San Diego

Indoor Skydiving Building's Conversion Into Homeless Outreach Center Hits Snag

The $7-million purchase of the indoor skydiving center was approved by the council but some members are questioning whether the city should go through with it

An unconventional plan to purchase a $7-million indoor skydiving building in East Village and turn it into housing for homeless San Diegans may have hit a snag despite being approved by city council in January.

The story was first reported by Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed during his 2018 State of the City a central intake facility be built on 14th Street and Imperial Avenue that will match the homeless with county services to get them on track to more permanent housing.

"You’re going to have several community departments under one roof — Family Health Centers, the County of San Diego, the city, some of our housing partners — really with the design of helping people get off the street ... and provide those services to keep them off the streets for good," Faulconer said. 

And while the $7-million purchase of the indoor skydiving center was approved by the council using funding through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), some members are questioning whether the city should go through with the plan. 

"In life, when you get new information, you should be willing to make new decisions," Councilmember Barbara Bry said. "We have new information —particularly given that we now have three tents up and running — and we’ve learned more about the homeless population.

The temporary tent shelters, meant to operate through November, cost more than $6.5 million and can house up to 150 people each and county resources are available through the shelters. 

Bry, who voted to approve funding for the property, said the focus should be on finding more affordable housing. 

"One thing we’ve learned is we desperately need more housing. And a navigation center – where are we navigating people to?" Bry said.

Councilmember Chris Ward, who chairs the council's homelessness committee, is also looking to put the brakes on the project.

While the money has already been allocated for the building, another $1.55 million would be needed annually to operate the center.

Mayor Faulconer wants to vote next month on a one-year contract with Family Health Centers, who would facilitate operation. The contract would have the option to extend for a total of up to three years. 

The costs for the contract would come from a combination of CDBG funds, the city's general fund and the city's low and moderate income housing fund, according to city spokesperson Greg Block. 

Block said that if voters approve a ballot initiative that would generate revenue through a hotel tax increase, it would go towards the homeless navigation center project and other homelessness programs first. 

The initiative gathered enough signatures to be decided on by San Diego voters but will not appear on the November 2018 ballot

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