Council approves storage lockers for homeless despite residents’ objections

SAN DIEGO – After listening to three hours of testimony by supporter and opponents, the San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to approve a scaled down proposal to provide storage lockers for homeless people in Sherman Heights.

About 150 people spoke out about the proposal, which originally envisioned using a vacant warehouse at the corner of 19th and Commercial Street to place 1,000 lockers where the homeless could store their valuables.

“What we’re really trying to do here is... allow these individuals to safely secure their materials while they access services," said Jonathan Herrera, San Diego's Senior Advisor on Homeless Coordination.

The proposal faced opposition from Sherman Heights residents, and local businesses. There are also concerns because the warehouse is adjacent to Our Lady's School.

"I have walked the area and I've found used syringes, crack pipes, you name it I would find it there.  This is within 100 yards of a school," Principal Noel Bishop told council members.

A number of students from the school told Fox 5 that they were concerned that bringing more homeless people into the neighborhood could affect their safety.

"Sometimes the homeless they’ll fight and start yelling and throw glass bottles at each other and rocks,"

"They could just hurt us and scare us in a way and I don't want to deal with that," Jenille Munoz, Student.  "Maybe it would be nice to move the storage center somewhere else."

Residents echoed the student sentiment.  Many said for too long the city has been dumping its worst projects in their backyard," said Renee Guzman.

"Bottom line it’s a need and in order to address the bigger needs, we need this," said Amy Gonyeau, Alpha Project's Chief Operating Officer.  "All the other storage facilities are full.  If not here, then where?"

In the end, the council voted 8-1 in favor of allowing the lockers, but they capped the number at 500, half of the original proposal. The only council member to oppose the plan was David Alvarez, who represents the neighborhood.

“We can agree there’s no ideal location for this facility," said Mayor Kevin Faulconer.  "This location will literally help 100’s of people who need it the most."