The addition of cement with jagged rocks below an Interstate 5 underpass downtown is creating mixed emotions among the community.
The underpass, located on Imperial Avenue, is often filled with tents or sleeping bags used by the homeless.
According to a report by our media partner VoiceofSanDiego, the City of San Diego is broadening its sweeps of homeless encampments because of recent complaints from residents and businesses.
Michael McConnell, a local business owner and advocate for solving homelessness in San Diego said the rocks and cement make it difficult for the homeless to find shelter from the elements.
“It certainly limits the availability of space for somebody to pitch their tent or get off of the sidewalk in order to just kind of have a place to stay, a place to sleep,” McConnell said.
A spokesperson for the City of San Diego tells us the new landscaping is meant to address safety concerns that were brought up by residents in Sherman Heights.
The changes have also received positive feedback from people in the neighborhood. Some nearby residents tell us the changes make them feel safer while walking around in the area.
But not everyone is on board with the project.
Tuesday afternoon, homeless advocates delivered several thousand signatures to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer asking for a piece of property to build a micro community with small homes.
McConnell said this method of forcibly moving homeless people isn’t solving the problem.
“We need our elected leaders to bring our communities together and not allow them to be ripped apart with tactics like this or the sweeps,” he said. “We just have not done a very good job tackling this issue so we have a large amount of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.”
McConnell said the sweeps that move homeless people out of downtown are just bringing them into other communities, and that the only real way to solve the problem is by finding people permanent homes. He said outreach teams need to be created and funds need to be set aside to solve the issue.
“This isn’t what you do in America’s finest city,” he added.
According to the spokesperson, the city is continuing to provide funding and resources to help the homeless community in San Diego.
We have also reached out to CalTrans for more information on the project, but haven't heard back.