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Los Angeles City Council Approves Housing Facility Amid Local Resident Opposition

Los Angeles City Council Approves Housing Facility Amid Local Resident Opposition

A homeless person sleeps at City Hall in Los Angeles on Jan 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

10/22/2023

Updated: 10/22/2023

LOS ANGELES—The City Council on Oct. 20 unanimously approved a hotly debated interim housing facility for unhoused Angelenos in West L.A., which has sparked fierce opposition and frustration among some local residents.
The council voted 14–0, with Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson absent during the vote, to fund nearly $4.6 million for the construction, lease and operation of the proposed housing project slated to open in 2024 at 2377 Midvale Ave., near Pico and Westwood boulevards.
The council also concurred with a recommendation from the Bureau of Engineering to exempt the project from the California Environmental Quality Act, which would help expedite the development process.
Prior to the vote, Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who represents the Fifth District, which encompasses portions of West L.A., addressed opponents and supporters of the project who filled the Council Chamber.
“For those who are opposed to the project, I want you to know that I hear you and I know many of you are very concerned and frustrated. I know those concerns come from a very real place,” said Ms. Yaroslavsky, who proposed the project in July.
The councilwoman said she is committed to doing right by her constituents and the entire neighborhood of Midvale and Rancho Pico and would secure additional parking for businesses on Pico Boulevard before breaking ground. Additionally, she would work with the Los Angeles Police Department and the service provider to develop a “robust neighborhood security plan.”
“And if it becomes clear after this project opens that it isn’t working, we‘ll make any necessary adjustments or, if absolutely necessary, we’ll shut it down,” Ms. Yaroslavsky said.
The 33-unit interim housing facility will be developed on a city-owned parking lot and include three laundry units, storage, a pet area, office and case management conferencing space, dining areas and security fencing.
Karen Bass speaks at her mayoral inauguration ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 11, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Karen Bass speaks at her mayoral inauguration ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Dec. 11, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Backed by Mayor Karen Bass and some community members, Ms. Yaroslavsky maintains the project is needed for interim homeless housing in the Fifth District.
“I wouldn’t be here fighting hard to build them if they weren’t [necessary],” Ms. Yaroslavsky said. “Of the 16,000 interim beds currently operational in the city of Los Angeles, only one half of 1 percent are in Council District 5—that’s less than 100.”
She noted none of those beds serve the general population—adults between the ages of 18 to 55.
“What this means for my constituents, not only in Westwood, but across the entire [Fifth] district, is that when we are trying to resolve an encampment and bring people inside off the street, and into housing, it’s nearly impossible,” Ms. Yaroslavsky said.
Many Midvale and Rancho Pico neighborhood residents have raised concerns over public safety and impacts to nearby businesses.
Last week, the Westside Neighborhood Council voted 12–2 to oppose the project.
Residents have concerns that the project will bring occupants who have a “criminal history and substance abuse problems,” according to Jay Jacoby, an alternate member of the neighborhood council.
A homeless man sleeps on the streets of Los Angeles, California in December 2018. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A homeless man sleeps on the streets of Los Angeles, California in December 2018. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Additionally, opponents say the loss of the parking lot would negatively impact local businesses such as nearby restaurants.
Others fear their children will not be able to walk or ride their bicycles in peace around the neighborhood or as they travel to Overland Elementary School or Westwood Charter Elementary School, which are less than a mile away from the facility.
During the Westside Neighborhood Council meeting, opponents of the project proposed using a fleet of trailers, purchased by the city to house unhoused Angelenos during the pandemic, as a better alternative to the Midvale-Pico housing facility. According to the coalition, the trailers are currently idle and unused.
Trailers could be parked along Cotner Avenue and provide housing to a large squatter encampment that’s already located on Cotner, about 10 blocks from the housing facility site, according to the coalition.
A representative from Ms. Yaroslavsky’s office said they are exploring that option, but as an additional housing opportunity for the homeless.
On Wednesday, the city’s Board of Transportation Commissioners unanimously voted 4–0 to concur with the Bureau of Engineering’s recommendation to exempt the project from CEQA. The panel had previously postponed a decision and requested clarification on its role in the development in the project.
According to Ms. Yaroslavsky’s office, the commission needed to vote on the project because the commissioners have discretion over how the parking lot can be used.
On Monday, the mayor’s office removed Eric Eisenberg from his role as president of the transportation commission. Ms. Bass’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Mr. Eisenberg, who had served on the commission since 2013 and had recently been reappointed by Ms. Bass, told the Los Angeles Times he was removed “because of his role in delaying the vote.”
“My integrity matters more than my position as a voluntary commissioner,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “Yeah, it’s fun to be a commissioner, but it’s not that much fun that I’m going to sell out my community.”
A homeless encampment in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A homeless encampment in Los Angeles on Jan. 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In a statement, Mr. Eisenberg said he reviewed the Midvale-Pico project and became “convinced that a 33-unit homeless project bordering single-family residences on two sides should not qualify for a CEQA exemption.”
Opponents contended the parking lot was the former site of a gas station and requires further environmental scrutiny before development takes place.
“We have good reason to believe a lawsuit will be filed within days to stop this project in its tracts,” Vita Lucia, a leader of the Midvale-Pico Coalition, said in a statement.
On Oct. 4, the council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee voted unanimously to support the interim housing proposal.
Before that vote, Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who sits on the committee, reminded concerned residents that the city is in a crisis.
“We have to lean in and do this everywhere. It’s not easy to do it as a council member, and I applaud Councilwoman Yaroslavsky for coming forward to bring this project [online]—there’s no project like this in her district,” Mr. Blumenfield said.
He added the proposal would create a 1,000-foot 41.18 zone around the facility—a city law that prohibits camping, sleeping and placing belongings in designated areas.
Kay Hartman, president of the Palms Neighborhood Council, who spoke for herself during that meeting, said change can be hard, but change can and will benefit the city as a whole.
“I don’t live very far from Pico. I can walk to it. I sometimes park in the lot under discussion. Interim housing is needed. This one project by itself won’t make much of a difference but many such projects might. It should be built,” Ms. Hartman said.
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