Mayor to Recommend Historic Julia Morgan YWCA be Converted to Homeless Housing

Surprise remarks followed favorable vote for mixed-use/affordable housing Heritage South project

Published : Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | 5:40 AM

Mayor Terry Tornek surprised City Councilmembers, staff, and an audience of housing activists Monday when he told the Council that in January he would recommend the controversial, battle-weary, and historic YWCA building in the City’s civic center be converted to permanent affordable housing.

“It’s clear to me,” said Tornek, “that the biggest challenge in this city is the homeless. We’re just not keeping up.”

Said Tornek of the property, “It’s already de facto housing. We just keep fencing it off. We need to convert it to housing before it gets burned down.”

Tornek’s remark came following a unanimous Council vote to approve a mixed-use/senior affordable housing project at Heritage Square South, which is located on North Fair Oaks Avenue at Orange Grove Boulevard. (See related story.)

“This is a very important step,” added Tornek. “We need to not only create housing, but keep our housing.”

The Mayor offered no details on the specifics of what his recommendation will entail. His proposal would follow the 2017 collapse of a City plan to build a Kimpton luxury boutique hotel in the historic Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building and restore the adjacent property between Holly and Union Streets, along with developing the portion of the Civic Center adjoining Centennial Plaza, including the YWCA and YMCA sites, and adjacent City-owned properties east of .those buildings.

Following months of negotiations between the City and Kimpton accompanied by angry protests from preservationists, the Council balked and halted the project after Kimpton requested an economic subsidy plan to receive 50 years of free rent along with 136 City-owned parking spaces for the duration of the entire lease.

The Council then created a Civic Center Task Force to discuss the future of the area. No actual plan for the building and nearby properties has yet emerged from the Task Force.


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