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Berkeley awarded $16.2 million to renovate San Pablo Avenue motel into homeless housing

Berkeley will soon purchase and renovate the Golden Bear Inn to welcome more than three dozen unhoused residents, thanks to a $16.2 million state grant awarded Wednesday.

As part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s multibillion-dollar Homekey program to create thousands of housing units across California, the 44-room inn at 1620 San Pablo Ave. — formerly known as the Golden Bear Motel — will be transformed into 43 supportive housing studios and one studio unit for a property manager.

In addition to studios, the project will feature space for counseling, a community room and a dining hall.  A grocery store, healthcare facility, library, pharmacy and public transit are located within a half-mile of the site.

The inn was one of six Homekey projects awarded state grants Wednesday totaling $70 million.

“Homekey is proof that we can solve homelessness,” Newsom said in a news release. “We’ve swiftly created safer places to live for thousands of unhoused individuals throughout the last two years and today’s awards continue that progress — creating 232 housing units for folks experiencing homelessness across the state and providing them with the supportive services they need.”

The Berkeley City Council unanimously supported the Golden Bear Inn project application December, and committed $8.4 million toward it from Measure O, a housing bond city voters approved in 2018 to develop affordable housing.

“We know that permanent supportive housing is the evidence-based solution to homelessness in our community”, Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, who represents northwest Berkeley, said in a statement. “This Homekey funding will enable us to create 44 permanent homes that I hope will transform the lives of residents. We stand ready to welcome our new neighbors to District 1.”

According to the 2019 point-in-time count, 1,108 unhoused people living in Berkeley that year — a 14% increase from 2017.

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