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By C. Jayden Smith

The San Clemente City Council voted, 3-2, on Nov. 16 to authorize the city’s application and receipt of funding from a state-sponsored program to assist those in San Clemente experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness.

Councilmember Steve Knoblock and Mayor Pro Tem Gene James voted against adopting the resolution.

The city will receive $482,867 in January 2022 for the first two years of funds provided by the Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) program that was established in 2017, when former Gov. Edmund “Jerry” Brown signed the Building Jobs and Homes Act.

The city will also receive around $217,000 each of the next three years, totaling an estimated grant amount of $1,134,240.

After the State Housing and Community Development Department released a Notice of Funding Availability in February 2020 for calendar year 2019, the City Council decided in July 2020 to wait to apply for both 2019 and 2020 funds.

The city is eligible to receive $189,040 in 2019 funds and $293,827 from 2020.

The PLHA financially supports local governments’ efforts in eligible housing and homelessness activities, provided that they meet any of the 10 eligible uses listed by the program and that the city submits a five-year plan stating how they would spend its grant money.

The program is secured through a $75 fee on recording of real estate documents, through which it uses 70% of the revenues collected to provide financial assistance to municipalities.

City staff presented the grant opportunity and eligible funding options to the Human Affairs Committee during a Sept. 20 meeting. Staff included the option to fund eligible activities that would either:

  • Assist persons experiencing or are at risk of homelessness; or
  • Allow the city to predevelop, develop, acquire, rehabilitate and preserve affordable rental and ownership housing, including Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

Under the former option, referred to as activity No. 6, the city could use the funds to retain its current full-time community outreach worker and hire a second one through 2026, as well pay for travel expenses to transport program participants, or support a rapid rehousing program.

For the latter activity, identified as activity No. 2, the city could provide loans to homeowners for the development or rehabilitation of ADUs and/or preserve affordable rental housing by funding organizations such as Mary Erickson Community Housing.

Human Affairs recommended supporting activity No. 6, specifically by funding two community outreach positions, as well as transportation assistance.

The current community outreach worker, Karlie Hunter, has worked with the city for five months, providing street outreach engagement and case management services to the homeless population within San Clemente.

Her case management duties require performing individual assessments, inputting data into Orange County’s Homeless Management Information System, working with local service providers for referrals, and providing transportation assistance.

Community Development Director Cecilia Gallardo-Daly said during her presentation at the council meeting that staff agrees with Human Affairs’ recommendation, as all the tasks required of Hunter reduce her opportunities to conduct street outreach.

“The thought is that the second full-time community outreach worker could provide street outreach 50% of the time, while the other 50% of their time could be spent providing case management, uploading data information, and preparing those monthly reports,” Gallardo-Daly said.

Once Councilmember Chris Duncan confirmed that the council was not in favor of activity No. 2, he commented that he did not see a way for individuals to take full advantage of the outreach and services provided by both the city and Orange County unless they had a stable environment.

He added that he supported eligible activity No. 5, listed as capitalized reserves for services connected to the preservation and creation of new permanent supportive housing, and that the homeless numbers in the city had not changed significantly despite Hunter’s efforts.

“I’d like to see that we don’t have any people at North Beach, so that we have quality of life and safety for all people in the city,” Duncan said. “I don’t think we can do that if there’s not housing with services connected for those people to go to. I just don’t think we can do it.”

Mayor Kathy Ward said she was not certain that the incoming $217,000 per year over the next three years would do enough for supportive housing. Councilmember Laura Ferguson and James agreed.

“A lot of (the spending) is transportation to get to Santa Ana, where clearly the Board of Supervisors have all the services,” Ward said. 

Knoblock, who voted against adopting the resolution, disagreed with Human Affairs’ recommendation, and said he supported activity Nos. 2 and 9, which stipulates that local governments provide homeownership opportunities including, but not limited to, down payment assistance.

He added that he didn’t see anywhere in the five-year plan that addressed affordable housing.

“The reason why housing is so expensive is that land is expensive, and the process to build a home is incredibly expensive,” Knoblock said. “I didn’t see anything in here that suggested an analysis of any kind regarding the planning and permitting process to streamline the process to make it more affordable and easier for people to build.”

Within the proposed plan, the funding for retaining the two outreach workers will receive 85% of the PLHA allocations for 2022 and 2023, and will increase to 90% over the final three years. The transportation costs will initially receive 10% of the allocations before decreasing to 5%, and the administrative allocation for city staff will remain at 5% throughout the plan’s lifetime.

The city can carry over unexpended funds into the next program year but must spend it all by April 30, 2028.

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in Dec. 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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