San Mateo Co. buying Millbrae hotel for supportive housing conversion. Here's why some are concerned

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
San Mateo Co. buying Millbrae hotel for supportive housing conversion
For $33 million, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is purchasing La Quinta Inn in Millbrae and will be remodeling it into permanent supportive housing for homeless families and seniors.

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A hotel in Millbrae is set to be converted into affordable housing but the process of the sale has been the center of a contentious debate.

For the price of $33 million, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors is purchasing La Quinta Inn off El Camino Real in Millbrae.

The hotel will be remodeled into permanent supportive housing for families and seniors.

At a meeting Tuesday, County Supervisors, Millbrae city leaders, and residents discussed the purchase decision.

The property has been controversial for months.

On Friday residents held a rally outside the hotel. ABC7 News spoke with Millbrae Mayor Ann Schneider about how news of the county's intentions were out before they were communicated.

"They then signed an agreement in June to begin negotiations with a hotel in Millbrae without coming to Millbrae and in fact I found out about it by reading the local newspaper the next day," Schneider said.

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On Tuesday the Board voted 4-1 to purchase the property.

Supervisor David Canepa was the only no-vote.

During the meeting Canepa expressed taking more time to make the decision.

"I think we really need to sit down with the leaders of the city," Canepa said. "I do have one issue and it's the sort of imposition of us making the decision for a city."

Canepa's concern is for the 35 hotel workers and staff at the connected sushi restaurant.

"These are housekeepers, these are people who work the front desk, these are people who work in the restaurant," Canepa said.

During the meeting Supervisor Ray Mueller addressed one of Mayor Schneider's concerns about homeless sweeps from the BART station directly into the city every night.

"The perspective of homelessness in Millbrae certainly is impacted by the fact of what you talked about Mayor, that you have homeless being swept off BART and into the city and candidly that was something - not from Millbrae I didn't realize that happens," Mueller said. "And that's a burden I think you're dealing with unfairly alone candidly it's not."

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Mueller said that the homeless for the La Quinta Inn location would be families and seniors, not those being swept off the train.

With the hotel employees, Mueller would like periodic report backs for job placement.

For the restaurant, Mueller proposed a restaurant safety net if it falters in one year they would look at a cash grant to them.

Some of the main concerns from residents were public safety, loss of jobs and the financial loss for the city. The existing hotel garners hundreds of thousands dollars from tax revenue every year.

Supervisor Noelia Corzo felt like those concerns were addressed in the vote - and she brings personal experience to her decision.

"For me personally as someone who experienced homelessness with my family as child in our county that is part of the lens I see the world through," Corzo.

Corzo said she understands how desperate these families and seniors need housing and the stigma out there.

Supervisor Dave Pine said there's no debate on the need for housing but the difficulty is the location of La Quinta.

"I wouldn't support a project if I thought there were any public safety risks and I think there's a number of ways this project will ensure public safety," Pine said. "First off the clientele is seniors and families, it's not the same people getting off the BART stations. Second, there will be a vetting process."

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Pine addressed the loss of jobs as solvable.

"I think the idea of extending the lease of the restaurant, for the restaurant that is there is very promising, and I think there is demand for people working at the hotel to find a job," Pine said. "Now I think we should do everything and more help these folks locate those jobs."

For some Millbrae residents disappointed with Tuesday's decision, they say it's not about housing the homeless, it's about the process.

Millbrae residents Stephen Rainaldi, Bryan Tang, and Albert Yam are part of the organization We Love Millbrae.

"Unfortunately due to today's proceedings, there was just a lack of transparency and I really feel like they burned a bridge of trust with the city," Rainaldi said.

"A lot of unclear answers around how they plan to operationalize this," Tang said. "I think there's a lot of dependency on third party and there are questions about the third party. As a good citizen we'll welcome our neighbors but we will also make sure the council members that decided on this today are fully accountable for this."

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