To the great dismay of some Goleta Old Town business owners, the city agreed to send a letter of support to turn the three-story Super 8 motel at the corner of Fairview and Hollister into housing for homeless people.
“Goleta has always been and continues to be the dumping grounds for the county,” Tom Johovic wrote to the council. His Goleta Jewelers has occupied 5792 Hollister Avenue for 63 years. “Goleta’s always been the Cinderella stepchild” when it came to projects no one else wanted, he told reporters after Goleta City Council unanimously supported the fast-tracked housing project. “It’s going to be a mess,” he predicted.
Once COVID-19 struck California in March, Governor Gavin Newsom made homeless housing among the state’s many priorities in combating the disease. First came Project Roomkey, which found more than 15,000 hotel and motel rooms statewide to place elderly homeless people and those with chronic illnesses indoors. Goleta’s Super 8 is the top choice for south Santa Barbara County’s part of the Homekey Program, which was funded in late June. The county has until August 13 to file a project application, 90 days to tenant the rooms after funding is granted, and until December 31 to spend the acquisition funds. All these deadlines helped propel Goleta council’s Tuesday afternoon meeting, as well as the city’s ongoing development of a homelessness plan.
Under the sponsorship of the county’s Housing Authority and with the participation of the Behavioral Wellness department, the faded pink motel would hold 15 units of bridge or transitional housing for people coming in off the streets, initially under the aegis of Behavioral Wellness. They hope to first bring indoors older individuals and those with medical conditions. Care workers have found that motels have created a consistent stability for their clients, which allows them to track down the documents, such as disability or veterans’ affairs, that enable them to gain housing.
Another 50 units will be single-occupancy, permanent supportive housing, which includes all-electric kitchenettes, which would be operated under a lease agreement with the Housing Authority. Who would operate the facility was not stated. Certain motel rooms would act as places for meetings, counseling, services, and minor health-care needs.
The motel is for sale at $7.75 million, with some of that to come from the $22 million allocated to five counties, including Santa Barbara. The county Housing Authority would be the buyer and has already secured the other funding required, matching funds, and the needed supportive services through the county and the regional Continuum of Care. The funds include security and improvements such as painting and landscaping.
Putting the facility at the entrance to Old Town was an acknowledged deficit in the plans. But John Polansky, representing the Housing Authority at the meeting, gave Isla Vista’s Pescadero Lofts as an example of a successful project like this. “In the community, people forget that it’s serving people who were formerly homeless.”
Not all who wrote to the council opposed the project. Many supported housing the homeless. Several cited the fires that erupted near homeless camps along the 101 in July — both as reasons to house the homeless and as a reason not to trust them in a kitchen. Business owner Phoebe Mansur, a longtime booster of Old Town who has befriended several homeless people, added that they were sleeping in doorways more frequently.
Another speaker, who supported housing for homeless people, added nonetheless that putting the project right at the entrance to Old Town would be hard on the community and businesses that were barely making it. “This is just going to kill us,” she said.
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