A group of business leaders are working to buy a 35-acre plot nine minutes from downtown Santa Barbara to house the homeless and the mentally ill.
Landowner Richard Berti contributed $ 450,000 to attempt to purchase the former St. Mary’s Seminary site at 1964 Las Canoas Road. Berti wired the money on Wednesday, sending the property into 45-day receivership. Now Berti, Jason Jaeger, Director of Jaeger Partners, and other business and community leaders will seek to raise the remainder of the funds to purchase the site for $ 14.2 million.
“This is a great opportunity for the community to come together to fight mental illness,” Jaeger said. “We’re going to have the right people there to tackle homelessness in Santa Barbara.”
The site includes a commercial kitchen, meeting rooms, cafeteria, gym, basketball courts, with a capacity of 120 to 200 beds, as well as accommodation for people who work there.
Berti and Jaeger are leading the effort. Jaeger is the new president of the Santa Barbara Leadership Team, the organization founded by the late Hal Conklin. The idea is to raise funds from city, county and state sources for the remaining amount and develop a program that helps people get off the streets and access a site with services. support.
“They cannot be placed in apartment buildings, small hotels or small houses; there is nothing for them to do there,” Berti said. “There must be programs out there to occupy their time and give them something to do.”
Berti said he knew the government generally did not work quickly in terms of acquiring land, so he wanted to tie up the property quickly so no one beat him in the fist. If the deal is not done, he will get his money back.
“I was just frustrated and thought I would give it a try,” Berti said. “If you think about something and don’t do anything, you lose. If you think about something and you do it, you win.”
Whether the community embraces the project or can raise enough money, Berti said he is doing his best to help the homeless. He is a prominent downtown real estate owner who has long complained about the homeless and the city’s failure to solve the downtown problem.
“I’m just allowing everyone in the city, county and state to step up,” Berti said. “If anything happens, I’ll be proud.”
He has the support of Gordon Auchincloss, a retired deputy chief prosecutor and a volunteer.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Auchincloss. “This is a dream site for a homeless shelter. For a property of this size, in terms of square footage and square footage, there is nothing like it in the county as far as I know. really so many boxes. It’s just an amazing opportunity. “
Santa Barbara City Councilor Oscar Gutierrez and City Councilor Alejandra Gutierrez were among those who visited the facilities last Friday, at Berti’s invitation.
“I’m super excited. I’m not trying to have high hopes,” Oscar Gutierrez said. “It’s a lot of money. There are a lot of variables.”
He said the municipal CouncilCity Administrator Rebecca Bjork and Deputy City Administrator Rene Eyerly plan to visit the facility next week to assess its viability.
Oscar Gutierrez said one of the questions he was asking was how to get people to the site now to get funding and how to maintain the funding to keep it going.
“I hope my colleagues can try to come up with a plan to make this work,” Oscar Gutierrez said.
Jaeger said every day he walks around the city center next to a homeless man named Ed, who lives under a blanket, with very little clothing.
“What if we could have a wonderful place for these people?” Jaeger said.