An arson investigation has been launched into a fire that damaged a hot dog cart in the heart of downtown. The owner of the cart blames the growing homeless problem for the damage.
San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said an investigation is ongoing into what caused a fire that damaged the Brooklyn Dogs hot dog cart on Sunday.
The cart is parked near the Lyceum Theatre, on the sidewalk of Westfield Horton Plaza.
Owner Pete Soto has been in business for 20 years and selling hot dogs at that location for five years. He said a homeless person caused the damage.
“This is what happens when you don’t give a homeless person a free bag of chips,” Soto said. “This is retaliation.”
He said his employees have been assaulted. One person used a knife to threaten a cart employee, Soto said.
“We can’t support you. We can’t give you everything for free,” he said.
Soto is frustrated because the security he pays for as part of his rent is not helping with the growing number of homeless that are congregating near the renovated Horton Park at Broadway and 3rd.
NBC 7 contacted Westfield Mall, the company that owns Horton Plaza and runs Horton Park. They said they do not comment on active criminal investigations.
Ivan Korolev, the owner of OMG Crepe Stand, has been in business for about five years and has had a cart in the same area for just over a year.
He said his business depends on the locals walking around the downtown area and the tourists.
Because the mall is an open mall, Korolev said the homeless population is something he and his employees have to deal with on almost a daily basis. He said San Diego's situation is comparable to other large cities.
Soto has said he cannot continue doing business at the location near Horton Park and is looking for a new location for his cart.
"The city needs to do something about this. Us hard-working people shouldn’t have to go through this,” Soto said.
On September 13, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a plan to open three shelters for the city's homeless with the help of community partners.
The temporary, so-called "bridge-to-housing" shelters will be located in downtown's East Village and in the Midway District: one in the parking lot on the Father Joe's Villages campus at 14th and Commercial streets, one in a vacant lot on Sports Arena Boulevard, and one on a vacated street at 16th Street and Newton Avenue.
The shelters will be operated by Father Joe's Village, the Veterans Village, and the Alpha Project, respectively.
Each will be a large industrial tent with more than 100 beds. They will include restrooms, showers, meals and 24-hour security, the mayor said. Each shelter will also offer support services including connections to health care, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and job search training.
In December, an annual survey by the Downtown San Diego Partnership stated there was an average of 1,073 homeless people present in each neighborhood of downtown San Diego per a month in 2016, compared to an average of 582 homeless people for the year of 2012.
That data would suggest the average population size of homeless people living in downtown San Diego has nearly doubled in the past four years.