Plans solidify to open homeless services center on Prado Road

Transit agency commits $1.5 million to buy site to be shared with homeless services

acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 2, 2014 

Organizers are moving forward on a plan to buy a $2.2 million property on Prado Road in San Luis Obispo for two diverse future uses: as a site for the future Homeless Services Center and as a transit maintenance and operations facility.

The partnership between the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County and the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority to jointly purchase 40 Prado Road was solidified Wednesday by the transit agency’s commitment of $1.5 million toward the purchase.

That money, funded by the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments using state and federal grant money, equals 68 percent of the purchase price.

CAPSLO will be responsible for the remaining $715,000 needed to buy the 9.97-acre property from owner Condor Enterprises LLC.

The Prado Road site, which was appraised for $3.25 million, has been a focal point of CAPSLO for the homeless center since opponents derailed plans to build it on South Higuera Street.

CAPSLO plans to pay for its share of the property with money from the city and the county, as well as from donations raised by the newly formed Homeless Foundation for San Luis Obispo County.

The San Luis Obispo City Council committed $250,000 to the purchase in February. The county Board of Supervisors will soon be asked to do the same.

CAPSLO has been designated as the purchaser of the property, with escrow expected to be completed by May 30. Once that happens, the property will be subdivided, and the two projects will move forward separately, said Geoff Straw, RTA executive director.

Ron DeCarli, executive director of SLOCOG, said the partnership will benefit the public in multiple ways: It secures a site for the future expansion of RTA, dedicates a place for the homeless center and sets aside land that will be needed in the future for planned improvements to Prado Road, including a possible Highway 101 interchange or overpass.

“By purchasing it now, we are purchasing a property that years from now would have had to been purchased for the (Prado Road) expansion anyway,” DeCarli said.

Plans for the homeless center eventually call for 200 beds, a commercial kitchen, laundry facilities, showers, lockers and storage, as well as offices for caseworkers, a classroom for children and community and multipurpose rooms.

RTA plans to use the site to park and maintain buses and house dispatch and administration departments.

Straw said the transit agency will outgrow its current location on Cross Street in the next 10 years. Its lease there expires in 2017.

The agreement between the RTA and CAPSLO does not mean the Prado Road site is a done deal. An engineering study evaluating the site is still underway. 

“A final piece of the review is scheduled next week, and the results may take a few more weeks to be fully determined, but so far there have been no significant issues,” said Jim Famalette, chief operating officer of CAPSLO.

CAPSLO is also trying to keep a $1 million state grant for the construction of the homeless services center, tied to a deadline that requires the center to be built by mid-2015 or be revoked.

The grant, which was for the South Higuera site, could be used at the Prado Road property if special permission is granted.

“We are expecting to make a joint community request for an extension and approval to move the grant to the new site; previously, it was not considered to be allowed to move,” Famalette said.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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