In Bee debate, Sacramento mayoral candidates clash on homeless shelter locations

The four viable candidates for mayor of Sacramento clashed over homeless shelters during a debate Wednesday hosted by The Sacramento Bee and KVIE, the region’s PBS station.

Flojaune Cofer and Kevin McCarty each named locations where they would attempt to open so-called Safe Grounds — where the unhoused can live in tiny homes, vehicles and sometimes tents — while awaiting housing.

McCarty, a Sacramento-area assemblyman, said he would like to open a Safe Ground at the shuttered county-owned Melarkey Transfer Station, in an industrial area near the intersection of Fruitridge and Power Inn roads in south Sacramento.

Cofer said she would want to open them on the vacant lots along Stockton Boulevard.

Asked after the debate which lot she was referring to, Cofer identified a vacant parcel between Fruitridge Road and 21st Avenue. That lot is owned by Rocklin-based Auburn Manor Holding Corp., which in 2020 asked the city to clear a large homeless camp from the property, and the city did so. It’s currently vacant and fenced. It’s unclear if the city has ever tried to buy or lease the parcel.

“We have vacant parcels causing blight,” said Cofer, who owns a home in south Sacramento. “But (the area) also has music and art we can all connect to.”

Richard Pan, the capital region’s former state senator, said he would explore the sites former councilwoman State Sen. Angelique Ashby previously identified in North Natomas, though he did not have a location “off the top of his head.”

“But I’ll make sure we identify one,” Pan said.

Steve Hansen, former councilman, said he does not support Safe Grounds where people live in tents, such as a privately owned one at 12th and C streets, so he did not provide a location. He did however say he would support Safe Grounds that use tiny homes, such as the ones he bought in 2020.

“I have a Safe Ground behind the daycare that my kid goes to,” Hansen said. “They produce crime and negative impacts on neighborhoods.”

The primary will be held March 5. The top two candidates will advance to the general election Nov. 5. Ballots arrive in Sacramento residents’ mailboxes next week.

Find more coverage of the city races here.