BREAKING: Brush fire breaks out in Carmel Valley

Plan to build health center advances despite community opposition

SAN DIEGO -- Officials will search for firms to design an 80,000- square-foot consolidated health and social services center in Southeast San Diego after the Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to advance the project despite opposition from some neighbors.

The planned Live Well Center will include services for families looking for medical coverage and food assistance as well as behavioral health, probation and child welfare offices. The center at 51st and Market streets will be the fourth such building opened by San Diego County.

The supervisors on Tuesday voted to instruct staff to advertise a contract for the design and construction of the $74 million project, which is expected to break ground in November 2019. It is slated to open in September 2021.

The building is set to serve some 80,000 area residents who must currently travel to several locations in the county to obtain services that will be provided at the Live Well Center. The majority of those people live within two miles of the future building, according to county staff.

"This is about serving the residents of Southeast San Diego better," said Dale Fleming of the county Health and Human Services Administration.

But those who spoke at Tuesday's meeting were nearly evenly split about whether the center would bolster the area's vitality or worsen the already sluggish economic growth of the neighborhood, which is in the county's Fourth District.

"What we need in the Fourth District is more market-rate housing, more than one grocery store," Letitia Flynn said.

Several residents derided the facility as a "welfare center."

Supervisor Ron Roberts pointed out that Live Well Centers provide services to many kinds of people, including veterans.

"The Live Well Center is more than a welfare center," he said.

Supervisor Greg Cox said he was hopeful that continued community engagement will mean that opponents will change their mind about the center.

"Working together I think we're going to come up with a fantastic project that will be very well received by the time it opens," he said.