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City Looks Again at Homeless Housing on Navy Property : Land use: The plan calls for about 200 units in two naval housing projects to be turned over to a nonprofit group. Council support would reflect a sharp change of course.

September 12, 1993|RICK HOLGUIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Long Beach officials, facing intense political pressure, have revived a previously rejected plan to put housing for the homeless on property that will soon be vacated by the Navy.

Assistant City Manager John F. Shirey said he will present the plan to the City Council on Tuesday but declined to provide further details.

A source said the plan calls for about 200 units in the Savannah and Cabrillo naval housing projects to be turned over to the nonprofit organization Christian Outreach Appeal to house the homeless.

Last July, the council rejected a proposal by Christian Outreach to use 328 of the Navy's apartments for homeless housing.

A City Council vote in favor of the plan would be a sharp reversal, but even opponents of the plan say it probably will pass.

After meeting with representatives of Christian Outreach recently, naval officials told Shirey and Vice Mayor Jeffrey A. Kellogg that the city should find a place for homeless housing in its plan for the surplus property.

Federal law assigns high priority to providing surplus federal land to agencies that serve the homeless.

"We're not at the negotiating table because we want to be," said Kellogg, who has opposed using the Navy property for the homeless. "We're there because we're forced to be there."

The council has backed a plan by Cal State Long Beach to create a university-related research park on part of the property. It has also supported a proposal by the Long Beach Unified School District to build a high school, and possibly a junior high school, on the rest.

Although the council's opinion carries considerable weight, the Navy makes the final decision on what will become of the property.

So Christian Outreach Appeal, backed by Long Beach Area Citizens Involved, took its fight to Washington.

The group met last month with acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy Frederick S. Sterns and pressed its claim.

"These people need to get together," Sterns said in a recent interview. "At some point, if there can't be a consensus or agreement locally, then the Navy is going to . . . have to make some choices."

The new plan came out of a meeting Wednesday between Shirey and representatives of Christian Outreach, the university and the school district.

It calls for the research park and the high school to coexist with the homeless housing. The new plan also calls for a federal job training center for low-income youths and young adults.

The edict to include homeless housing has angered some council members, who say the property should be devoted only to uses that will help improve Long Beach's battered economy.

By the time the Navy closes the Long Beach Naval Station, naval housing and Long Beach Naval Hospital, the city will have lost about 17,000 military and 1,300 civilian jobs and about $1 billion a year in economic benefits, city officials estimate.

Homeless housing "will not provide any new jobs. It will drain our local economy because we are going to have to have additional police service for this site," Kellogg said. But Councilman Alan S. Lowenthal, one of two council members who backed the original Christian Outreach proposal, said the homeless housing will aid the local economy by helping people to get back on their feet and become productive. Long Beach has an estimated 5,000 homeless people.

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