Manteca’s elected leaders are walking away from the Qualex site as the linchpin in a stepped up effort to address the city’s homeless problems.
They will continue to squat, so to speak, on the Qualex parking lot by using it for temporary homeless services such as the current warming center until someone in Sacramento tells the city they have to auction off the site as part of the shutdown of the former Manteca Redevelopment Agency that then Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the plug on 10 years ago to help the state weather the Great Recession.
The council unanimously Tuesday abandoned a directive issued a year ago this month for staff to zero in on the Qualex site at 555 Industrial Park Drive for a long-term homeless solution that could include a navigation center plus at least a 218-bed drop-in shelter.
The new focus on 682 South Main Street — 8.1 acres bought from American Modular by the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency in 2004 for $2.6 million — is for a more holistic approach to the city’s vexing housing issues.
Councilman Jose Nuño, whose daytime job is with a non-profit that builds and manages affordable housing in the Central Valley, noted the 8.1 acres has a lot of potential to address a myriad of issues relating to housing and the lack thereof.
Singh brought up South
Main site a month ago
It is larger than what is needed for a navigation center and a potential homeless shelter. Councilman Gary Singh, who first brought up the site a month ago after it fell out of escrow earlier this year after a state-ordered RDA auction, believes the best place to site homeless functions is off of Carnegie Court accessed via Mellon Avenue.
That would allow — using one possible concept — for the city to sectionalize the property. Nuño said one possibility would be developing affordable housing with a private sector partner along South Main Street with a masonry wall separating it from any homeless uses.
Should the city end up buying the site, the first step would likely be the placement of a Sprung Structure — a “portable” structure that is a cost effective and preferred use for homeless shelters elsewhere as well as disaster housing and long-range temporary churches and even gyms.
The city would have to buy the property at market value — estimated at $2.4 million — if the approving agencies responsible for the disposal of RDA property agree not to let it to go to auction again. It is estimated to cost $4 million to purchase a suitable Sprung Structure, put it in place, and do necessary site improvements such as infrastructure along with paving and such.
Other projects short funding such
as downtown Main Street work
The $6.1 million price tag, for now, would have to come out of the municipal general fund reserves that city staff said is right around $17 million. Staff cautioned that there are a number of other capital improvement projects such as the widening of Main Street through downtown to four lanes that have come in at a higher cost than expected and will require additional funding if they are to proceed.
Staff noted that if the site moves the city could seek state and federal grants to offset some of the costs.
City Manager Miranda Lutzow has repeatedly stressed that wherever a homeless navigation center/shelter is placed it needs to be done right. That means making sure fencing and such are done in such a manner that if you pass by the homeless location that they won’t even be able to tell it is there.
That would include things such as a masonry wall that not only would hide a shelter and operations but also not be cut through such as cyclone fence.
The decision Tuesday — while not directly doing so — reaffirmed city plans once the solid waste division is relocated to the wastewater treatment plant to repurpose the solid waste operational yard on the south side of Wetmore Street next to the city’s vehicle maintenance building as the new home of the streets division.
In doing so it clears up the north side along the tracks and east of the animal shelter to be used possible as parking for those commuters that will drive to reach the transit station when Altamont Corridor Express. The site has already passed initial tests for soil contamination issues. If parking does go there, there would be a ticketing machine and platform on the south side of the tracks.
Gov. Newsom could derail
Manteca’s new homeless strategy
The council’s strategy is conditioned on two things that ultimately Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration could derail.
First, Sacramento — along with a county-based agency that deals with surplus RDA property — would have to nix auctioning off the 8.1 acres and allow the city to buy it.
The city would also need to get both parties to agree to let the city continue using the Qualex parking lot for its homeless efforts until they can get a Sprung Structure that has a bare minimum life of 25 to 30 years in place off of Carnegie Court.
There is currently a 48- by-60-foot tent that can hold up to 50 people as a homeless warming center in the parking lot. It will stay there until March 31, 2021 under an $180,000 contract with the Turlock Gospel Mission.
The non-profit secured the rented tent with part of the $180,000. The overall price tag includes all necessary furniture and sleeping cots, case management, showering facilities, restrooms, meals, clothing distribution, intake and service tracking, pet food and veterinarian referral, mail service, ID vouchers, shelter referrals, essential guest transportation, weekly support groups, central location for other service providers to meet guests, and pet kennels.
Turlock Gospel Mission is also offering Behavioral Health, Whole Person Care, and a Community Medical Center during the day. For those purposes , the tent can accommodate 80 people.
Mayor wants temporary
solution in place ASAP
Mayor Ben Cantu wants the city to move forward in a two phased manner so they can addressing homeless issues better now instead of waiting two or three years at the earliest for the South Main Street — if it is feasible to do — to be ready for homeless program uses.
In order to enforce quality of life laws based on court rulings that means the city would have to provide drop-in shelter for 218 homeless people.
Based on a search of the websites of companies that provide tents with sides such as the one current in place on the parking lot, it would require spending $80,000 plus not counting beds/cots and other furnishings.
That is based on the price the firm Canopy Mart offers for a 40 by 100 foot premiere party tent at $20,500 apiece. The city would need four such tents to accommodate 218 sleeping spaces.
Such temporary tents could allow for year round use not just as a drop-in shelter but as a navigation center aimed at providing services to help get the homeless off the streets.
The city would need an organization such as the Turlock Gospel Mission to operate it just as they wiould a permanent homeless location. That would require ongoing annual funding.
It could be feasible to use the Qualex parking lot as envisioned by Cantu starting in a matter of months instead of years with an upfront investment that may run less than $200,000 excluding operational costs.
If the city goes with such a plan, staff noted it would be much more efficient and cost effective to pay to extend underground power sources for temporary facility that would be in place for two years or more.
Newsom original rejected the city’s pitch 18 months ago to sell the Qualex building to the city for $1 to convert it into a homeless navigation center/drop in shelter despite legal authorization to allow that to happen passing the legislature unanimously.
Given the rehab cost of making the structure functional for the purpose of a homeless shelter is now pegged at $17.5 million, the governor did the city a favor.
Since Newsom has made addressing the homeless a top state priority, city leaders are banking on being allowed to use Qualex site for a few more years as a temporary solution and to be able to buy the South Main Street site for a permanent solution.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com