Addressing the needs of the homeless is a high priority for the County, especially during the winter months. The County utilizes funding from the Federal Government to provide for overnight sleeping facilities at one armory in Santa Ana and one in Fullerton. Unfortunately, the Federal Government informed the County yesterday that the funding would halt on March 1st, instead of April 1st, as was expected. Thus, while the U.S. President was harvesting campaign contributions in Corona del Mar this morning, federal funding was cut for the poor in other locations in the OC. I find it to be an awkward contrast. The County CEO is in the process of locating scarce funds to keep these two armories open through the end of March, and the County is continues to do its best to address the needs of the least, the last, and the lost (an expression used by a local nonprofit homeless shelter provider).
Speaking of homelessness, on Valentine’s Day, Acting Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters and I had a productive luncheon meeting. We agreed to keep our conversations with the media on the topic to a minimum. Consequently, the Voice of OC article below is brief.
Moorlach and Walters Chat About County’s Homelessness Issues
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach and acting Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters Tuesday "gave each other tasks to pursue" in coming weeks in an effort to aid the large numbers of homeless adults who live in and around the Civic Center.
Walters serves on the county commission to end homelessness, and Moorlach is the commission chairman.
Moorlach wants the county to use an empty bus terminal across from the Civic Center as a shelter for homeless people. Santa Ana opposes it, because it wants long-term solutions to homelessness, not a permanent shelter that might attract more homeless adults to the area.
Moorlach said he and Walters agreed not to publicly discuss details of their luncheon discussion.
"There were no surprises," Moorlach said but added, "We gave each other tasks to pursue."
He also said: "Paul was wonderful. We had a good chat." He added he didn’t want to give more detail other than to say, "We’re going to move forward on ideas and leave it at that."
Each man represents a critical role in the county’s effort to end homelessness in 10 years. The county is a major funnel for federal and state dollars that could finance mental health, housing, jobs, and drug and alcohol programs. City streets currently house hundreds of adults, mostly men, with nowhere else to sleep.
— TRACY WOOD
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Alicia Robinson of the Daily Pilot provided an update on the fun I was having with Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Norby on the topic of redevelopment. Now Assemblyman Norby has achieved his crowning victory in having every redevelopment agency in the state closed down. He was on that path while he was here on the Board. The piece was titled “Leader urges Santa Ana Heights action – Supervisor says county should keep its promises to make improvements in area near airport.” I would say that taking leadership on this issue was something that was done in the nick of time. Here is the piece in full:
New efforts at the county level have sparked progress on a list of projects in Santa Ana Heights, including the widening of Irvine Avenue and development of a park at Mesa Drive and Birch Street.
The seven projects, worth roughly $14.7 million, have been mired in bureaucracy, some for more than 10 years.
Since his election in November, Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and his staff have drawn up a list of what needs to be done and a timeline to get there.
The money wasn’t the problem. Santa Ana Heights is in a redevelopment area created to address the negative effects of nearby John Wayne Airport, and it has a $40-million fund to spruce things up.
Supervisor Chris Norby has said he wants to shut down the county’s redevelopment agencies, but Moorlach believes officials should complete promised work first.
"The biggest pushback I’ve had with Santa Ana Heights is the redevelopment agency — we’ve got a board chair who doesn’t like them," Moorlach said. "We’re saying, ‘Fine, here’s what it was structured for, here’s what’s left to do.’ "
He recently set a timeline to move projects out of the planning stage and into construction. Supervisors still must approve the spending, but Moorlach thinks he can convince them.
Norby said Thursday that he would support at least some of the public improvements in Santa Ana Heights, and he’s "definitely supportive of resolving all the issues there and then shutting the agency."
Several projects will come to the board for approval this summer, the first being 1,200 feet of new sidewalk on Bristol Street in June. A plan to widen Irvine Avenue from four to six lanes between Mesa Drive and Bristol Street and refurbishment of a park on Orchard Drive would follow later this summer.
"It’s great news for us," said Barbara Venezia, who chairs an advisory committee representing Santa Ana Heights residents. "I think when he [Moorlach] says these projects are worthwhile to do, people will take a second look."
Other projects on the list include repaving and utility line burial on Kline Drive, horse riding arenas, and the Mesa-Birch park, a project the board rejected last year.
Moorlach also is proposing money for a defunct community center project be used to supplement a fire station that’s over budget.
That’s a relief to Newport Beach, which was heading the project.
The eastern half of Santa Ana Heights is part of Newport Beach, and residents of the western half are seeking annexation, so city officials took the lead on the fire station at Acacia Street and Mesa Drive.
What started out as a $4.1-million facility is now at least $12 million, Moorlach said.
"As long as those projects are funded and completed, we’re happy," Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau said.
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