May 2, 2024 - News

Meet Douglas Hamm, the man behind Mayor Gloria's mega-shelter proposal

A warehouse on Kettner and Vine eyed for transition into a homeless shelter

The site of the proposed shelter in the Midway District near the airport. Photo: Andy Keatts/Axios

San Diego's city hall is getting a crash course on Douglas Hamm on the heels of Mayor Todd Gloria's proposal to turn his property into the city's largest homeless shelter.

Why it matters: The former print shop north of downtown would host 1,000 beds for homeless residents, but both the city council and public have blushed at the pricey lease Gloria struck, putting the project in peril.

Driving the news: Voice of San Diego profiled Hamm Thursday, revealing his deal began with a cold email to city staffers in October, while he was in escrow on the purchase, before Gloria toured the site in January and kickstarted negotiations.

  • The Union-Tribune reported last month that Hamm borrowed $12.5 million against the property the same day he closed on the purchase, with his loan backed by anticipated rent payments on it.

By the numbers: The city would pay a total of $92 million in rent over a 35-year term, and also foot the bill for $18 million in upgrades to make the building suitable as a shelter.

  • On top of that, it anticipates spending $30 million a year to operate the facility which includes staffing, food, energy and other costs.

Friction point: Real estate pros have told Axios and other media the cost is above market rate.

What he's saying: Hamm is shocked by the backlash, and told Voice he had discussions for similar or costlier leases with other companies.

  • "I can't take a complete bath on it just because I want to see it happen from a human perspective, but I'm stretching to try to get it done," he said.

What's next: Hamm said he's talking with city staff in hopes of keeping the deal alive, following a closed-session city council discussion.

  • "The city council has told staff to go back and renegotiate, and that is what's going on," Stephen Cushman, a consultant to Gloria and a board member of the San Diego Housing Commission, told Axios.
  • "At some point, (Hamm) could say 'forget it,' or the city could say 'it's too expensive,'" he said. "But I can tell you, the mayor is focused on finding a long-term home for 1,000 beds. That's the order of the day."

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