The County of Orange is considering purchasing the Orange Education Center from the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) and turning it into a homeless shelter, according to sources. The shuttered facility is in an industrial-commercial zone of the city.
Last week, Supervisor Todd Spitzer, county CEO Frank Kim and several county staff toured the building, which a source familiar with the site estimated at 60,000 square feet. Also there were at various points in the tour were Orange Councilman Mike Alvarez, Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray and RSCCD Trustee Arianna Barrios. The project would be a multi-jurisdictional effort.
Last night, the Orange City Council held a special council meeting on the homelessness crisis, and during public comments Joseph Byrne, the general manager of the Katella Grill, voiced concerns about the possibility of converting the Orange Education Center in a county homeless shelter.
“One area of particular concern to us is…a possible triage or shelter opening on Batavia,” said Byrne, and said his and other nearby businesses would like to know what type of facility it would be, who it would be funded and how it would impact them.
“We would also urge that the city, if possible, reconsider that building there,” continued Byrne. “As the chief has pointed out, Orange has taken a fairly good portion of the burden on this.”
City Manager Rick Otto stated that the county is looking for shelter site and that he has made “very clear” to the county CEO that Orange is doing its fair share. Prior to Byrne’s comments, Otto noted that earlier in the day the Orange County Board of Supervisors had discussed the purchase of that property and one other during closed session.
Councilman Mike Alvarez disclosed that he had at the tour the week before.
“I want to disclose that a little over a week ago, I did participate in a meeting that took place at the Batavia Adult Education site,” said Alvarez.
“I was the only one from the council that was invited. A Miss Arianna Barrios was the one that invited me to attend. Supervisor Spitzer was there with his chief of staff. The county CEO, Mr. Kim, was there with about 5 of his people from public works. And then ultimately Councilwoman Kris Murray was also there, and they toured the site.”
Councilman Fred Whitaker advocated that the city get ahead of the issue.
“If the county actually end up purchasing those [sites] directly – especially if they’re under SB 2 zones, there are some things we’re just not going to be able to prevent them from doing,” said Whitaker.
“So if we’re in front of it, we can actually have those services and facilities geared toward the way we want to handle the issue in the city of Orange, then we’re going to be better off.”