San Mateo County celebrates new 240-unit navigation center
Nearly a year to the day after breaking ground, San Mateo County leaders gathered in Redwood City to celebrate the completion of the county’s new 240-unit navigation center, a housing complex meant to offer wraparound services to some of the area’s most vulnerable residents.
“We could not be more proud of the launch of this navigation center,”
said Dave Pine, president of the Board of Supervisors, during a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday.
“Here at the navigation center we offer hope, that’s the most important, we offer hope in giving those who are willing a place to call home and a chance to get back on their feet.”
In about a month, LifeMoves, the nonprofit tapped to run the new navigation center, will begin moving residents into the site. Once moved in, residents will have access to dental and medical care, behavioral health care like mental health and substance use disorder services, job readiness and other services.
Amenities will also include onsite laundry, a community garden, 140 bicycle parking spaces, WiFi, a barbecue area, a dog run, pet-friendly policies and animal care classes, a basketball court and multiple resting areas.
Of the units, 168 will have private bathrooms. Residents in the other 72 units will have access to a communal bathroom. The site will also have a communal electric commercial kitchen and dining space and community hall for on-site counseling and other services.
Officials have aimed to reduce barriers to entry as much as possible by permitting animals and couples to live together, not implementing a sobriety rule — though onsite drug use will still be prohibited — and noting those with criminal pasts will still be welcomed.
Fighting for functional zero
The site is meant to help the county reach functional zero, a goal for homelessness to be rare, brief and never repeated. About 1,808 county residents live without shelter, according to a biannual One Day Homeless Count conducted last February.
“We want low-barrier [entry]. We want to take all comers that can be safe for other clients, we want to take them with their pets, we want to take them with their behavioral health challenges,” said Brian Greenberg, LifeMoves’ vice president of programs and services. “We want to take people who have had all kinds of offenses and give people the opportunity to reinvent themselves. You can’t clear out encampments where people have been living together for a decade unless it’s low-threshold, low-barrier.”
Construction on the site is nearly complete, taking just over a year to build out thanks to the use of prefabricated modular units shipped up from Los Angeles and pieced together like Legos, said Sam Lin, director of the county’s Project Development Unit.
Multiple officials highlighted how unprecedented the development time frame was. Typically, they said, construction on such a site would take much longer. But buy-in from multiple agencies and bodies enabled permits to be approved quickly and the construction team pushed forward and overcame winter storm setbacks.
The site, designed by the Office of Charles Bloszies, a San Francisco architectural firm, and constructed by XL Construction, will also be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified with an all-electric and carbon neutral design. Recycled water will irrigate the landscaping and solar will generate about 60% of the project’s estimated energy requirements.
“It has proved to everyone in this country that in one of the most creative and innovative places on earth, we don’t shy away from great challenges. We embrace them and we conquer them as a county,” said County Executive Officer Mike Callagy. “This is the San Mateo County way. We lead, we do not follow and we establish a path for everyone to emulate.”
Path to progress
Tuesday’s ribbon cutting event was full of praise and thanks for the local leaders who helped bring the vision for a new non-congregate homeless shelter to life. For more than a decade, county officials had sought out a location for the site, said former Supervisor Don Horsley, who was credited along with fellow former Supervisor Carole Groom with championing the project.
At multiple points along the way, Horsley said officials were met with community pushback. Finally, a land swap between the county and Redwood City allowed the project to move forward, though that negotiation process was also met with community concern with some saying the area was unfit for housing while also advocating for a community park.
Under the land swap agreement, the city traded a 2.5-acre parcel at 1469 Maple St. with a 2-acre county-owned parcel at 1580 Maple St. just near the Redwood City Police Department. In addition to the navigation center, the county is also in the process of planning for a 100% affordable, 110-unit permanent housing project on the site in partnership with MidPen Housing.
Redwood City Vice Mayor Lissette Espinoza-Garnica lauded former and current leaders both from the county and city who helped drive negotiations and shared hope the site and other joint services will help stabilize the lives of county residents.
“Addressing our region’s housing crisis and providing services to all who need them requires collaboration on a grand scale. Redwood City is a proud partner in striving to end homelessness in San Mateo County and today’s celebration is possible because of our work together,”
“It’s been exciting to see the evolution of how we tackle homelessness together.”
A total of $57 million went into building the center with an annual operating cost of $5 million, with $55.3 million coming from state Homekey Grant dollars, $5 million from philanthropist John Sobrato as part of a $5 million match from the county, $1 million donation by business man Vinod Khosla and $500,000 of federal funds for furniture thanks to former U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier.
An additional $125,000 came from Health Plan of San Mateo for dental services, $150,000 from Healthcare for the Homeless for dental equipment and $450,000 from the Sequoia Health Care District for dental services at both the navigation center and Maple Street Correctional Center, according to a county press release.
“Today we are figuratively and literally opening new doors of hope, we’re opening new doors of opportunity and bright futures for our unhoused neighbors. We’re also opening doors to charting courses to stable housing and long-term self-sustainability,”
said LifeMoves CEO Aubrey Merriman.
“And we’re opening doors to realizing that where there is a will — and believe me, it takes a lot of will — there is a way to achieving functional zero homelessness.”
Visit smc-connect.org for information on government and emergency assistance.
(540) 344-5200 ext. 106
Source: San Mateo Daily Journal