The Berkeley City Council approved a contract Tuesday with the Housing Consortium of the East Bay, or HCEB, as a contingency plan for interim housing at the Rodeway Inn.
Peter Radu, assistant to the city manager of Berkeley, attested that the city has been managing the lease for Rodeway Inn since May 2022. The lease is set to expire Oct. 31, 2023, and Abode Services, the organization currently responsible for providing services to inn residents, will not extend the contract, according to the agenda.
The city hopes to purchase the site using funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homekey program; however, during Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Jesse Arreguín noted that the city’s application for funds is still under review.
“Our recommendation before the council is to take the money intended for purchasing the Rodeway and use it to extend the lease to provide interim housing,” Radu said. “In a world where we are awarded Homekey, tonight’s item becomes moot.”
Homekey aims to provide housing opportunities for those experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness. It has allocated approximately $736 million in state grant funding to be used in California in fiscal year 2022-23, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
The intended purchase of the Rodeway Inn comes after the site was used to provide housing during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Radu.
Last year, campus and the city of Berkeley unveiled a plan to temporarily house displaced People’s Park residents at the inn and support a transition to permanent housing. However, Radu noted that current plans regarding the inn are not intended to be a solution for housing park residents before potential construction, nor will park residents be exclusively prioritized for the housing at Rodeway.
“The city fully supports the UC’s effort to construct much-needed housing on the People’s Park location,” Radu said of last year’s plan. “In order to do that, we need to give people that call the park home another place to call home.”
The Rodeway site has previously faced allegations of poor living conditions. Max Ventura, a member of the People’s Park Council, cited curfews, limited food and the fact that residents were not provided with room keys as contributors to these grievances.
Abode denied investigations into these concerns last November, citing a lack of verifiable issues that warranted investigation.
“People on the streets were hopeful, but then they were treated as less than human,” Ventura said.
Moni Law, chair of the Berkeley Community Safety Coalition, noted a lack of disability access at the Rodeway Inn during the meeting’s public comment period. She expressed a need for “accountability of the services provided for our unhoused neighbors.”
Both the extended lease of Rodeway Inn and the contract to work with HCEB were on the city council’s consent calendar, approved Tuesday evening.