El Cerrito

‘It's not NIMBYism': Residents Oppose Supportive Housing Arm of Affordable Housing Project in El Cerrito

The project in El Cerrito includes housing for chronically homeless people, which some neighbors say wasn't part of the original plan

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to join the city of San Diego and PATH Ventures to apply for $12 million from the state’s Homekey program, which provides funding to public agencies for permanent supportive housing.

The supervisors’ vote helps clear the way for a new $24 million housing complex in El Cerrito, but not all the residents there are happy about how the project came to life.

“This would be a good place for what they said it was going to be a year ago, affordable housing,” said Laura Riebau, president of the El Cerrito Community Council.

Excavation work has started on the PATH Villa El Cerrito project, located at 54th Street and El Cajon Boulevard.

The first phase of the project will include 22 supportive housing units, 18 for people considered chronically homeless. Health and rehab services will be provided by the Family Health Centers, which has a building right across the street from the project.

“Our problem, as of yesterday, was just that we were taken by surprise,” said Danna Givot, with the group Neighbors for a Better San Diego. "We had no idea that there was going to be homeless housing."

“It’s not NIMBYism," Riebau said, referencing the expression "not in my back yard." "You show me where there is another place that has drug and rehabilitation and mental health facilities, smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood. There are not any."

The project was misrepresented to the El Cerrito Community Council when presented last year, according to Riebau and other resident.

A recent tweet by San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, however, said the community was well aware of the project.

In January, the community council voted on the project that at the time was described as a 10-story building with medical offices, retail space and 142 units of residential housing. The vote was 58-14 against the project.

In a joint press release preceding the Homekey funding application, San Diego mayor Todd Gloria and County Board of Supervisors chairman Nathan Fletcher said the building would comprise five levels of prefabricated, container-based housing units that will sit directly above a ground-floor integrated health and physical rehabilitation clinic to be operated by Family Health Centers.

The onsite clinic would offer preventative and medical care, mental-health care, outpatient substance-use treatment, dental care and other supportive services. The development would also include a dog park and a business center to help with job searches, according to the release.

“We need to provide housing everywhere to address homelessness, which is everywhere,” PATH CEO Joel Roberts said.

PATH is the developer for the Villa El Cerrito project.

“This development is also for this community because I’m sure there are people that are struggling with their salaries and paying rent, and this development will provide affordable housing for them as well, said Roberts.

Construction is expected to start in November 2022 and be completed by summer 2023.

A second phase of the development will create 140 additional affordable apartment homes: 127 studios, 12 one-bedroom apartments and a manager’s unit. Construction on Phase 2 is expected to be complete by late 2024.

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