Today, the San Diego City council will consider purchasing the Super 8 motel in Nestor for a new program that offers a different approach to helping people who repeatedly cycle through the justice system.
If approved, the city would convert the motel into a transitional housing facility for the San Diego Misdemeanants At-Risk Track (SMART) Program.
SMART is a pilot program designed to help people who frequently face misdemeanor charges, and who may be homeless or in need of drug rehabilitation or psychiatric treatment.
Often, such offenders are arrested and released, then arrested again, before the initial charges against them are brought to trial.
The goal of SMART is to end that revolving door, with treatment tailored to help each person.
Participants will get needed counseling, along with substance abuse and mental health services, under the guidance of a case manager.
In a statement to NBC 7, San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez, who represents the community where the motel is located, said many of his constituents contacted him about the legality of the project.
Alvarez drafted a letter to the Coastal Commission, and in his statement to NBC 7 said, in part: "The Coastal Commission’s initial response raised a number of issues. First, the Otay Mesa-Nestor community plan protects existing visitor facilities and thus would need to be amended to allow a transitional housing use before a coastal development permit could be issued for the conversion. Second, the Coastal Commission has a responsibility to protect lower-cost visitor facilities, and such facilities cannot be eliminated without mitigation. Coastal commission staff concluded by saying that they 'encourage the City to retain and rehabilitate, as needed, the existing motel and to look to other alternatives and sites to address the City’s housing needs.'"
The SMART program launched in December 2016 with the help of the City Attorney's Office, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the Office of the Public Defender, Family Health Centers of San Diego, the ACLU, and the housing provider - the San Diego Second Chance Program under a contract administered by the San Diego Housing Commission.
Today’s city council meeting begins at 2:00 p.m. in the City Administration Building downtown.