People that are unhoused stand in line early morning outside of the Homelessness Response Center in the East Village waiting to see if they will be able to stay in shelter on June 5, 2023.
People that are unhoused stand in line early morning outside of the Homelessness Response Center in the East Village waiting to see if they will be able to stay in shelter on June 5, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Father Joe’s Villages wants to transform an East Village skydiving center that the city made a homeless service hub into a 176-unit affordable housing project.

Father Joe’s was selected this month following a city process seeking proposals to purchase and redevelop the building at 14th Street and Imperial Avenue that Mayor Todd Gloria has long detested. Gloria last year pushed to start the process to overhaul the property, which must house the service hub until December 2025 due to federal funds the city used to buy it.

In a May 10 memo to Gloria, Chief Operating Officer Eric Dargan wrote that an evaluation committee decided to proceed with Father Joe’s plan and that officials now plan to begin a 90-day negotiation period with the nonprofit. Father Joe's Villages intends to deliver a 100% affordable housing project for low-income individuals and families and to dedicate half of the new apartments for people who are homeless or currently on the brink.

The skydiving center is essentially next door to Father Joe’s East Village campus.

Full circle moment: Before the city bought the skydiving center in 2018, real estate financier David Malcolm approached Father Joe’s about potentially donating the building to the nonprofit. After a tour, Father Joe’s executives discussed the building’s challenges and whether they could use it for a shelter, offices or a parking garage.

“My reaction was, wow, this is gonna take a lot of work to convert to anything that we can use,” Father Joe’s CEO Deacon Jim Vargas told Planetcob in 2018. “It has two gigantic silos in the middle of the first floor. It was made to be a skydiving center.”

The conversations quickly dropped off but now, nearly seven years later, Father Joe’s is looking to redevelop the property.

For more (entertaining) history on how the city ended up with a former skydiving center in the first place, check out Lisa Halverstadt’s 2018 story about how it came together.

What Father Joe's says now: In a Thursday statement, Vargas wrote that Father Joe's was proud to be selected to overhaul the property he acknowledged has been evaluated for “many different purposes” over the years.

“We at Father Joe’s Villages have found a way to build upon the structure’s strengths to the benefit of the community,” Vargas wrote. “By repurposing the existing site while employing high-performance building materials, we can scale the building to 15 floors with 176 units of 100 percent affordable housing.”

Vargas said Father Joe's also expects to provide wraparound services to future residents including health care and employment services.

Father Joe's provided these renderings of its plan for the property.

Rendering courtesy of Father Joe's Villages.

Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Father Joe's and renderings.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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  1. The homeless living in a high rise and a complete demo. Big time money. Who's going to fund that?

  2. Why do we want to give free housing to losers? Are there no good people struggling who need a home? Why should they continue to struggle while worthless piles of garbage get free housing?

  3. I made the internment of psychiatry close as well as the 8000 of the 5000 jails that I led as psychology and abnormal psychology

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