Salinas plans to buy tax-burdened Chinatown building for homeless services.

Opportune Moment: Don Reynolds says the city was waiting for a county auction to close before trying to buy a building for homeless services. “It’s good for the city, because [Chinatown] is where the services are needed,” he says.

During a 2008 property auction, Monterey County offered a dirt-cheap price for a Salinas building. But there were no takers. 


A property in Chinatown, a haven for the homeless and drug dealers, can be a tough sell, even for the $18,000 in back taxes the county asked for at the auction. Since then, the property at 10 Soledad St. – its previous owner went to bankruptcy court and surrendered the building to the county has been back on the selling block twice.


Salinas officials are now eyeing the property for their own plan: a new service center in the derelict neighborhood. 


“Buying the building helps us maintain and grow the current services available to the community,” says Don Reynolds, a project manager at the Public Works Department.


A new space could mean more accessible public restrooms and showers for the homeless, amenities homeless advocates have been vying for. 


Because a private buyer didn’t bid for the Chinatown property in April, the city now has a chance to take the building off the auction list and acquire it, Reynolds says. 


Salinas will have to act fast, though, because the next auction could be as soon as June. City officials plan to adopt a resolution this month to stop the auctioning process.


The latest asking price for the building was $44,300, due to accumulating back taxes. But Salinas plans to negotiate with the county for a better price, Reynolds says.


After the purchase, the city hopes to use $50,000 in federal funds for refurbishing. Then the property could be leased to service providers. 


CSU Monterey Bay is interested in moving its community learning center to the prospective site because it’s struggling with rent at its current Chinatown location, Reynolds says.


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Purchasing 10 Soledad to benefit the Chinatown community isn’t a new idea.


Jill Allen, development director of the nonprofit Dorothy’s Place, says she wanted to acquire the building in the past but could never raise the funds to do it. Her plan was to turn the space into a shower facility and small-business space for homeless people to ply legitimate trades.


Because the city has not yet purchased the building, discussions on how it will be used haven’t gotten far.


“As long as it’s put to use for something good in the neighborhood,” Allen says, “we’re supportive of it.”

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