As the city of Tracy works toward completing a homeless shelter at the north end of town, more options are starting to emerge, including potential use of an 11th Street motel, that could allow the city to get people off the streets, out of city parks and into housing.

During the Tracy City Council’s last meeting on Sept. 21 the council got an update on the new shelter, which will have a complete design by the end of October, is expected to cost about $7.3 million, and will go out for a construction bid by the end of November. The city now expects to have it ready for occupancy by May of next year.

In addition, the city will look at applying for part of a $1.4 billion funding package for the state’s Project Homekey initiative. The grants are available through the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Project Homekey, which started as a way to get people into housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, allows local jurisdictions to create housing, often by using existing structures such as hotels and commercial buildings, in addition to existing homes.

At last week’s meeting, Jaime Medina, who helped open a warming center for the homeless at the Tracy Community Center last winter when he was with FIX’D Inc., told the council that he recently learned that the Royal Motel on West 11th Street at Lincoln Boulevard is for sale.

“That would be a 32-room, permanent supportive housing, and as you know, the hardest part about this is to find permanent supportive housing,” he told the council. Medina explained that San Joaquin County, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development and the San Joaquin Continuum of Care could be partners in the endeavor.

He said he has been in contact with the owner, and also estimated, based on his conversations with a local contractor, that all 32 motel rooms could be fully equipped with stoves, cabinets and ventilation for about $230,000.

“I’d like to see you guys direct staff, if you could please, to at least pursue the option, and let’s show the rest of San Joaquin County how we get things done,” said Medina.

The council’s direction to city staff last week, approved on a unanimous vote, was to complete work on the Arbor Avenue project, look for options for a warming center for the winter, taking into consideration that the Tracy Community Center won’t be available as it was this past winter because of COVID-19 closures, and examine options for how the city could put some of the state’s Project Homekey funding to use here in town.

Mayor Nancy Young said this week that the key to researching Project Homekey options is to be sure the city has matching funds to participate in the project.

“It’s great to have ideas, but we need to make sure we have the finances to sustain whatever our portion would be,” she said.

She added that the possibility of using the Royal Motel is appealing and, should a third party want to participate, it would make the possibility even more attractive.

When the council will consider the matter is uncertain and would depend on city staff determining how willing the owner is to sell, what the price would be, how long it would take to make the purchase, and whether any other private or public entities want to participate.

“That would be great if we could do a partnership with that, so it wouldn’t affect our finances,” Young said. “We did want it to come back in the next month, because it is time-sensitive with grant funding.”

The council was receptive to the idea of participating in Project Homekey but wanted the shelter project currently under way for Arbor Avenue to take priority. In the meantime, the council wants city staff to look into what the city’s commitment would be before it considers whether the Royal Motel has the potential for a local Project Homekey initiative.

“Given that it’s a limited time opportunity I would like for at least a memorandum of viability to be issued if not to the council, but to the Homelessness Advisory Subcommittee, to be evaluated,” said Councilman Dan Arriola, who is on that committee, along with Councilwoman Eleassia Davis.

“My understanding was there are opportunities for partnerships, so perhaps if we could get a viability memorandum then perhaps we could join with some of our partners so they could supplement some of our staff’s efforts,” Arriola said.

Davis said she also is interested in the project but doesn’t know enough about the proposal to make a commitment one way or another at this time.

“It took this council a long time to get to the point where we could even have this temporary emergency housing shelter, and I commend council and staff for getting there, but when I think about permanent housing it’s definitely something our community needs to have a conversation about,” Davis said.

“I would like to see the viability conversation happen. I would like to talk to other stakeholders who might have an interest in supporting the city on this. I’d like to talk to the county about what they’re willing to do.”

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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