Long Beach plans to open a year-round homeless shelter in 2020 after leaders agreed Tuesday night to purchase land in North Long Beach for $9.5 million.

Mayor Robert Garcia called the vote a huge step forward toward addressing an issue that has not only gripped the city, but the state as a whole as the number of people living on the streets has swelled in recent years.

Garcia thanked the state in providing nearly all of the funding the purchase of the property—the city will contribute $1.5 million of the cost—and he thanked the neighborhood for not rejecting it.

“What I’ve seen from the North Long Beach neighbors and the community has honestly been so moving and so touching to see how you all stepped forward and embraced what will be a campus that is going to be there to help people and those people in our community that need our help,” Garcia said.

The 2.5-acre parcel of land near the border with Compton and Paramount, now the site of warehouses and a liquor store, will include a 125-bed shelter, and eventually other services to help the homeless, officials said.

City reveals location of year-round homeless shelter with goal for 2020 opening

Acquiring the land, the business, its liquor license, inventory and helping the business relocate were factored into the final $9.5 million purchase price.

Funding for the purchase price will come largely from state and county grant money, including $8 million of the purchase price and another $3 million in county funds to retrofit the property.

Some members of the community questioned the high price of the land itself, which was assessed at $7.5 million, according to a staff report.

The Long Beach Reform Coalition, a group of residents that challenged the city’s push for four charter amendments last year, said that the agreement had the appearance of impropriety and called for immediate transparency.

Ian Patton, executive director of the coalition, said the land sold for $2 million just a few years ago.

Long Beach Economic Development Director John Keisler said that the price had been driven up by a multitude of factors, including the city’s recent cannabis ordinance that had increased the demand for warehouse space.

Keisler said that if the city would have used a tactic like eminent domain it would likely have incurred other expenses like legal challenges from the business and possibly having to accept an appraisal from a party hired by the business.

“This saves us a tremendous amount of time and cost by doing a cooperative sale,” Keisler said. “These are all members of our community and we really love when we can do a cooperative sale and make everyone whole.”

He added that the appraisal would be released after the close of escrow which is expected to be at the end of May.

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Residents from the neighborhood largely spoke in support of the project saying that it was the right thing to do, and that despite the price, the impacts that it will have on people’s lives could be priceless.

The city recently conducted its biannual homeless count of which figures are not yet available, but its 2017 report showed that 1,863 persons were either unsheltered or were utilizing emergency or transitional housing. The addition of the year-round shelter will bring the city’s total to about 400 beds.

Several residents praised Councilman Rex Richardson, who represents the area, for his advocacy on the issue and called for other members of the City Council to do the same so North Long Beach is not the only part of the city to step up to help those without homes.

“I’ve seen the Army reserve station almost become a homeless shelter and residents in that area said not in my backyard,” said 19-year Long Beach resident Maricela de Rivera.

“I have seen very recently residents in another part of Long Beach form their own militia and say not in my backyard. That was simply about not wanting people to exist in their neighborhood. I have seen my neighbors in District 9, say ‘Yes, in my backyard’ because we are going to help people.”

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz__LB on Twitter.

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