Irvine on Tuesday night abandoned its plan to convert a vacant dog kennel into a 50-bed shelter for homeless families.
The City Council voted unanimously to scrap the kennel conversion plan, which had drawn national attention, in reaction to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) cancellation of a $496,000 grant the city needed to complete the project. The federal agency cited concern over potential danger from nearby aircraft at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
The council also directed Mayor Larry Agran to contact large landowners in and around the city, including the Irvine Co., the Marine Corps and the University of California, to determine whether acceptable sites are available for the shelter.
Federal officials have given the city until Jan. 25 to find a new site for the shelter to still qualify for the grant. The council indicated that it would pursue all avenues to find a new site.
Tuesday's vote was a setback for Agran, who pushed for the kennel conversion, contending that the city needs to do its fair share to help house the county's growning homeless population.
Agran said the city should consider suspending development on Irvine's east side because of the potential for accidents from military jet overflights.
HUD said the vacant kennel at the Irvine Animal Care Center on Sand Canyon Avenue is "environmentally unacceptable" because it is less than a mile from the El Toro Marine Air Corp Station. Noise and the potential for accidents were cited as problems by the agency.
Agran said if HUD deems the proposed shelter site "too dangerous, perhaps we should suspend all development along the Sand Canyon Avenue corridor."
Councilman Ray Catalano asked city planners how much development had been approved or was being built along Sand Canyon near the air base. Planners were unsure, so the council requested an accounting, which is expected to be completed in early January.
While HUD canceled the grant for the kennel conversion earlier this month, it did give the city until Jan. 25 to find a more acceptable site to locate a central homeless facility and qualify for the money.
The city has identified 11 other locations to build a shelter, but Assistant City Manager Paul Brady, Jr. told the council "none are truly suitable for a shelter."