Public discussions began Thursday night between the city of Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County about the county’s proposed purchase of two Coastside hotels — the Coastside Inn and the Quality Inn — as transitional housing for the homeless.
The county has faced a growing homelessness problem for years, but the pandemic has created a renewed urgency to safely get people off the streets and out of RVs into more permanent housing as a key strategy to getting the virus under control, according to County Manager Mike Callagy. Callagy spoke at a special City Council meeting Thursday evening.
If the county successfully purchases either or both hotels, it would be the first time the Coastside will have transitional housing facilities for the homeless.
No decision was made at the meeting. The City Council will continue discussions at its Dec. 1 regular meeting in the hopes that more residents will weigh in.
County officials committed to involve the city in selecting the social service vendor that would manage the facilities. They also admitted that this process is not typical for major purchases like this, but they are moving quickly to meet an end-of-year deadline by which emergency housing funds through the CARES Act must be spent.
“This is definitely not ideal for you all, not for me or the provider that will walk into this. And I think you have to acknowledge this,” said Ken Cole, director of the county’s Human Services Agency. “If I was starting from scratch, I would not only be working with the city, but I’d be out with my provider doorbelling the neighborhood. I can’t really imagine doing much engagement.”
County Supervisor Don Horsley, who represents the Coastside, agreed but emphasized the need to act quickly.
“I know this is controversial, but it’s also an opportunity,” Horsley said. “It wasn’t really possible for us to take months of time involving communities.”
The Board of Supervisors plan to make a final decision about the hotel purchases at its Dec. 8 meeting.
The exact details of who would live in the 104 units remain unclear and what would happen to the facilities once the pandemic is over were areas of much discussion Thursday night.
The original proposal was to use the hotel rooms as transitional housing units for homeless individuals most at-risk of COVID-19: those with preexisting conditions and older people. And following the county’s model elsewhere, it would likely be only for single individuals and not families. However in response to resident and City Council comments, the county appeared amendable to customize the admission requirements to the Coastside’s needs.
City Council members encouraged that preference be given to homeless individuals living on the Coastside. The 2019 point in time count identified 54 homeless individuals in Half Moon Bay and 60 in the unincorporated areas.
The county began talks with the city last Friday. Two “intent to purchase” notices for the two hotels were posted on Tuesday. According to the notices, the county is budgeting $12.5 million for the Quality Inn and $8 million for the Coastside Inn, to be paid to KN Properties.
Horsley harkened back to the city’s past attempts to get people housed that resulted in pushback from the homeless individuals.
“The thought was we could move them to Redwood City where we have a fairly large homeless facility,” Horsley said. “Those people didn’t want to go. They want to stay on the Coastside.”