Half Moon Bay councilmembers on Thursday questioned officials on the county government’s sudden upcoming purchase of the Coastside Inn and Quality Inn, which will become transitional housing units.

The two hotels’ purchase and renovation is part of the county’s push to provide more long-term housing for the homeless population by buying up hotels throughout San Mateo County. Two other proposals are in Redwood City. The Thursday meeting was merely informational to give city officials and the public the chance to ask questions and figure out ways to partner with the county to ensure things run smoothly. The county does not need Half Moon Bay City Council approval to buy and turn the properties into transitional housing. However, both sides hope to work together to ensure everyone is satisfied. The county is holding its meeting Dec. 8 to purchase the two hotel properties.

San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley said purchasing the two hotels will allow the coastside area to reduce homelessness significantly. The Quality Inn is located in the district of Miramar, while Coastside Inn is in downtown Half Moon Bay. He said the county’s goal is not to buy the hotels and have people live in them indefinitely but instead allow people to get back on their feet during this tough time. Horsley said 11% of the homeless live on the coastside, despite only having 7% of the population.

“It really gives us a great opportunity really to address a lot of problems that plague the whole county,” Horsley said.

Horsley said the county would provide help and services to Half Moon Bay to ensure it doesn’t struggle. This includes law enforcement problems, as Half Moon Bay’s Sheriff’s Office bureau is not large.

“We will deal with whatever problems crop up; we will deal with them. We will provide support,” Horsley said.

Half Moon Bay City Manager Bob Nisbet on Friday said the county would be responsible for funding or providing services at the properties. However, the city will lose out on Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT, because the two properties will no longer be hotels. Nisbet said city and county officials would discuss those issues and possible compromises in the upcoming days before the county buys the property to find solutions. The upcoming meetings will also decide how the partnership will work in the future. County officials said they were open to working on compromises with the city on any concerns. Nesbit said both sides are on the same page conceptually but will have to work on the details.

“I’m confident in finding a deal,” Nisbet said.

Nisbet said the project came up suddenly within the last week when San Mateo County brought the information to Half Moon Bay officials. He said homelessness is one of the biggest challenges California faces. He believes local governments should do their best to provide housing opportunities to people who are homeless.

San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said at the meeting the county has 200 homeless people in hotels right now, which Callagy said is not sustainable. Callagy said the county must buy the property with CARES Act funding by the end of the year, or the county would lose the funding. He believes a better long-term strategy is to buy hotels, house people, and work with them to find permanent homes. He also said COVID-19 had increased the urgency to find temporary housing.

“We have got to get these folks who are homeless off the street during the pandemic,” Callagy said.

The county said it used hotel properties for transitional housing because it has separate rooms and bathrooms, decreasing the chance of transmission of COVID-19. Everyone in transitional housing would have separate rooms.

The county has not decided on nonprofit partners to run the transitional housing. Callagy said the county has not put out a request for proposal, or RFP, for the project. He said the Half Moon Bay City Council would have the opportunity to interview the company after the county selects it but before the company signs a contract with the county.

Members of the City Council got a chance to ask clarifying questions and make comments, as did the public. The public was generally supportive of helping the homeless population through the properties. Most of their questions to county officials were about long-term issues. These topics included what the property would mean for local ordinances, what happens long term with the housing and how long people would be living in transitional housing.

Councilman Harvey Rarback believes finding housing is the best way to help the homeless rebuild their lives. He also encouraged the county to consider housing families in its hotels, as some families are homeless on the coast.

“Housing first is the way to go. I really support this program very strongly,” Rarback said.

Joaquin Jimenez, a member of the Latino Advisory Council and councilman-elect, said his organization strongly supported the project. He knows more than 50 people in the area who are homeless and need help. He believes the two hotels will help the homeless population in Half Moon Bay and fill a community need.

“This is something we have been asking for for a long time,” Jimenez said.

Mayor Adam Eisen asked for another public meeting between the city and the county to be scheduled in the upcoming weeks to discuss the issue due to public interest in the topic.

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