On Feb. 21, during his State of the State address, and after meeting with officials from cities across California on the front lines of the homelessness crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom highlighted 286 state-owned properties available to local governments to use for homelessness solutions. Six of the state-owned properties are located in north county, with one in Windsor and five in Cloverdale. The state-identified sites are separate from the ones identified by the county of Sonoma as potential sites for homelessness (scheduled to be discussed during the Board of Supervisors March 10 meeting).
Newsom suggested local leaders review the sites available in their regions and invited officials to work with the state to develop housing and shelter proposals that help move people off the streets. The state is offering local governments $1 leases on state owned-property, and the $650 million in State Emergency Homeless Aid can be used to build out sites.
“As a former mayor I get that localism is determinative and that all levels of government must work together to get Californians off the street and into housing and supportive services,” said Newsom in a statement. “The state is stepping up by making land available to cities and counties willing to meet this moment head-on. I invite local leaders to use this land on what works for their community’s homeless needs so that we can begin to make meaningful progress to help individuals experiencing homelessness.”
The properties in question include vacant lots, fairgrounds, armories and other state buildings — and were identified as part of the Governor’s executive order requiring state agencies to take urgent action to make state properties and facilities available to rapidly increase housing and shelter options.
Most of the 49 sites listed in Sonoma County are on the eastern end of Highway 12, along unused Caltrans-owned land, once slated for an expansion of Highway 12. However, six sites are located in north county, including one near the airport, and five along Caltrans land in Cloverdale.
Most of the Bay Area sites are Caltrans managed or owned parcels.
The Department of General Services has developed an interactive map of the available properties, which will continue to be updated as it works with local governments on the suitability of parcels for temporary shelter. The map can be found here.
From the map, it appears the airport site is at the southern terminus of Brickway Boulevard, at the corner of Almar Parkway.
In Cloverdale, four of the sites are just east of Highway 101 between the freeway and Asti Road. The northern most point is the terminus of Santana Drive, while the southernmost is just to the north of Kelly Drive. This area constitutes the land currently occupied by the SMART station. The final spot in Cloverdale is also just east of the freeway, between the railroad tracks, Crocker Road and Cloverdale Cemetery.
But what is the likelihood hood of these places being utilized? On March 3, county supervisor James Gore shared his thoughts on the locations and their usability with the Reveille.
“I’ll start with airport site. Even though it’s been put up by the state as a surplus site, I talked to the county administrator and it’s not fully vetted,” Gore said. “We’re looking at it, but there’s some red tape in between a site evaluation (and use). It’s fully there for consideration, but we but do not anticipate it being fully vetted by our meeting.
“We’re open to it being fully vetted, every site has to be evaluated regardless of people’s perceived concerns,” he continued. “Leaning in on this issue always means there will be concerns. We have to break through that logjam and let people know that to address this issue it’s going to mean that we make people uncomfortable and have some uncomfortable dialogue.”
He has a firmer vision for the use of some of the identified Cloverdale sites.
“We need homeless services in north county, (in all the parts of county, but for sure north county). The goal has always been to create 80-100 indoor/outdoor units, predominantly near most of the homeless population,” Gore said. “I anticipate the highest potential will be for the bigger things like Los Guilicos, transitional housing, livable tiny houses. What I’m interested in for north county at the (Cloverdale SMART) site is scoping out what could be there that serves population; a navigation center, day use sites, safe parking zones so we get RVs and cars off right of ways and then be open to exploration of small units.”
Gore added that he envisions making a priority to local homeless already in the north county, rather than moving subjects from other parts of the county. He sited a well-known lack of desire among the homeless population to leave their resident areas as a reason to localize services and also neither bring in non-local homeless individuals nor send the local homeless away.
“My anticipation is that there will be a litany of county or affiliated lands like SMART but that the main discussion will be on properties around the city of Santa Rosa, and then I think Cloverdale could be highlighted for regional services,” Gore said. “I’m supportive of scoping that out, but us bringing it forward is not same as the emergency (declaration over the Joe Rodota trail). This would be direction to staff to take a list of 10, dwindle it down to three and then go and do consultations with the areas.”
However, he’s cognizant of the potential pushback from citizens.
“In north county the goal has to be not to create more of a problem,” he said. “We have no intention to move homeless services into residential neighborhoods, that’s one thing. You don’t just go throw it into a place where you haven’t thought about the impacts on the community.
“In Cloverdale, I’m focused on the SMART properties. The Cloverdale site is a little out of town, but close to services. Obviously though, I’m going to be in representing north county and I am much more interested in the SMART station than the cemetery or any high-use areas. (The site) is close to town and services and the homeless population but outside of direct impacts.”
One of the sites offered up by the governor is the 900-acre Sonoma Developmental Center, located near Glen Ellen, a former state residential care facility and hospital for people with developmental disabilities that has been sitting vacant since 2018. Local homeless advocates have long eyed the site as a place where people could not only be housed, but the support systems needed could easily be housed in the multiple office buildings on the property.
While the state-owned land is now available for local officials use, just how many of the sites will actually be utilized is unclear. The financial burden for the creation and management of the sites will fall on the counties and municipalities within which the land parcels fall, and that alone may prevent many of these from being utilized. Though the governor has pledge $650 million in grant funding, the availability of those funds and the projects they would cover are unclear.
Some of the funds are sequestered until the point in time homeless count numbers are certified. The Sonoma County count took place on Feb. 28, after issues related to the Joe Rodota trail delayed the count from Jan. 31.
Gore however is confident the state funds will come through, and he believes the governor will work to have more than just one-time funds available, but in fact have ongoing support. However, those funds will also require increased accountability from recipients.
Gore knows the application of these sites, funds and services will not be easy, and he expects backlash from the citizenry.
“It’s going to get cranky,” he admitted. “’Leaning in on recovery and resiliency was an empowering message. Leaning in on homelessness is a great way to piss people off. ‘How dare you try to manage this issue and now cause problems?’ Think about airport site, about the vitriol that came out of that. ‘How dare they put it near an airport? Near a community where I live? How dare they put it away from city service?’
“There’s going to be more and more difficulty,” he concluded. “But that’s what happens when you address huge issues. They wouldn’t be issues if they were easy to deal with.”
Edited to add that the state-identified sites are different from county-identified sites.