As the days count down toward the June 15 close of escrow on property purchased by the County of Orange for a homeless shelter on St. College Blvd. and Walnut Ave., suggestions for alternative sites continue to be made. Residents near the proposed shelter location have persistently expressed concerns about its proximity to an elementary school and neighborhood. Many have wondered why the county has not seemed seriously interested in considering similar properties that might still meet the needs of the local homeless population without negatively impacting the surrounding area.
One such possible alternative is a 22,500 square foot former Delco office and sales showroom in an industrial park on the west side of Fullerton. 1930 Raymer Ave. is bordered on the south side by railroad tracks, which also separate the complex from the nearest neighborhood to the east. A bus stop is located just up the street on Gilbert St. It is also quite close to the homeless encampment just north of the now closed Hunt Branch Library, offering the possibility of more substantial shelter to those currently sleeping there in tents.
The property’s broker, Brian Chastain of Colliers, tells Sharon Kennedy of The Fullerton Observer that he has nine other properties that meet the criteria required by the county for a homeless shelter. OC Fourth District Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who has defended the selection of the St. College property, has reportedly indicated that he will investigate this suggested alternative. He is said to have already contacted Mr. Chastain. Although Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker referred to the selection of the St. College location as “real estate driven,” Mr. Nelson has rejected claims that the property was chosen to benefit the broker, Vanguard Commercial Real Estate, whose owner is a close friend and contributor to Mr. Nelson’s campaigns.
The Fullerton City Council’s next meeting is not planned until June 18th, three days after close of escrow on the St. College site. Although the council postponed a decision over an agreement with the county establishing the shelter, their initial balk may be of little consequence if they have no alternative to the county’s plans. Unless some leadership from city hall emerges to overcome the impasse, we may hear the council instead reluctantly, but impotently, go along with the county’s plans to open a homeless shelter near an elementary school over the objections of local residents when there might be better alternative sites available.