Do Pushes to Fast-Track Bus Terminal Purchase for Temporary Homeless Shelter

Kaitlin Washburn for Voice of OC

County Supervisor Andrew Do at a recent County Supervisors meeting.

When the county started the purchasing process last month for an abandoned bus terminal next to the Santa Ana Civic Center, the thinking was that it would provide shelter and services for hundreds of homeless people when the El Niño rains came.

But last week the first of the rains arrived and the terminal was still locked shut. Across the street, the homeless sought shelter under pieces of tarp. And that was just the first wave – meteorologists are expecting El Niño storms through March.

It turns out that the county supervisors’ purchase approval simply kicked off a 90-day escrow period. That means the county isn’t expected to get control of the property from the Orange County Transportation Authority until sometime in April.

Faced with that delay – and pressure from the public – county officials now seem to be finding a faster solution.

At Tuesday’s county board meeting, Supervisor Andrew Do directed county CEO Frank Kim and real estate chief Scott Mayer to work with OCTA on getting a limited-term lease to use the terminal as an emergency homeless shelter for this year’s El Niño season.

His directive included a quick turnaround for lease approval with the  understanding that the agreement also depends on approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). And he asked that the county’s federal lobbyist, Jim McConnell, be brought in if his work would be helpful

“The issue is urgent and the need is here. And we have already experienced the onset of the El Niño storms,” Do said.

He asked that the lease be brought to the board no later than their Jan. 26 meeting – if not earlier – and be coupled with an approval for a shelter provider.

Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett also asked that the county look at the earthquake-readiness of the structure and liability issues for the short-term use.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for OCTA and federal officials to grant the approvals and get the temporary shelter up and running.

OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik said his agency doesn’t have a timeline for the approvals, but its staff are talking with county staff on developing a lease “that would then have to be approved by FTA.”

An FTA spokesperson said late Thursday that the agency hasn’t received a formal request to use the terminal for homeless shelter services.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at

  • Paul Lucas

    When the purchase is complete will the homeless be bale to move in right away or will they have to wait for another period of time for preparation? In OC that wold mean after the el nino.

  • LFOldTimer

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the rain. I just checked the long-term forecast over at the Register’s website. We may get an afternoon shower on 01/19 then a sprinkle or two on 01/30 and 02/01. And maybe a couple inches (if we’re lucky) for the rest of February. Otherwise lots of sun. Then I went over to the NOAA website to look at the cumulative rain totals through December. The Santa Ana rain station is at 23% of normal for the season. ha. The media won’t tell you that. But I will. The media is still telling you to prepare for El Nino. ha. So far this whole ‘El Nino’ scare ended up being another Chicken Little episode. ha. No rush on that bus depot. You might think about getting some industrial sized fans and lots of bottled water to put in the bus depot this summer. It’ll probably be a hot one. Droughts usually bring hot weather. In the meantime just let the homeless camp out on the 5th floor lobby during the intermittent showers. That will give you a preview of what the folks over near Kraemer Bl. are in for.

  • Diego Vega

    In crisis there is profit. The BOS need to stall long enough for their benefactors to position themselves to profit from this deal.

  • David Zenger

    Oh, Brother.

    Building 16 sits there right next to where the homeless actually are. It is empty as Pharaoh’s tomb. Just open the damn basement up and let people in when it rains.

    Or, alternately, we could make it drawn out, expensive and stupid.