Sound Wall To Block Banning's Opportunity Village From I-10 Travelers

BANNING, CA — Banning’s Opportunity Village, a collection of 20 pallet homes lining the freeway between Lincoln and Bryant streets, will soon be obscured by a sound wall barrier, according to Banning City Council reports.

This is the latest in a series of changes in the village as the city navigates its solution to homeless encampments.

The walls will be non-masonry, constructed of either Carsonite or a similar composite sound barrier solution.

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The 20 tiny pre-fabricated homes that make up Opportunity Village can shelter up to 40 adults experiencing homelessness who qualify for the 90-day transition program, according to the city. This is not a shelter for families or children but for adults in transition. Opportunity Village replaced Banning’s original pallet homeless encampment, which burned down shortly after it opened. The village is meant to be a safe place for adults seeking benefits, employment, and permanent housing.

Homeless residents of the original Banning tent encampment, or “tent city” as authorities called it, were relocated after many units burned down to the current parcel off Bryant Street and the I-10 freeway that was between the railroad and Cal Trans property.

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Since then, the city has worked with those sheltered here to address issues within the camp further.

As of 2023, the village has a no-pet and no-extension cord policies. According to a city spokesperson, noise has been an ongoing issue for its residents, who must leave by 9 a.m. and can only return after 3 p.m.

In January, the city council approved earmarking $103,486 from the California Interagency Council on Homelessness Encampment Resolution Funding Program grant allocation for a 1,000-foot sound barrier wall built along Bryant Street, south of the I-10 Freeway. The wall would reduce the sound issue and provide another layer of privacy for village residents. IMEG of Ontario will construct the wall.

“IMEG Corporation is a reputable, qualified firm that has successfully provided similar services to other jurisdictions in the past,” Public Works Director Art Vela and City Manager Doug Schulze shared in a December statement.

The Opportunity Village temporary housing facility is right off Interstate 10 in Banning at the Hargrave Street exit.

Site Coordinator Ramon Ruiz discussed the new village with KESQ about how the location offers resources necessary for homeless residents to get back on their feet, according to a spokesperson from the Banning Police Department.

Opportunity Village is a sanctioned 90-day program that assists homeless residents in bettering their living situations and can house approximately 40 residents at a time, according to officials.

The Pallet Home units are 64 square feet and built for double occupancy. The tiny homes are durable, insulated, and “a proven stepping stone to permanent housing,” according to the builder’s website—each structure has 2-person folding beds, air conditioning, and electricity. The community has a separate shower, laundry, and bathroom/shower structure, along with 24/7 security for all.

Pallet homes are built in Washington State and brought out in pieces to be constructed onsite on pre-poured foundations.

It took several months to replace the old village, and the pallet home manufacturer says they have made each unit more fire-resistant, according to a KESQ report.

The project schedule provided by IMEG shows the builder is in a project development phase and will enter the engineering/design phase on Mar. 6. The council approved the funding on Dec. 12, 2023, and the project had a tentative start date of Jan. 3.

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