San Mateo County will soon be able to provide long-term shelter to more people who are or are at risk of experiencing homelessness when it acquires two converted hotels in Redwood City and Redwood Shores, thanks to a major state grant.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 at a special meeting Thursday to authorize purchases for the 75-unit Pacific Inn Hotel at 2610 El Camino Real in Redwood City and the TownePlace Suites Hotel in Redwood Shores at 1000 Twin Dolphin Drive.
The Project Homekey grant is more than $33 million, and the county agreed to pay $12.75 million in local matching funds, according to a board memo. That funding would be allocated from federal CARES Act funds the county received.
The Pacific Inn location will be used to support people experiencing homelessness who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19, offering on-site and nearby services to help residents stay housed while they seek permanent affordable housing. The TownePlace Suites will provide permanent housing for seniors who are extremely low income, according to a press release.
A number of Redwood Shores residents emailed the board of Supervisors opposing the purchase of the TownePlace Suites hotel. They raised concerns that they hadn't been given sufficient notice of the planned purchase and asked questions about how the program will be implemented and how residents will access services, since the hotel is somewhat isolated and not readily accessible via public transit.
"Redwood Shores is quiet and safe, that’s why it has attracted many families with small children to move in. It’s not suitable for setting up such a facility for people who might have special needs (drug, homelessness, sickness and etc). As a parent, I’m extremely concerned about my kids’ safety and future of our home’s property value," wrote resident Ying Wang.
Another resident, Vivian Crisman, asked why the two purchases were focused in the southern end of the county when the northern area has needs for such facilities as well.
Others were supportive. Diane Warner of Redwood City said she is 86 and struggling with finding supportive housing for a 57-year-old son with mental illness. disabilities.
"I strongly support your purchase of hotels to meet his need for a place to live," she wrote.
County Manager Mike Callagy said that the project provides a quick solution by converting existing facilities to housing rather than building them from the ground up.
"“Even before COVID-19, the County was working to protect residents who were on the verge of losing housing due to the high cost of living and rent in the Bay Area. And, from day one of the County’s response to this pandemic, we’ve been innovative and strategic in how we keep our residents safe, especially for our homeless, seniors and at-risk populations,” he said in a press release.
Homelessness in San Mateo County was on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the point in time count conducted each January on odd years. The 2019 count indicated that homelessness was up 20% from 2017.
The county has also used state funds from the program to house homeless residents at high risk of developing complications from COVID-19 in a hotel that allows social distancing and other protective measures, called "Bayfront Station." That program is expected to be phased out later this year, according to the press release.