Yesterday Governor Newsom said he was taking a bite out of homelessness by working to provide 1200 tiny homes for locations around the state AND by awarding $179.7 in grants for seven places to create a total of 710 units for "unhoused Californians to call home with access to vital supportive services." Let's see if we can unpack that.
SMALL HOMES (AKA "tiny homes" AKA "Steiny homes")
Yesterday the Governor's Office announced progress towards making 1200 units of small homes available for four cities (L.A., San Diego, San Jose and Sacramento), saying, "The state and our local partners have moved quickly to select site locations, request bids, sign contracts and pass trailer bill legislation to advance these projects by giving the California Department of General Services contracting and streamlining flexibility. In July, Governor Newsom signed a trailer bill cutting red tape on procurement and construction for these small homes. And just this month, the Newsom Administration is finalizing a contract for the state and locals to purchase these small homes – a contract available for these 1,200 units but also available as a template for any other local government in California that wants to use their own funds to buy these housing solutions."
The announcement added that, "Sacramento continues to move forward with the selection of two locations: Cal Expo in Sacramento and newly announced Wellspace on Stockton Blvd." It specifically quoted the City of Sacramento's Mayor about the Stockton Blvd. site:
Gov. Newsom’s office has been working closely with the city and county of Sacramento to build a tiny home village on Stockton Boulevard that will be a model for the rest of the state. Residents will be embedded in a community wellness campus specializing in substance abuse disorder treatment and mental health care. This combination of housing and assertive treatment is the recipe for helping our unhoused neighbors and providing relief to our neighborhoods.Darrell Steinberg
Then yesterday afternoon, Mr. Steinberg held his own press event, extolling the virtues of the 175-unit Stockton Blvd. site, details of which are available from his Office of Community Engagement. A key point Mr. Steinberg did NOT mention is that the Stockton Blvd. site is surrounded on 3 sides by unincorporated Sacramento County, specifically, "The Finger" of unincorporated land - characterized as a disadvantaged community - that the City of Sacramento has purposely disrespected for lo these many years. Gee, that has a familiar ring, doesn't it (Examples: Cal Expo, Auburn Blvd.)? Putting a homeless facility on the very edge of the city limits so the impacts will be felt primarily by the voiceless, powerless residents and businesses of unincorporated Sacramento County is how the City of Sacramento rolls.
Oddly, though the Governor's Office made it sound like fires had been lit under the behinds of sluggards who have delayed matters and not risen to the occasion, the reality is that simply snapping one's fingers doesn't instantly produce tiny homes and tiny home projects. At least, that's what the Sacramento Bee said today in a front-page article entitled, "Newsom's promised tiny homes for state's homeless are delayed" (Maggie Angst in Sacramento Bee, Oct. 12, 2023). In that report on the Governor's announcement, The Bee noted that procurement of the tiny homes has been pushed back and contracts have not been awarded with suppliers. Beyond that, of course, is the obvious time-consuming nature of the construction process needed before anyone can move into a village of Steiny homes, regardless of Mr. Steinberg's optimism. Bottom line: things will not happen at the Stockton Blvd. site overnight. Nor, apparently, will they last very long, as the site is only open until Wellspring Health needs to build its campus there.
The Cal Expo site is supposed to be getting the City of Sacramento's other 175 Steiny homes. However, it is a site that isn't quite as far along in the planning stages as the Stockton Blvd. site. It still lacks an operational plan. No one knows who will run it. And it needs approval from the land owner (Cal Expo), which isn't exactly a slam duck, given the potential for the Steiny Homes village to conflict with Cal Expo's operations and some potential, very lucrative economic development opportunities in its future. Though it is unclear whethera Steiny home village at Cal Expo will be a success or a train wreck/dumpster fire (or both), one thing certain is that it won't happen soon.
Will either of the sites deliver on the rosy promises made by the Governor and Mr. Steinberg? Who knows? But for now, at least, the homeless problem has been solved....except that it hasn't been.
As long as we're on the subject of spending tax money, we should mention the $179.7M worth of grants for 710 housing units. The Governor's announcement said Sacramento County would get $20,000,000 for 122 units of permanent, supportive housing plus 2 manager units at the former Arden Star hotel on Howe Avenue. Also announced was an award of $20,386,000 to the City of Sacramento for a similar hotel conversion. That project will have 69 units of permanent supportive housing plus a manager unit. Maybe it's not a fair comparison, but when you run the numbers you see that the County's project is going for $161,290 per unit, while the City's project goes for $291,371 per unit. That's an extra $130,000 per unit for the City's project. Makes you wonder...
We expect to hear more about these projects/non-projects going forward.