#entertainment | Converting an inn and building cabins — East Bay city looks to help homeless

ALAMEDA — A tiny house village might get built near College of Alameda to provide transitional housing for those living on the streets or in their vehicles.

The City Council also wants to look at purchasing and converting the Marina Village Inn along the Oakland Estuary into permanent supportive housing, where kitchenettes would be added to each room and some rooms would be combined to accommodate families.

The council mulled over options Tuesday on providing shelter for the homeless and possible locations for the effort.

Securing the Marina Village Inn, which last year was the site of temporary housing under Project Roomkey as part of the state’s response to COVID-19, and building cabins at 2350 5th St., adjacent to the field track at College of Alameda, emerged as top choices of the council.

Both sites are near businesses, parks and public transportation, which council members said make the locations ideal for families, plus future residents will not be isolated as they look to get back on their feet.

“We should not miss this rare opportunity to do something bold,” Councilman Tony Daysog said about renovating the motel, which has 51 rooms in three buildings.

The approximately 20 prefabricated cabins, each measuring 80 square feet, would be constructed in the Group Delphi manufacturing plant at Alameda Point and delivered to the city-owned site near the college.

Each unit can be built with or without bathrooms, which council members said was an added draw because it will give residents privacy. It could cost up to $2.6 million to build and install the cabins. People would stay for six months maximum. Annual operating costs are estimated at $600,000.

Upgrading and renovating the Marina Village Inn could cost up to $20 million, according to the city. The figure includes acquiring and renovating the property. Operating costs would run approximately $1.5 million annually.

Money for the projects could come from multiple sources, including state grants, the city’s Housing Authority, and out of the approximately $28 million Alameda is receiving from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts, said Lisa Maxwell, the city’s community development director.

Other ideas presented to the council to help the homeless with housing Tuesday were constructing a 40-unit building of studios that would offer supportive permanent housing, and for the city to purchase one or more large houses and convert them into shared living spaces, including adding bathrooms to each bedroom.

Suggested locations for the various projects were the tennis courts on Main Street near the O’Club at the former Alameda Naval Air Station and a lot near a storage facility at West Hornet Avenue and Skyhawk Street on the former base.

Other sites included a large parking lot that abuts the Corica Park golf course on Bay Farm Island and is currently used for a “park and ride” program for a nearby ferry terminal.

The council took no formal action on Tuesday. City staff is expected to come back to the council in the fall with more details on moving forward with the cabins near College of Alameda and transforming the Marina Village Inn.

“This is something the city should definitely pursue,” Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said about the inn.

According to EveryOneHome, the San Leandro-based group that carries out the Point-in-Time count — a regular tally of the area’s homeless — the number of Alameda’s homeless increased 13% from 204 to 231 individuals between 2017 and 2019.

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