The Homeless

Where on Cal Expo property could a homeless shelter go? Potential site revealed

Sacramento city officials are proposing that a Cal Expo parking lot at the southeast end of Ethan Way near the RV park as a potential site for a 100-bed Sprung tent homeless shelter.

The city is offering to pay $1,625 per month – or $19,500 a year – to the California Exposition & State Fair, which owns the lot, according to a Jan. 25 letter from Assistant City Manager Chris Conlin to Cal Expo CEO Rick Pickering.

On Thursday, city officials presented the idea to the Cal Expo Board of Directors’ Long Range Planning Committee. The Cal Expo board of directors directed its staff to continue to work with city staff on the project but with some requests, said Margaret Mohr, Cal Expo’s deputy general manager of business development and marketing.

The board directed its staff to make sure that if the shelter opened, Cal Expo and the state would not be responsible in the future for sheltering people if the city’s program is eliminated or reduced, Mohr said. The board also directed staff to talk with the county, business partners, vendors, local businesses and allied state agencies.

The state has recently allowed shelters on selected state lands, including Caltrans land, but Cal Expo officials are unsure if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration “is agreeable,” to shelter on the property, a Cal Expo staff report said.

“Such a use ... would be entering new and perhaps precedent setting territory for the State,” the report said about Cal Expo, which hosts more than 2 million visitors and more than 100 events each year.

The roughly 1-acre site, known as Lot P, is across Ethan Way from the Cal Expo RV Park. The RV Park generates about $1 million annually, and hosts many families during the Sacramento County Fair and State Fair, the report said.

Lot P is one of the first lots used for vehicles and trailers to load and unload equipment and supplies during shows, the report said. Cal Expo staff is looking at other options for that use if Lot P becomes a shelter site.

The fenced-in shelter would also include bathroom trailers, showers and a pet area, similar to the city’s triage shelter on Railroad Drive in North Sacramento, Conlin’s letter said. There would be increased police patrols in the area, and staff would be on site 24/7, the letter said.

Like at Railroad Drive, the shelter would not screen guests for drugs and alcohol, and would let them bring their pets, partners and possessions. Guests would also receive mental health and medical care, as well as help removing the barriers they encounter in finding permanent housing, such as obtaining state identification cards.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg in December asked all eight council members to find sites for homeless shelters in their districts.

Councilman Jeff Harris, who represents the area, last month told the Sacramento Bee he was proposing a site at Cal Expo property for a shelter, but did not say where.

If Expo officials OK the plan, the shelter would still require approval from the City Council.

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Theresa Clift covers Sacramento City Hall. Before joining The Bee in 2018, she worked as a local government reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Daily Press in Virginia and the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin. She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University.