Orange County Board Opposes Silverado Homeless Shelter Proposal

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The Orange County Board of Supervisors today rejected a proposal from mayors in the county's southern cities that would establish an emergency shelter for the area's homeless in Silverado.

Dozens of Silverado residents implored the board to reject an emergency shelter for transients at 7531 E. Santiago Canyon Road.

The mayors touted the county-owned, 11-acre site in a letter to supervisors last week. It includes two former schools, one of which is vacant.

Lake Forest officials opposed the plan.

The proposal came out of a meeting of 11 mayors and city managers from southern county cities Thursday. The meeting came out of a hearing in federal court earlier in the month when U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of the county's anti-camping ordinances, suggested to the county's southern cities that they needed to do more to support shelters for the county's transients.

When Lake Forest City Manager Debra D. Rose began explaining why the city opposed the site in Silverado, Supervisor Todd Spitzer accused the mayors of a ``cop out.''

``You guys all decided you'd push this somewhere else,'' despite promises from multiple mayors to try to find housing for the homeless in their cities, Spitzer said.

Spitzer accused the mayors of hypocrisy when they decried a proposal from the county to consider shelters in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach.

``You say, `Don't do this to us,' but then you turned around and did it to another community,'' Spitzer said.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do reminded Spitzer that he led the charge to oppose shelters in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach.

``How is that any less inappropriate to what we have here'' Do asked Spitzer of the Silverado proposal, which Spitzer also opposes.

``It's not sprung structures or tents,'' Spitzer said of the difference between the Silverado and the proposals for Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach.

``Temporary structures are not good for anybody,'' Spitzer said.

Instead, Spitzer argued, the county should be focused on developing more shelters like the Bridges at Kraemer in Anaheim, which is ``in a light- industrial area, secluded from homes.''

Do then pointed out that Spitzer has ``applauded'' the converted bus terminal in Santa Ana, known as the Courtyard, as an emergency shelter.

``We all agree the Santa Ana bus terminal is inappropriate -- it shouldn't be permanent,'' Spitzer replied.

``We have intermediate needs to address, and that gives us time to address long-term needs,'' Do said of emergency shelters. ``What do we do in the meantime?''

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said county officials should consider a ``scattered site model'' as suggested by Lake Forest Mayor Jim Gardner.

``While it may be ideal to have one large location,'' Bartlett said, ``If we need to have a scattered site model then we need to consider those options and what works for everybody.''

Aliso Viejo Mayor Dave Harrington, who was at last week's meeting of mayors, told City News Service the Silverado site wasn't the only option.

``The idea that we came up with that and whoop, peace out is ridiculous,'' Harrington said. ``We just said that, yes, that site would work for us as one site.''

The mayors moved up their next meeting to May 10 to discuss other sites for a regional shelter.

``I don't think any site is going to be perfect or embraced by any community,'' Harrington said. ``But we'll meet again on the 10th and continue working.''

Inaction could lead Carter to impose a restraining order that prevents cities from enforcing anti-camping and anti-loitering ordinances if those municipalities cannot prove they have enough shelter beds for the homeless.

Under Carter's guidance, the county moved hundreds of transients off of the Santa Ana riverbed encampments and also got hundreds more out of the Santa Ana civic center area, including an encampment next to the Central Justice Center courthouse.

Santa Ana officials have voted to direct their attorneys to sue Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach and drag those cities into the federal lawsuit. Carter has pointed out that the other cities in the county risk being dragged into the litigation as well if they don't join the ongoing efforts to house all of the county's transients.

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