LA City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee advances controversial proposal
By Sam Catanzaro
A plan to bring more homeless shelters to an array of public spaces, parks and government buildings on the Westside passed its first legislative hurdle this week.
On Monday, Los Angeles City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee voted 4-1 to advance Councilmember Mike Bonin’s proposal to look into bringing more housing for homeless individuals to the Westside.
On March 31, Bonin introduced a motion to Council that would evaluate the feasibility of bringing a variety of projects to combat homelessness to locations across the Westside.
“Addressing our homelessness crisis requires a wide range of solutions, applied urgently and simultaneously, targeting different populations and focusing a variety of resources, across the City of Los Angeles,” reads the motion. “Homelessness across Southern California, Los Angeles, and the 11th District continues to increase, and much more must be done. Different interventions must be tried, and more locations must be identified.”
Among the locations is the Los Angeles County-owned parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach at 17000 Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. According to Bonin, this location would serve as a temporary site for single-occupancy tiny-homes or safe camping.
The motion also calls for looking into the feasibility of bringing similar housing options to the following locations across the Westside: Mar Vista (Mar Vista Park), Marina Del Rey (Fisherman’s Village), Playa del Rey (Dockweiler Beach), Del Rey (private building at 5000 Beethoven Avenue), Westchester (Westchester Park) and West LA (West LA Municipal Building).
In addition, the motion proposes a single-occupancy tiny-homes or safe camping sites on a property owned by Culver City for a joint LA-Culver City program and at an undetermined location at LAX. The motion also would instruct the City Housing Authority to work with Council District 11 and willing property owners to enter into master lease agreements for hotel rooms or apartment units to be used for homeless housing.
The motion has been met with opposition from residents and various stakeholders throughout Council District 11, including the Pacific Palisades Community Council, Brentwood Community Council and Supervisor Janice Hahn.
“The beach is to Los Angeles what Central Park is to New York. It would be unthinkable to place homeless housing in Central Park; it should be unthinkable to do so at the beach in Los Angeles,” the PPCC wrote in a letter opposing the proposal.
The BCC echoed this viewpoint in a similar motion expressing its opposition.
“The use of shared, public recreational spaces are a benefit and resource for the entire community of Los Angeles, and, California beaches, in particular, hold a unique and valued place in the hearts and minds of residents and visitors from throughout the world, and the California Coastal Commission is clear the public should have unfettered access to utilize every portion of these recreational properties,” reads the BCC motion.
The Venice Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council, noted that it supports the use of the vacant West LA Civic Center and the expansion of Project Roomkey–a program using hotels and motels for housing–but echoed the BCC and PPCC in their opposition to use public recreational spaces for shelters.
“The use of shared, public recreational spaces are a benefit and resource for the entire community of Los Angeles. California beaches are a unique and valued place for residents and visitors from throughout the world,” wrote Chamber President George Francisco. “The Chamber strongly supports use of the vacant West LA Civic Center for homeless shelters given its proximity to transportation and services in a safe environment.”
“The City and County need to do more to identify government owned land that is suitable for temporary housing and longer-term construction of low-income housing. We believe there may be opportunities for buying or leasing commercial properties as more employees work from home as well as strip malls where businesses have permanently closed. Another opportunity for land purchase is along the Metro right-of-way and parking lots, some which are now being leased to car dealers for vehicle storage,” Francisco added.
In addition, over 19,000 opponents of the proposal have signed a petition against motion. Bonin, however, in a message to constituents, defended the plan.
“Some are claiming I have proposed that the city allow homeless encampments at our parks and beaches. That rumor is not true. On the contrary, what I have proposed is designed to reduce encampments, so that our public spaces can return to full public use,” Bonin wrote. “The proposed solutions would provide security, sanitation and services, and focus on getting people into housing.”