North Park Hotel Converted Into Affordable Housing

North ParK Inn At 2625 University Avenue Will Also Serve As Pathfinders Headquarters In 2011

A North Park hotel has gone from neighborhood eyesore and crime magnet to a place where lives are changed.

The Old North Park Inn at 2625 University Avenue was converted into living spaces for up to 17 homeless men under the direction of the Pathfinders Program.

"It means the world to me," said Steve Noriega. "I now have a place to come home to, a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in."

Noriega said he has been fighting drug and alcohol addiction for 35 years, but for the last three years he has been a part of the Pathfinders Shelter Plus Care program.

The future residents are graduates of the program. In January, they are expected to move in.

"This program is taking those people who were a hazard to the community and turning their lives around," said Stan Stanley, the program's director.

Through the San Diego Redevelopment Agency and San Diego Housing Commission, the dilapidated hotel under went a 16-month renovation.

"Thanks to Pathfinders, the San Diego Housing Commission and our other project partners, the renovated North Park Inn has strengthened the neighborhood through the addition of supportive housing and through the elimination of a blighted property," City Councilman Todd Gloria.

San Diego police officer David Surwilo, a community relations officer for North Park, said the renovation has improved safety in the area.

"Before the renovation, the number of calls responded to by the San Diego Police Department for problems at this address were extremely high," Surwilo said.

For Wayne Riggs, the pastor of the nearby Plymouth Congregational Church, the change to the hotel is a blessing.

"Oh, absolutely. One of the best things that's been done for North Park as far as I'm concerned," said Riggs.

Those who are admitted into the new apartments must comply with the rules set down by Pathfinders. Among the rules, residents must attend Alcohol Anonymous meetings as well as therapy sessions and pay rent that has been guaranteed to remain stable for the next 55 years in a deal struck with the Housing Commission.

The hotel's 27 rooms were converted into 14 studio apartments and four two-bedroom units, and a smaller building was converted into an office for Pathfinders. Seventeen units will be reserved for people making 30-60 percent of the median income in the area, officials said.