Cal Poly students share visions for proposed homeless facility

student proposal for Homeless Center in SLO, by Jeffery Yip.

student proposal for Homeless Center in SLO, by Jeffery Yip. 5-2010

The design of a proposed homeless facility in San Luis Obispo has been the focus of recent classes taught by a Cal Poly architecture professor.

Cal Poly architecture graduate Helena Garrovillas Pineda’s senior project four years ago began the flow of ideas for how the 200-bed facility might look. In the winter quarter, 18 Cal Poly students in professor Chuck Crotser’s design class continued the effort by creating designs that included digital and physical models. Similar projects were completed in a class he taught in spring 2009.

“I introduce it not only as a class project but as a civic undertaking,” Crotser said. “I expect ideas from students to be used with the actual design (by a professional architect) for the new center.”

The proposed building at Prado Road and South Higuera Street — the result of a coalition of several local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private citizens — is set to go before the San Luis Obispo Planning Commission in June for consideration of a use permit.

If the commission approves, professional architectural renderings of the facility would be submitted for review.

For her senior project, Pineda visited homeless facilities in New York City and Los Angeles, even sleeping at one to get a better sense of the accommodations, she said.

Pineda’s model featured a three-story building that separated the homeless women and children from men in different wings and provided a kitchen, recreation room, salon and computer room.

“I wanted to see what worked and what didn’t,” said Pineda, now an architect in Orange County. “I think it’s great the San Luis Obispo project is becoming a reality.”

Models of smaller buildings — such as those designed by Cal Poly students Jeffrey Yip and Tanya Moore — include a grass roof feature that helps cuts cooling and heating costs. The proposed new facility is expected to be about 23,000 square feet.

“In my opinion, the new building should not radically stand out on the streetscape because that would draw unwanted attention to the homeless community” (a consideration in preserving good relations with neighbors), Yip said. “Overall this project was one of the most rewarding I’ve done.”

An estimated 3,829 homeless people are scattered through the county, and the city of San Luis Obispo has about 1,025 homeless people.

The proposed facility will be near the Prado Day Center, which serves about 130 people during the day and 90 people at night, coordinators say.

Dee Torres, director of Homeless Services with the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, said a capital campaign to raise money for the facility would be undertaken and that donations, grants and in-kind materials and construction work would be needed.

“There are some challenges,” Torres said. “But the community has been so positive. I think people know that it’s really needed.”