Is It Too Soon to Get Upset About City’s Plans for Homeless Shelter at ‘Barracks H’?

by on October 27, 2023 · 19 comments

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach

Some Point Loma residents are upset about the city considering a plan to create a mixed-used homeless shelter site on a 5-acre city-owned plot of land near the airport — called “Barracks H.” They took their case to the media last week and have set up an online petition for their cause.

Vacant buildings on the site have for years been utilized for firefighting practices – and some of the buildings have already been demolished. From NBC7:

According to the city’s Homeless Shelter and Solutions Strategy, the site could have traditional shelters, but also potentially include a safe sleeping parking lot with tents and a safe parking lot for people to sleep in their vehicles. … the proposed timeline has the site opening as early as summer of 2024.

The local residents have the most complaints, they say, in the sheer capacity of the proposed site – which the city has estimated could be anywhere between 300 and 700 people. They also expressed concerns that the unhoused site would be close to schools and local parks — even though the site is a mile from Liberty Station — and fear for their children.

The plan is just in the planning stages and at the rate the city opens homeless camping areas, this project may be years off, despite the claim it could open ” as early as summer of 2024.”

Today’s Voice of San Diego gave us an update on the whole thing:

Where it stands now: Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for Mayor Todd Gloria, said the city is now analyzing the site and plans to engage the community once it gets a handle on its plans. Once the site begins serving homeless San Diegans, Laing said the city expects it could be in operation for as long as five years. The city plans to eventually house a Pure Water processing site at H Barracks.

What’s next: Gloria promises to share more details before the city moves forward, as he told NBC 7 and others at a press conference last week announcing the opening of the city’s second safe sleeping site at the edge of Balboa Park.

San Diego’s unhoused community needs shelter. This site has been used for years in firefighting training with flames pouring out of the windows of the decrepit buildings – a horrible sight – and has been a literally a dump – yet no one ever complained. Let’s not jump the gun and oppose facilities for the unhoused just because they’re close to the Peninsula.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Could Be You October 27, 2023 at 8:15 pm

Was looking at the proximity of Liberty Station schools and homes to the H Baracks because there is a argument that the shelter is too close to neighborhoods and schools and that it will have a negative impact on said neighborhood. I’d like to point out that the H Baracks are NOT in a neighborhood. They are an across a bridge, far from Liberty Station, and in a commercial space that is owned by the city (not privately owned).

In my opinion every planning area that has vacant space owned or bought by the city will be, and should be considered for homeless housing. It is not practical to put homeless people out in the middle of the desert. It is not fair to push homeless people to someone else’s neighborhood. What makes our neighborhood any different than anyone else’s? Every town has a certain demographic that will NEVER be ok with homeless shelters but it is only fair that since this is a citywide issue, that every town step up and help get people off the streets. It is not the responsibility of any one area to bear this unprecedented burden. Keep in mind that we are helping get people into a shelter which means we are helping ourselves too. What’s worse, having people sleeping on the sidewalks, using our gutters as toilets, having to explain to our kids why that person is living in the parks, or having a mental health moment in public? We have to get these people off our streets and to provide services where the homeless are now and unfortunately they are here. I would also like to point out that the perception that all homeless people are criminals who are gonna molest or frighten all our children, is WAY off base. Most are people who have lost jobs, lost housing, lost family, or maybe they didn’t have some of the same privileges that more fortunate folks have had. Yes. Some drink alcohol and use drugs but we all know housed and highly functional people who abuse substances too-they just have a larger safety net. This perception that all homeless people are criminals, derelicts, or scary is unfortunately perpetuated because the homeless we see most frequently are the ones who have mental health issues in public, thus skewing our perception.

But back to my original point, H Baracks are not IN a neighborhood. Other shelters in other parts of the city are just as close or closer to schools and neighborhoods than this one at H Barack’s would be. I would be very curious to know if those other neighborhoods have experience a surge of problems due to the proximity to these other shelters. Maybe the city can arrange for a report on crime stats before and after the shelters went in. It would also be helpful to talk to or hear from neighbors who live near these shelters. Without this information the perception that the H Baracks shelter is going to be dangerous is nothing more than conjecture and fear.

H Barack’s (Across Bridge from Liberty Station) potential 300-700 beds
One Route between Shelter and Liberty Station/ point loma
closest school 0.8 mi
closest homes 0.7 miles

Edge of Barrio Logan
16th street and Newton 326 beds
17th and Imperial 140 beds
Shelters provide multiple routes to homes and schools
closest school 0.2 miles
2 schools within 0.8 miles
closest homes 0.4 miles

Rosecrans Temporary Shelter 50 beds
0.8 miles to school and neighborhood

Golden Hall
0.5 miles to school and neighborhood and there is a school in the adjacent building


WillScott November 2, 2023 at 12:12 pm

To say that this site is “far from Liberty Station” is simply wrong. It is a 5 min walk from the Kincaid Rd fence to the pedestrian bridge that drops you directly into the very busy hotel/restaurant/park/USS Recruit area on the south end. Same to Spanish Landing parks/playground across N. Harbor Dr. And it’s about a 30 *second* walk to the Hampton/Springhill hotels just east of the airport. (Imagine the Trip Advisor reviews after this thing starts up…how long will it be before Hilton and Marriott bail and these become city-subsidized flophouses?) It is also adjacent on the McCain Rd side to the pedestrian walkway to the airport, which is actually used by a fair number of folks but which I’m guessing may be closed if this goes down. Proximity to homes is not the primary issue here. It’s proximity to some of the most heavily used, diverse and vibrant public spaces in the city, as well as to the airport and four visitor-oriented hotels. As for schools, yes they are a bit farther away but on any given day student groups ranging from first graders to teens walk down to the inlet for activities during or after school. So, if you think it’s OK for the city to put this entire area at risk by stuffing a multi-hundred bed homeless camp onto this site, you’re entitled to your opinion. Mine is that it’s civic malpractice.


J October 27, 2023 at 10:49 pm

It’s less than a half mile to the parks where kids play and have sports practices. And less than 3/4 mile to 3 schools. Not to mention that it will be the first thing people see and drive by when exiting the airport. Picking this location is absurd. It would be spitting in the face of all San Diegans and all of the folks in PL to place a shelter there.


Chris October 28, 2023 at 5:42 pm

None of those reasons mentioned are valid enough to not put it there.


J October 30, 2023 at 8:08 pm

Because you say it isn’t a reason. Pretty sure the current law says homeless are not allowed to camp near parks or schools. And you think they won’t be doing that even though the shelter is there shows your level of naivety. I have had people in liberty station sleeping on the porch of my house high as a kite while I try and get in with my kids in tow. So get some perspective please. Do you even live near liberty? Do you have children that conduct all of their extracurricular activities there?


Chris October 31, 2023 at 8:40 am

As far as I know, the camping ban applies to areas that are not designated camping areas and not near places that have shelter for the homeless. So this site would not apply to no camping hear parks or schools. All the same issues you describe are going on in may area also. As has made the news, the Starbucks on the corner of 5th and Robinson had to finally close down. I say someone defecate right in front of the Cigar Cave a month or so ago.
We’ve reached that point where neighborhoods are going to have to put up with and tolerate designated shelters.


Chris October 28, 2023 at 5:58 am

Considering these buildings have been abandoned for years, turning these structures into homeless shelters is better use than leaving them remain abandoned. If we really want to help the unhoused, this is a step in the right direction. As to property values and quality of life issues for surrounding residents, cry me a river.


Larry October 29, 2023 at 7:35 pm

They are currently used as training grounds for the fire department, so they’re not really abandoned.


Sam October 30, 2023 at 7:33 am

The Fire Dept may have used that site, but it’s full of asbestos, vermin, ammunition, roof leaks, etc., and is held together with twine. That site was intended to be demolished and use for a new Pure Water site, but that has been delayed for qute some time.


WillScott November 2, 2023 at 1:09 pm

…and probably delayed much longer if this happens. I believe the city is saying the “temporary” homeless camp will be there for 5 years. How much does anyone want to bet on that? Once established it would likely take a long and expensive legal fight with advocate groups to close or even shrink it. In any case the reputational damage to the surrounding parks and commercial areas could linger for years if not decades.


Gravitas October 28, 2023 at 8:27 am

Follow Bill Walton’s lead….this Mayor can’t fix the roads, clean up the parks, protect environment, let alone come up with a serious homeless solution…I think the try and fail number is reading for the double digits column!


Nanci Kelly October 28, 2023 at 10:18 pm

Thank you so much, Frank, for your thoughtful, rational recommendation regarding the consideration of Barracks H for a shelter for our unhoused residents. All the points you made are so very important. My responses to your article and comments, as well as those of others (thank you, Chris) are many but I will limit them to the following (which will already be too much):

My sister moved to San Diego in 1985, bringing with her, sadly, a life shaped by the rejection/abuse heaped upon her as a transgender woman. We were able to obtain Section 8 housing for her within a month (now the waiting list is up to 10 years); SSDI within 3 months (now the initial response time is up to 8 months and that is usually a denial – often with more to follow – especially for psychological disabilities); she had years of excellent support services (therapists, day programs, a case manager who assisted with her finances) through the County – I’ve learned that many of these provisions were cut for new clients in the years following the 1980’s reduction in State funding for social/psychiatric services. As a result, she had never experienced one day of homelessness in the 35 years she lived here until her death. She would never have been able to function in a open-bed shelter – she would have been one of those the commenters above (and many others) fear – although she was one of the most sensitive, gentle, kind (albeit socially-disabled) people you could find on this earth. Why do we continue to accept these broad-brush characterizations of people who are unable to afford or maintain shelter?

As Frank said, ALL of our neighborhoods should be working toward providing shelter and related services for our unhoused residents. The last count I saw was about 10,000 (about half were identified as without shelter on any given day) and I read that there are about 100 neighborhoods in San Diego. So that would require that each neighborhood work together (with City assistance) to find a solution for 50-100 of our residents. I suppose a ratio system based on neighborhood population would be fairer, but either way the sad truth, which Frank is responding to, is that there are ‘neighbors’ who make excuses to refuse assistance to anyone who is outside their norm. Seeing the Point Loma group’s response to the Barracks H proposal reminds me of the excellent Voice of SD article “You May Never Look at the Sports Arena the Same Again” (Scott Lewis, 1/4/22) where there is a copy of a 1920s Loma Portal real estate ad stating “lots sold only to Caucasian race.” Back then it was race-based exclusion, now it’s homeless-based exclusion.

Lastly, since my children (beginning in 1982) and now my granddaughters (since 2013) have lived in OB, not one has ever been in a situation where their safety has been directly threatened by an unhoused individual (even when someone decided to sleep in our VW camper in the alley – although he did scare the hell out of them when they found him there!). I’m not saying that is an impossibility, but I feel no more of a potential safety issue than with a variety of other individuals of a particular mindset or personal makeup. What is terribly sad (other than having to live with the environmental results of having a portion of our population lacking sanitation and daily living facilities) is that my children and grandchildren know that there are people in tremendous need who are not getting the support, care, and/or supervision that they need from their human family. And that our unhoused neighbors in need are living through it every day. Again, thank you, Frank.


Mat Wahlstrom October 29, 2023 at 7:44 pm

Powerful and much needed perspective. Thank you for sharing your story.


WillScott October 28, 2023 at 11:23 pm

HIGHLY misleading to say the site is “a mile from Liberty Station.” It is a 5-8 min walk to the heavily used pedestrian bridge, park areas and hotels/restaurants at the south end, and another 15 min or so to the Public Market area. It is also adjacent to two visitor-oriented hotels on Kincaid Road. It is directly across McCain Road from the airport and its westside pedestrian entrance. It is directly across N. Harbor Dr from Spanish Landing and its playground. I know the site well. These are facts.


FrankF October 29, 2023 at 9:01 am

They homeless can use the airport as a day lounge and the Hampton Inn pool across the street for recreation!


retired botanist October 29, 2023 at 5:40 pm

All I can say is thank you, Could Be You, Chris, and Nanci Kelly, for your comments. There is NOTHING I can add, other than having a sibling myself who lived on the chronically displaced edges of Shelter Island, even tho he had a master craftsman level skill as a boat builder and woodworker. He was lucky to live in the back of his shop until, that, too, got taken away. And once displaced, his livelihood and his raison d’etre died, as he did, a few years later. It is incumbent on us ALL to lift up our fellow mankind.


Geoff Page October 30, 2023 at 11:38 am

This one makes sense folks. Unless we want to validate the criticism that we are opposed to anything like this, we need to realize this is not a bad idea. Every neighborhood needs to pitch in if there is a place to do it, and this is the place.


FrankF October 30, 2023 at 1:00 pm

Patiently waiting for La Jolla, the San Diego City part of Del Mar, Scripps Ranch, Del Cero, and Mira Mesa to step up to the plate and accommodate their fair share of needy folks.

But as we’ve seen the homeless American citizen is now playing second fiddle to the economic refugees who are beating down our doors.


Austin November 22, 2023 at 11:09 am

This is ridiculous and poor management. You DO NOT have a right to live here in a historic costal region. Move these people east where the cost of housing isn’t at a maximum cost. Unbelievable!


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