San Mateo County officials promised that as it converts the 52-room Coastside Inn into a homeless shelter program, it will involve residents in future decisions.
At Tuesday’s Half Moon Bay City Council meeting, county representatives proposed establishing a community advisory committee that would help design the shelter program at the Coastside Inn.
It was one of several ideas discussed to address concerns raised over what has been a short-circuited process to create the Coastside’s first shelter program. The program would immediately act as interim housing equipped with social services to help transition people into more permanent housing.
Ken Cole, director of the county’s Human Services Agency, was among the county officials who addressed the public at the Dec. 1 City Council meeting, which was the county’s second appearance on the issue. Cole reiterated an earlier statement he made at a special meeting on Nov. 19 in which he admitted the circumstances behind the rushed decision were not ideal. “This is not the way we would like to do this,” he said.
The county is working to meet the Dec. 30 deadline by which federal CARES Act funding allocated for these types of projects must be spent.
“What we do have more time to do is to design the program with an advisory board. We don’t have to rush into occupying the hotel until the community is happy with the program design,” Cole said.
As discussed, the community advisory committee would include local residents who would help select the vendor that would be contracted to run the shelter program and receive regular reports about the program. Those reports could include who entered the program and the program’s progress in getting participants permanently housed.
By having a panel of local representatives, the county hoped it could respond to mounting complaints about a possible rise in crime, increased demands on city services and lost transient occupancy tax revenue, which would result from removing the Coastside Inn from local hotel inventory.
County Manager Mike Callagy said the advisory committee and other commitments discussed would be written into a memorandum of understanding, as with a similar project in Redwood City.
“We would be happy to put that in writing. We would be happy to do that for Half Moon Bay,” Callagy said.
Another county commitmentment included some compensation for unrealized TOT dollars resulting from the Coastside Inn’s conversion from hotel to shelter. Callagy said the exact amount of financial support the county will provide to “smooth over” the loss in TOT would have to be negotiated.
“I can commit to some time frame, but we need more time to look at that and determine what that would be,” Callagy said about the tax reimbursement. “Of course, it’ll be up to the Board of Supervisors to approve, but I can commit that we will negotiate in good faith with the city of Half Moon Bay on the loss of TOT.”
And should there be increased demand on social services, like health care and public safety because of the shelter, the county would take responsibility for enhancing the city’s infrastructure, he said.
The Dec. 1 meeting was the county’s last presentation to the city before the proposal went to the Board of Supervisors for a vote Dec. 8.
Already, the county’s two meetings with the city have yielded some changes to the county’s original program design, including a preference for Coastsiders.
In response to questions about whether the program would have a zero-tolerance policy around drugs and alcohol, Cole said that detail would be better addressed by the contracting nonprofit agency that would run the shelter.
While the city was not required to take action on Dec. 1, some who spoke in opposition to the program said they wished the City Council had done more to push back, citing Marin County’s Board of Supervisors’ decision against a similar purchase in the city of Novato.
A majority of City Council members supported the program, including Vice Mayor Robert Brownstone who called the county “good partners,” citing the memorandum of understanding and an advisory committee as the county’s ideas. Councilman Harvey Rarback recused himself due to the proximity of his residence to the proposed site.
“The county knows that Half Moon Bay is one of the jewels of San Mateo County. They don’t want to see anything fail. And if they see something, that something isn’t working out, I trust they’ll want to fix it or make a change of direction,” Brownstone said.