Ohmega Salvage to sell land rather than rent to Youth Spirit Artworks for tiny house village

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Students from Professor Seth Wachtel's Architecture Class, USF/Courtesy

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Architectural salvage store Ohmega Salvage has decided to sell its property at 2403-2407 San Pablo Ave. rather than rent it to Youth Spirit Artworks, or YSA, for its “tiny house village” project.

YSA is a nonprofit that educates and provides job training to homeless teens, with house building being a fairly recent addition to the organization’s agenda. The tiny house village was originally slated to open in fall 2018 and will house 25 homeless youths once completed.

“(YSA) has a transformative effect on the youth, but you can see profound positive change, unlike other organizations,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

According to Councilmember Cheryl Davila, Ohmega Salvage’s owner made the decision Wednesday. Ohmega Salvage could not be reached for comment.

YSA is currently evaluating other sites, according to Aaron Mann, a member of the YSA “tiny house village” steering committee. He added that the project could be built in 30 days, but the organization does not know when a new site will be found.

“Given other properties of other sites being evaluated,” Mann said, “it may have minimal impact of 30 days or longer delay.”

Along with providing housing, the project will have some assistant mentors to run programs on-site — such as case management and social work — for the residents of the tiny homes.

According to Mann, the cost of each tiny house is about $15,000 worth of materials, including a solar power “suitcase.” He added that YSA recently began an “adopt a tiny house” program to lower costs — organizations such as churches can donate materials and volunteers to build the future homes.

“Based on the response so far it looks like we might have more organizations than tiny houses!” Mann said in an email.

Worthington said Councilmember Ben Bartlett, whose district encompasses YSA, sponsored a City Council item to help “jump-start” YSA’s project by accelerating the group through the “cumbersome” permit process. The permit process typically alerts the new landowner to the city’s requirements and would allow the city to work with YSA in finalizing the plans for the village.

Worthington added that the rest of City Council voted unanimously for Bartlett’s item April 24.

Mann said the site will impact the city in three ways: It would proactively address the homelessness crisis by working with “at-risk” youth, it would be a one-of-a-kind example of how private citizens can cooperate with the city, and it would have positive impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.

“Until there is a home for everyone,” said Igor Tregub, chair of the Housing Advisory Commission, “tiny homes are a safe and cost-effective way to help get people back on their feet.”

Contact Yao Huang at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Yhoneplus.