Homelessness Panel Delays Request to Buy Bus Station

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

The shuttered bus terminal in downtown Santa Ana that will be used as an emergency homeless shelter.

A proposal before the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness for converting an empty bus station in Santa Ana into a year-round homeless shelter is being hung up by opposition from Santa Ana officials.

On Friday, the Homelessness Commission decided to ask the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to delay selling the bus station while it confers with city officials. The action postponed a vote on whether to ask the Orange County Board of Supervisors to buy the station.

Jay M. Trevino, Santa Ana’s executive director for planning and building, told the commission the empty bus station is in the wrong place to be used as a permanent homeless shelter because it is too close to downtown businesses.

Instead, Trevino and acting Santa Ana City Manager Paul Walters, a member of the Homelessness Commission, said the city hoped to have plans in place by this summer for new zoning in commercial or other areas that would allow for homeless housing.

The Homelessness Commission is trying to put an end of homelessness in Orange County, and one of the most critical issues will be gaining the cooperation of local cities and neighborhoods.

The empty bus station is across the street from the county Hall of Administration where supervisors hold their meetings. The station is owned by OCTA and is up for sale. The Homelessness Commission agenda included a vote on whether to send a letter to the supervisors urging them to buy the bus station.

Instead, the homelessness board voted to send OCTA a letter asking for a time extension on the sale so that the city and county can try to reach agreement.

Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach, who chairs the Homelessness Commission and sits on the OCTA board, abstained from voting. He has urged the supervisors to use the empty bus station as a year-round shelter for dozens of homeless men and women who currently live on the sidewalks around the Civic Center.

But Walters, who would be involved in the discussions with Santa Ana, told the homelessness board, “I’m not abstaining.”