San Diego

Planning Group Votes Against ‘Halfway House' Proposal for Otay Mesa

The transitional housing plan is part of what's called the "Smart Program"

Residents gave a standing ovation to the Otay Mesa-Nestor Community Planning Group during Wednesday night’s meeting after the board voted against the city of San Diego's proposal to transform a motel into a halfway house.

The transitional housing plan is part of what's called the "Smart Program" and will turn the Super 8 Motel on Palm Avenue in Egger Highlands into a transitional home for low-level criminals.

According to the City Attorney's Office, the program is to help rehabilitate people who are part of the 185 percent increase in drug and theft-related crimes since Proposition 47 passed in 2014.

But that proposal did not sit well with most residents.

"Any parent can tell you we are afraid for our kids. Not for myself, but our kids," said Julio Cordova.

He is one of more than 500 people who live in the Imperial Sands Mobile Home Park next door to the motel.

People also expressed concern about the three schools nearby.

"We’re getting all the riff-raff. Why can we not put this in La Jolla or Rancho Santa Fe?" said Otay Mesa-Nestor Planning group member Gabriel Uribe.

But Francisco Parra, who was once homeless, said he understands the need.

"Sometimes we just need somebody to help us to get us going you know. I think it would help," Parra said.

The facility would be a security controlled, 42-bedroom building with support services on the premises. The purchase cost the city of San Diego more than $6 million.

But the business community says it's costing the area development opportunities.

"This project, which is a great program, is an absolute horrific location. It is going to be a detriment to encouraging investment and turning around the rest of Palm Avenue," said Cindy Gompper-Graves, President & Chief Executive Officer of the South County Economic Development Council.

Though the planning board rejected the city's plans, it doesn't mean the motel won't be transformed into transitional housing.

San Diego City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on Dec. 13. If approved, they are hoping to get it open by October 2018.

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