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Development could replace West Sacramento motor inn temporarily sheltering homeless

Terry Hughes, 54, enjoys a day with his 1-year-old son Terry Hughes Jr., at the Old Town Inn on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2014, in West Sacramento, Calif. Hughes is divorced and sees his son three to four days a week despite not having a permanent housing situation.
Terry Hughes, 54, enjoys a day with his 1-year-old son Terry Hughes Jr., at the Old Town Inn on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2014, in West Sacramento, Calif. Hughes is divorced and sees his son three to four days a week despite not having a permanent housing situation. Aseng@sacbee.com

A West Sacramento motor inn temporarily housing homeless residents could be demolished to make room for new development near City Hall.

The West Sacramento City Council tonight will consider spending $1.5 million in city funds to buy the Old Town Inn and its 1-acre lot. The city would tear down the old motel to enable new infill development.

The Old Town Inn at 826 W. Capitol Ave. has been a fixture for decades on what once was West Sacramento’s motel row, but has increasingly become a hot spot for crime and fire calls.

More recently, Old Town Inn has been at the center of a joint pilot project between the city and Yolo County to temporarily house dozens of homeless residents and provide them with job training, mental health, drug and alcohol counseling and other services. The four-month Bridge to Housing program ends Feb. 28, at which point the inn is supposed to be vacated. Many of the residents lived along the Sacramento River before moving to the Old Town Inn.

The city sees the property as an important part of its Grand Gateway infill project situated between City Hall and the Tower Bridge. Plans are for mixed-use urban development and a public plaza on nearly 9 acres.

The Grand Gateway area is envisioned as a link between the city’s downtown, Washington neighborhood and Bridge District. West Sacramento’s planned streetcar service would also run past the property.

“It’s a prime location within the city with its proximity to the streetcar and it’s consistent with the efforts to remove blight on West Capitol,” said City Manager Martin Tuttle, calling the proposed deal “a rare opportunity that surfaced.”

The project master plan was adopted back in 2013, but West Sacramento had been working to remake the entry to downtown for years before then. In 2007, the city bought and then demolished the notorious adult-oriented Experience Motel on West Capitol for $3 million, destroying it in almost-symbolic fashion by stuffing the rooms with bales of hay and wood pallets before setting it alight in a controlled burn.

What will become of Bridge to Housing’s temporary residents is not entirely clear. Yolo County and West Sacramento officials say they have no plans to extend the program.

“The idea was to try the program, but put a termination date on it and learn from the experience,” Tuttle said.

Yolo County on Tuesday released a progress report that it says shows the pilot program made some inroads. Two people have moved into their own housing and another 18 are said to be close to finding housing, according to county officials.

More than 8 in 10 have health insurance, up from roughly half at the program’s start, while 75 percent now receive CalFresh food stamp benefits, up from 49 percent when the program began in mid-November.

Case workers have been assigned to those still in the program and will continue to work with them once the pilot program ends, said Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor. Finding homes for them is the next step.

“We’re working hard to find places for those who’ve fully participated in the program,” Gabor said, adding that some had dropped out because they were unable to keep program commitments.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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