Orange County supervisors on Tuesday dropped a plan to spend $3.6 million acquiring property in Santa Ana for a year-round homeless shelter, a project that drew intense opposition from potential neighbors.
Supervisor Janet Nguyen and board chairman Shawn Nelson criticized Santa Ana officials for backing away from a site at 1217 E. Normandy Place in an industrial area that had been zoned for the year-round shelter.
Nguyen said county officials will now turn their attention to converting a shuttered bus terminal on Santa Ana Boulevard near Broadway in the city’s downtown across from the County Hall of Administration. Historically, city officials have objected to that site and asked county supervisors to look elsewhere for the shelter.
“I chose to work with the city,” Nguyen said, referring to when she was elected in 2007 and city officials asked her not to convert the old bus terminal into a homeless shelter.
So, when the Santa Ana City Council zoned the shuttered warehouse on Normandy the county went about trying to acquire the property, Nguyen said.
“At this time I’m going to ask the board to reject Normandy, move it to the Santa Ana terminal and tell the City Council to zone it (for a homeless shelter), and that’s going to be the site,” Nguyen said.
The supervisors unanimously supported Nguyen’s motion.
Nelson suggested the supervisors consider suing Santa Ana.
“The county has gone to tremendous expense relying on a partner telling us what to do,” Nelson said. “I’m going to ask county counsel to explore our legal options to pursue the city of Santa Ana. … We’ve spent tremendous amounts of staff time. We’ve got deposits, all these issues going on, appraisals — and all for naught.”
Nelson favored moving forward with acquiring the Normandy site.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer opposed the Normandy site, saying there were too many unanswered questions about crime in the area and how many sex offenders might utilize the shelter. Spitzer had asked county officials to research those questions, but never received any feedback, he said.
Nguyen criticized various elected leaders, such as Santa Ana Unified School Board member John Palacio, who lamented to the board today that he and his colleagues were never part of the discussion.
“You never spoke up when the city voted on (the special zoning)” for the homeless shelter, Nguyen said. “There was no comments, nothing.”
The supervisors unanimously approved a plan to acquire the warehouse on Normandy in July. The vote came about a year after they thought they had a site for a year-round homeless shelter in Fullerton, but the City Council there shot it down on a 3-2 vote. Neighbors of the Fullerton site raised the same issues about the fear of increasing crime in their neighborhood.
During cold weather months, most of the area’s chronically homeless rely on the county’s Armory Emergency Shelter Program, which has about 400 beds, but it is closed during warmer weather.
The 56,942-square-foot Normandy property includes a 23,220-square-foot warehouse built in July 2000. It has 44 parking spaces.
— City News Service
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