Could MCAS Miramar be the answer to San Diego's homelessness crisis?

One man's plan for an on-base camp with centralized services has the approval of the Police Officers Association and basketball legend Bill Walton

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An idea to relocate thousands of homeless people living on the streets of San Diego to a camp at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is gaining traction.

“Once you have, let's say 5,000 beds, a clean, healthy, safe, secure environment, then you can return to full rule of law in the streets, canyons and parks," businessman George Mullen said.

Mullen and partner Brian Caster came up with the Sunbreak Ranch concept 10 years ago. It's a plan to build a massive camp on base where the homeless can have access to centralized service without the influences that plague some on the streets.

The plan would require leasing several hundred acres of MCAS Miramar land.

In a letter to Mayor Todd Gloria sent Monday, Miramar Commander Col. T.M. Bedell, wrote the military base is not a suitable location. The land desired contains protected wildlife, unexploded ordinance and three live fire training areas, according to Col. Bedder.

"Those excuses they’re giving are just the routine ones we hear from everyone about the vernal pools, the firing range. Miramar is massive," Mullen said.

Mullen said he has three or four potential on-base locations in mind, including one off of La Media Road near Brown Field. The location, as Mullen likes to say, is less important than the concept: getting homeless services and the needy in one location away from the negative influences of the streets and far enough away from those that would argue “not in my back yard.”

Aggressive enforcement could clear city streets and fill quickly Sunbreak Ranch, Mullen said.

"We will save thousands of lives by having Sunbreak Ranch and getting people off the streets. We will also clean up our cities and return to a dignified place," he said.

Mullen admits Sunbreak Ranch is an expensive idea, but said it would cost far less than the nearly $2.5 billion the city and county have spent on homelessness since 2015.

Big philanthropists are interested in a real plan. There is so much money out there, it boggles the mind, but they don’t want to spend money and watch it go down the drain like it's been," Mullen said.

Mullen said he will appeal the Miramar commander’s decision up the chain of command. His concept has gained the support of the Police Officers Association and basketball legend Bill Walton, who has become an outspoken critic of local policies on homelessness.

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