Another hotel could be added to San Mateo County’s inventory of housing sites after the Board of Supervisors expressed an intent to purchase Redwood City’s Comfort Inn & Suites on Tuesday.

The 51-bedroom hotel, located at 1818 El Camino Real, would cost the county $17 million to purchase and would be one of five sites under the county’s ownership. Most of the hotels are functioning as temporary transitional housing for the unsheltered while Shores Landing in Redwood City’s Redwood Shores neighborhood provides housing to vulnerable seniors.

The purchase will help provide housing for residents in shelters or Redwood City’s RV Safe Parking lot, Mayor Giselle Hale said.

“The community wants solutions to rising homelessness,” Hale said. “We appreciate the county’s shared commitment to partnering with the city, neighbors and the community in welcoming this new affordable housing opportunity for our residents experiencing homelessness.”

Like Shores Landing, the Comfort Inn & Suites would be renovated into permanent affordable housing but for residents of the other transitional sites. County Manager Mike Callagy said the site is well suited to serve as studio apartments given that the rooms are already fitted with kitchenette plumbing. A laundry room, guest lobby, breakfast room and 49 parking spaces are also located on-site.

“This is going to be key because we can’t be stuck with just homeless hotels. We‘ve got to have paths to permanent housing,” Callagy said.

He estimated construction and maintenance costs could add up to $600,000. He noted current estimates show about the same amount of money is necessary for building just one affordable housing unit.

The county is currently seeking funding support from the state through its Project Homekey program, an initiative aimed at helping jurisdictions develop housing solutions born out of Project Roomkey, a similar but temporary COVID-19 initiative.

The county has already received more than $100 million through the state program, enabling three hotel purchases. Most recently, the county was awarded $70 million to purchase the Stone Villa Inn, a 44-room hotel in San Mateo, and to cover the initial costs of developing a modern navigation center in Redwood City.

“That’s tremendous and this is going to go a long way to help us realize the board’s goal of functional zero homelessness,” Callagy said.

Officials have routinely highlighted their goal of achieving functional zero homelessness meaning being homeless is rare, brief and never chronic. According to the county’s 2019 One Day Homeless County, roughly 1,512 people were experiencing homelessness, living in RVs or cars, on the streets or within shelters.

Since the start of the state’s program, county staff has worked to purchase sites in all corners of the Peninsula with north county still being the only area now without a shelter. Callagy said the county is actively looking for a hotel to purchase and has made inquires to a number of sites that have failed to gain responses.

“It’s not for a lack of trying,” Callagy said. “We’re hopeful that that day will come.”

Getting the sites operable as quickly as possible is the county’s current goal, Callagy said. Once the purchase of the Comfort Inn & Suites is complete, Callagy said renovations could take up to six months. Officials also aim to have the navigation center running by the end of the year.

Eventually, Callagy said the goal is to replace the temporary housing sites with permanent housing solutions.

Meanwhile, an agency will likely be tapped to run the hotel-turned-affordable housing sites as has been done with the other facilities but the types of on-site resources available will depend on the needs of tenants.

Speaking toward any potential concerns from neighbors about the county’s purchase, Callagy assured the public that staff will be available to work through any potential issues while ensuring the site provides necessary housing to the most vulnerable.

“We’re going to be there to support these people,” Callagy said. “And we’re laser-focused on working with the community.”

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(4) comments

Dirk van Ulden

Why wouldn't anyone who now lives in substandard housing declare him/herself homeless? That hotel arrangement is quite attractive and will likely bring another horde of unhoused persons to the County. We should pack these individuals up and house them in surplus military barracks but those are probably not up to the standards of the homeless advocates.

Tommy Tee

Thank you, Ebenezer Scrooge. I'm surprised you didn't say, "Let them die and decrease the surplus population." You're a real pip.

Terence Y

Tommy, exactly how many homeless folks are you allowing to stay in your residence? Or do you prefer to let them die to decrease the surplus population? BTW, Happy New Year!

Dirk van Ulden

My, my Tommy - another emotional outburst from you. I never said or meant to let them die but house them in military barracks. Those quarters were determined good enough for me when I was drafted. So, why put them up in luxury while ignoring the poor who are now living in substandard housing? The signal to the unhoused, for whom the County bears little if any responsibility, come on in and it will attract even more. SFco is a good example. But, as Terence noted, you are most welcome to bring them into your home.

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