction and if it secured at least the minimum bid that the 11 percent the city would receive — $110,000 — could be set aside specifically to fund a homeless resource center. Staff suggested approaching the other agencies about possibly doing the same with their proceeds from any sale of Qualex.
The two council members were concerned even if it was made possible for Inner City Action to purchase the building for a $1 by securing approval of the California Legislature whether the work needed to make the building useable was something the non-profit could afford.
Councilman Gary Singh pointed out $110,000 would not go very far in an effort toward establishing a homeless resource center from the ground up. He doubted the $110,000 would cover putting in place the basic infrastructure such as water and sewer and paying connection fees let alone pay for the price of land and construction.
Amy Glass, representing the Manteca Democratic Club and Indivisible Manteca, was among residents who spoke on the proposal.
“We (Manteca) don’t do much for the homeless,” Glass said, noting that from what she could tell the proposal was the best shot the city had of getting a resource center in place that could effectively work to get homeless off the streets.
If the action plan is ultimately adopted by the council and the legislature acts to make it possibly by allowing the Qualex building to be sold to Inner City Action for $1 it would still require a zoning change and general plan amendment to be allowed in the industrial park.
During a 25-day “homeless tent revival” Inner City Action operated through Feb. 17 in the parking lot of the Qualex building they had 366 unsheltered individuals pass through their gates and into the temporary homeless resource center compound. Of those, 243 were male and 123 female. They had 308 homeless individuals take showers and 73 receive haircuts. Each day they served 30 to 50 breakfasts, 50 to 77 lunches, and 40 to 60 dinners.
The services being available on a consistent routine basis is considered critical to building relationships and trust to eventually get the homeless to commit to programs needed to get off the street.
Those showers, meals, haircuts, and the fact there was a place for the homeless to go allowed Inner City Action during those 25 days got 23 people off the street and into rehab programs and/or shelter including three children.
Moorhead gave the council a glimpse at one way Inner City Action may be able to accomplish its goal. She said Inner City Action leaders Pastor Frank and Kim Saldana indicated they planned to raise the necessary funds to renovate Qualex by selling other property that the non-profit owns.
In response to a council question, Economic Development Specialist Don Smail said there are several investors interested in bidding on the Qualex property due to it being less expensive — and a lot quicker — to rehab an existing building for industrial uses than it is to build from scratch.
Jason McLaughlin, a field representative for Flora, stressed that the assemblyman stands ready to assist Manteca.
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