Peter Seidler and Dan Shea embrace the philosophy of Housing First. They also believe Housing Fast is a more pragmatic approach to stopping unsheltered people from dying on the streets.
This dynamic duo--sans a Bat Cave--founded Tuesday Group in 2016. Along with other well-connected and influential San Diego business and civic leaders, they voluntarily tackle, dissect and take action on an array of homelessness issues.
Tuesday Group is affiliated with the nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation, founded 15 years ago by Pat and Stephanie Kilkenny.
San Diego ranks in the top five nationally in homelessness numbers. At the request of Seidler and Shea, Lucky Duck switched it's humanitarian focus solely to this cause.
I was invited to sit in on recent back-to-back Tuesday Group meetings. The conversations were off the record, but the prevailing attitude was apparent: Homelessness is an imminent problem that politicians don’t react to with any sense of speed.
“On this issue, there’s too much lip service,” Seidler says. “And what’s tough is every few years we get a new set of local politicians. They’re good people. And most of them care. But most of them know nothing about homelessness.”
Too often, politics is a waiting game. Successful business executives, however, are not the most patient people.
“We push the politicians,” Seidler says. “But we try to build the best possible relationships and work with politicians and make them look good by advocating things that work.”
Unfortunately, creating the thousands of affordable housing units desperately needed by the unsheltered community is not a process that lives over the course of one politician’s time in office.
Promises get made. Goals get kicked down the road.
Collectively, the Tuesday Group supports Housing First. That’s the federally recommended approach of homeless assistance which prioritizes providing permanent housing.
This belief is guided by the notion that if you put a roof over someone’s head and provide counseling services first, it’s more likely they can then conquer issues like getting a job or dealing with addictions.
Seidler says Housing First is a sound theoretical approach—but only if you have 10 to 20 years to wait in San Diego to identify potential sites, get neighborhood buy-in, secure funding and jump through the necessary political hoop before construction or conversion can even begin.
“People are suffering on the streets today,” Seidler says. “The most vulnerable need help. We don’t believe in leaving people freezing outside on a cold and windy night. We support programs like bridge shelters. These work very well when they’re managed well.”
One of Tuesday Group’s first major efforts was the purchase and management outsourcing of large, industrial tent structures that were used as bridge shelters around the city.
“No doubt, permanent housing is the Holy Grail,” Seidler says. “In the meantime, that four-year-old, or that elderly lady, doesn’t deserve to be out shivering on the streets, or worse.”
The counter-argument and concern by some homelessness advocates is that politicians can become infatuated with quick-fix congregant shelters and drop the ball on long-term plans for permanent housing.
Seidler insists it’s possible to multitask efforts on both fronts.
Baseball flows through Seidler’s bloodline. His grandfather was Walter O’Malley, who owned the Dodgers from 1950 to 1979. O’Malley shocked the sports world in 1958 by moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
In 2012, Seidler, his uncle Peter O’Malley and San Diego businessman Ron Fowler bought the Padres from John Moores.
Before moving to San Diego, Seidler was managing partner of Seidler Equity Partners. The Marina del Rey-based company has been estimated to be worth $3 billion.
Both in L.A. and San Diego, Seidler says he’s often made a practice of going jogging at midnight, sometimes for hours at a time. It’s helpful for both physical and mental health, he believes.
“At that hour, you see stuff you don’t see in the light of day,” Seidler says.
Everything related to homelessness drew him in.
“There are people who consistently are on that bench, or on that street corner, in those bushes, or whatever it might be,” he says “When you see the same people, you size them up. You say hello. Have a conversation.”
Seidler then started having other conversations with San Diegans who are experts in the homelessness arena. This led to a meeting with businessman and frequent social justice activist Dan Shea.
“Dan and I were going to study it for six months,” Seidler says. “Well, we found a lot of situations where the private sector would jump in and say, ‘We want to help.’ But they’d be gone in three months. They got frustrated by the lack of political action.”
Shea and Seidler made a decision. If they were going to attempt to wade into such a complex, hard-to-get-your-arms-around issue it would have to be a lifelong effort. They couldn’t slow down or ever stop.
To date, over a six-year existence, the Tuesday Group has not missed a single weekly meeting.
“At the time when Peter first approached me about studying it, I thought government was taking care of homelessness,” says Shea, who along with helming a restaurant management company is also CEO of Feeding San Diego.
“I saw how politicians make promises on homelessness and do nothing once they get elected,” he says. “I’ve never been afraid to voice an opinion on that. Not to be unkind to politicians, but that’s just the way it is.”
Years ago, Shea and Seidler sat down for a meeting with former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. He was mayor from 2014 to 2020, and served as a San Diego City Councilmember from 2006 to 2014.
“I’ve known Kevin for 20-plus years,” Shea says. “We told him we’ve been studying this and we thought he could use some help.”
Shea says they’re willing to support any mayor, regardless of political party. Faulconer is a Republican (who ran unsuccessfully in the recent state gubernatorial recall election). Current mayor Todd Gloria is a Democrat.
“We told Kevin we’d like to help,” Shea says. “We told him we didn’t need to hear our names mentioned and we didn’t care about credit. We also told him that if he ever caused our efforts to spin our wheels then we would go public and talk about what we think is right or wrong.”
During Faulconer’s second term, Tuesday Group had already pushed to get the bridge shelters up and running. The Luck Duck Foundation paid for the massive tents, each of which cost roughly $800,000.
Shea says they also concluded it would be a good idea to utilize unused government buildings as homeless shelters. One suggestion was the former central library building (downtown at Eighth Avenue and E Street).
A litany of excuses was offered, Shea says. “They didn’t have insurance,” he says. “Then it was asbestos in the walls. Then it was a lack of sprinklers. Finally, they said the old library—which has three-foot-thick floors and used to hold tons of books—didn’t have load-bearing floors."
Today, the building is still vacant. Street tents usually line the sidewalk in front of the former entrance to the decommissioned library.
Tuesday Group next focused on Golden Hall, a mid-sized, multi-use assembly space adjacent to City Hall, where the mayoral and city council offices are housed.
Shea says for roughly two years, Tuesday Group and the city went back and forth and round and round on opening that site.
By the first quarter of 2019, Shea had waited long enough.
“Finally, I said to Peter, ‘Kevin is spinning his wheels, which is making us spin our wheels,’” Shea says. “So, I think it’s time to go public.”
Shea and Seidler met with the mayor on a Thursday. They invited Faulconer to a Monday press conference at the University of San Diego.
“We invited him and said we would congratulate him on opening Golden Hall—or he could explain why he wasn’t going to do it,” Shea says.
Faulconer’s office put out a release announcing the opening of Golden Hall the Friday before the press conference.
Asked for comment, Faulconer replied in an email: “It takes a lot of partners to reduce homelessness, and Peter and Dan were two people who made a big difference. We need more shelter to get folks off the street, and they came to the table with private philanthropy that helped my administration make the case to the public and other elected officials that we should embrace this new approach. It was no simple task to repurpose Golden Hall and set up the bridge shelters, because it required a complete change to how City Hall dealt with homelessness.”
Faulconer's former chief of staff, Aimee Faucett, says she vividly recalls Seidler and Shea's frequent promises to take issues to the press. "Looking back, I have to admire how effective they were," she says.
Golden Hall is still in operation, serving as many as 500-plus homeless individuals per day.
Drew Moser is the executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation and is the facilitator for Tuesday Group meetings.
The goals of the Lucky Duck Foundation can be summed up by three tenets, he says: Leadership. Immediate action. Employment/empowerment.
Leadership. Tuesday Group meets weekly and hosts monthly symposiums. The group was just asked to join the governor’s philanthropic working group on homelessness and housing.
Immediate action. “Our group is focused on getting people off the streets now,” Moser says. “We purchased massive, industrial-size tent structures. We advocate for vacant and under-utilized government properties to be activated. We have a food and water program that reaches a thousand people a day. We distribute winter coats that fold out into sleeping bags. And we have several other programs in the works.”
Employment/empowerment. Tuesday Group has funded more than a dozen employment and job-training programs. The group has invested a million dollars in jobs training, and recently announced plans to double that investment
Dan Novak is one of several prominent members of Tuesday Group. He’s missed just two meetings during his tenure.
“It’s an incredibly impressive group of people,” says Novak, who was a senior executive at Qualcomm and before that general manager of Cox Communications’ Channel 4 San Diego.
Tuesday Group brings business knowledge and expertise up to bat for a social issue, he says.
“Peter Seidler, Dan Shea and many of the people in this group also have the ability to bring matters to the attention of public officials,” Novak says. “They have tremendous influence. And they’re using their influence and their place in the world to improve a really complex social issue.”
San Diego politicians would be wise to acknowledge or befriend a group with super powers that plans to stay in existence forever. SDSun
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