Redwood City plans to allocate about $1.3 million of its federal funding to help convert the Comfort Inn & Suites into affordable housing.

The City Council this week approved the money along with a decision to initiate a funding agreement with San Mateo County, which has also dedicated county funds to help renovate the 51-room hotel at 1818 El Camino Real.

The city’s money would come from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, or HOME, a special fund from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Funding can be used to provide affordable housing, rental assistance or other kinds of support.

To receive its HOME funds, the city will need to have its plan approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development first.

Councilmembers wholly supported the proposal, with each member voting yes on the funding plan.

Some councilmembers noted that it was a timely item following a fire that occurred at an encampment at the Woodside Road and El Camino Real cloverleaf junction on Sunday afternoon, a day before the Feb. 14 vote. There were no injuries but the fire caused damage to a residential property, cars and other personal property.

Mayor Giselle Hale said the hotel renovation was an incredible opportunity to keep people housed.

“This is something that our council has expressed long-term commitment to for two years and it’s becoming more and more urgent,” Hale said.

She also reassured the council that the city would not lose too much money from the lost transient occupancy tax revenue the hotel would have brought in.

“This is something that our council has expressed long-term commitment to for two years and it’s becoming more and more urgent.”

Mayor Giselle Hale

“I actually looked into what these individual hotels were producing in terms of revenue and what we’re paying to provide programming and services. And really, it’s a negligible difference. We need to keep preventing homelessness. It is expensive, and we need to keep people housed,” Hale said.

San Mateo County is in the process of purchasing the Comfort Inn & Suites using funding from the state’s Project Homekey initiative. Some of the money will help convert the hotel rooms into 51 affordable studios.

Renovations would include adding kitchens to each of the studio units, filling in the swimming pool and making the building more accessible.

The swimming pool of the Redwood City Comfort Inn & Suites would be filled in to make the property more accessible as a permanent housing site. (Photo courtesy of Choice Hotels)

The county expects to acquire the hotel this spring and complete construction in the fall. Units should be ready by early 2023.

Once complete, the Comfort Inn project would become the third hotel that the county has acquired to convert to transitional or permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Currently, there are not enough affordable housing units to house those who need it, according to Raymond Hodges, director of the San Mateo County Department of Housing.

“The goal would always be to move those folks (living on the streets) directly into housing if we have the opportunity,” Hodges said. “Sometimes there aren’t enough units and right now that’s the situation we’re living in.”

In addition to the $1.3 million that will go toward renovations, the City Council allocated about $179,000 to help administer the funds, which will cover the cost of preparing the funding plan and conducting an environmental review. The review is required before the city and county can enter into a funding agreement.

The county is partnering with nonprofit housing developer Alta Housing, which will operate the project, and the Mental Health Association of San Mateo County, which will help provide services.