Costa Mesa and Newport Beach are looking to join forces on a permanent bridge shelter being built near John Wayne Airport. 

The Costa Mesa City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to enter into a 5-year agreement with Newport Beach to team up on the shelter in an effort to address homelessness in the two cities. Council member Allan Mansoor was absent.

Councilman John Stephens said that forming a regional partnership to address homelessness has been a long time coming.

“This is really a great accomplishment for the city to have this regional partnership,” said Stephens. “It’s been a long chronology. It’s been a long slog by a lot of people before I got elected (and) after, in these four years and here we are.”

The creation of the shelter is a result of a lawsuit filed against the County of Orange, and the cities of Anaheim, Orange, and Costa Mesa in 2018 over the removal of homeless people from the Santa Ana riverbed

Costa Mesa last year settled the lawsuit brought by the nonprofit group Orange County Catholic Worker and seven homeless individuals and as a result was directed to provide 62 shelter beds. The city has already provided 12 beds and is temporarily using the Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene to provide the other 50 until the new shelter opens next year.

“At the time, we were like, how dare anybody sue us, because look at all these great things that we’re doing, but it turned out to be really a blessing in disguise,” Stephens said.

Following legal bouts, cities all over the county have been looking to partner to build shelters to address homelessness regionally.

In the northern part of Orange County, 13 cities have come together in partnership with the county to build two shelters — one in Buena Park and the other in Placentia — that combined can serve 250 people. The county gave $12 million to the partnership to build the shelters, according to a Costa Mesa staff report.

Costa Mesa is hoping to receive an over $2.5 million grant from the Orange County Health Care Agency pending approval from the county Board of Supervisors that will help cover the $4.5 million cost of the construction, development and design of the facility. 

The city is also using a separate nearly $2 million federal grant to fund the rest of the project. The shelter will accommodate around 70 beds.

As part of the partnership, Newport Beach will be responsible for some of the shelter’s costs.

Under the agreement, Newport Beach must make a one-time payment of $1.4 million in capital costs and $200,000 for furniture and equipment. The payment of the $1.4 million must be made within a month’s time after the contract is signed by both parties.

Newport Beach will also be obliged to pay $1 million annually in operation costs and run outreach and transportation for the homeless in that city to the shelter. In return, Newport Beach will have access to 20 beds at the facility.

Costa Mesa will be responsible for the operation of the shelter as well as acquiring the property and constructing the shelter — a process which the city already started last year.

In March 2019, the city purchased the warehouse where the shelter is being built for close to $7 million, which it paid for using general fund dollars and with money from its reserves. 

In June 2020, Costa Mesa authorized a $3.7 million contract with Cerritos-based Cal-City Construction Inc., to build the shelter. 

Construction is expected to be finished in January with an opening planned for March. Newport Beach will vote on the agreement next week, according to Costa Mesa city staff.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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