State and local officials are scrambling to find a workaround for the plan to house some of California's homeless in temporary shelters on land adjacent to highways in the state after the federal government cancelled previously approved funding for projects in Sacramento and San Francisco.
Letters the Federal Highway Administration recently sent the California Department of Transportation said approval for a 100-bed homeless shelter on land near X Street and Alhambra Boulevard, and which was scheduled to open this fall, has been withdrawn, according to a Sacramento Bee report. The Sacramento project was reconsidered after similar projects planned for San Francisco and Los Angeles came under scrutiny of the FHA.
The agency's policy is to use the "right of way" for transportation purposes only to ensure safe and efficient traffic flow, the letter reportedly said. Federal officials also noted they expect to get fair market value for leases or sales of "right of way" land by roadways, so the money can be put into other transportation projects, according to the letter.
Caltrans announced that cities would be allowed to leave such properties for $1 per month for shelters and related programs, like the Sacramento project.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Councilman Jay Schenirer are clearly upset by the FHA action. Both reportedly claimed the X Street/Alhambra shelter is very much needed and reportedly said they don't understand why the federal government would put a road block.
At the state level, Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin has sent a letter to the FHA asking them to reconsider the decision.