OC Roundup: Board of Supervisors Balk on Homeless Shelters, OCTA to Purchase Streetcar Vehicles

Photo by Russell Bynum, from LongBeachize
Photo by Russell Bynum, from LongBeachize

Orange County has been headlining state and national news for the past months–especially last week–because of the way the region is dealing, or not, with its homeless crisis. It would be too soon to say the coverage has reached a high point, as the next phase continues to outdo.

First, the very visible and growing homeless encampment on the Santa Ana River Trail captured the attention of County officials and residents neighboring the trail; the County tried to evict said homeless residents; the County, Costa Mesa, Anaheim, and Orange were sued; and a federal judge stayed the eviction until a plan was in place to move and shelter the river trail residents. The County hastily created a plan: move the more than 400 river trail residents temporarily to motels, connect them to social and health services, and build temporary shelters around the County, with Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel identified as areas to start building. All this action has also brought renewed attention to the long-term homeless encampment at the Santa Ana Civic Center.

On Tuesday, the county ended its plan to build shelters after a fierce backlash from the communities they were planned for. More than 2,000 people went to Tuesday’s board of supervisor’s meeting, most of them protesting the County’s plan to put shelters in their communities. Those cities also planned to sue the county if the plan moved forward. Not to be outdone, Costa Mesa got in on the anti-homeless action by adopting a resolution against converting the Fairview Developmental Center into a homeless shelter.

You think it’s over? This is from today:

This saga changes almost every week and every day. While the County’s homeless population is smaller than in other communities across the state, the crisis is similar to the story playing out in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Who knows where this story will end up next. The homeless residents who were moved to motels will see their vouchers end this week. Some may receive an extension on those vouchers, but the number of options to create new shelter are dwindling, and there is little sign of a clear path forward.

Image: OCTA
Image: OCTA

OCTA Buys Its Streetcars

The OCTA board of directors on Monday approved a $51.5 million contract to purchase eight streetcar vehicles from Siemens Industries for the Santa Ana-Garden Grove OC Streetcar. The vehicles are 88 feet long and have 70 seats, carrying up to 180 passengers at a time. The streetcars will have doors on each side, operator cabs in the front and back, and level boarding.

Earlier this month, the date to open construction bids for the OC Streetcar was changed to April 27 because of a delay in acquiring one residential and two commercial properties in the project area. Also, a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transportation Authority to pay for about half of the project’s costs hadn’t been secured.

The OC Streetcar project is estimated to cost $299 million, with funding coming from Measure M, Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, and a mix of state and federal funding.