The City Could Use Its Airport as a Means to Shelter Its Homeless Population, Says Venice Neighborhood Community Officer
Op-Ed by Clark Brown, Venice Neighborhood Council Community Officer and Board Member
Los Angeles should use its vacant parcels of land at LAX (The LAX Parcels) to build temporary shelter for its large and increasing homeless population. It has no other options to accommodate this population and it has ample resources to do it and to do it quickly. The objections to using the LAX Parcels for that purpose are without merit.
Los Angeles’ homeless population is increasing substantially. This month the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority (“LAHSA”) reported that since 2022 there has been a 9% increase in homelessness in the County of Los Angeles, a 10% increase in the City of Los Angeles and a 45% increase in Service Planning Area 5, which is West Los Angeles. 75,518 persons are homeless in the County, 46,260 are homeless in the City.
This data continues a trend of increasing homelessness, especially in Venice. The Rand Corporation’’s 2022 study found that between 2021 and 2022 homelessness increased 32% in Venice, 14.5% in Hollywood and 13% on Skid Row. The Rand study found there were 1,358, 685 and 523 homeless persons in Skid Row, Hollywood and Venice respectively. There is nothing to show these trends will not continue.
Councilwoman Park has boasted that since taking office this past January she and the Mayor found housing for 200 homeless persons in Venice. This still leaves a large number of people homeless.
In February Mayor Bass issued her Directive No. 3 which ordered all City Departments, including LAWA, to report in writing to the City Administrative Officer (CAO) all properties each department manages which could potentially be used for homeless shelter. Directive No. 3 further ordered those departments by that date to deliver to the CAO any writing which evidenced anything that would restrict the City from using such parcels for homeless shelter.
In June and pursuant to the California Public Records Act, Gov’t C. sec.6250, I served on the CAO, LAWA, the Deputy Mayor for Homelessness and Councilwoman Park a Public Records Request (PRR) which required them to deliver to me all writings which they delivered to the CAO pursuant to Directive No. 3 and which evidenced any parcels of land which could be used for homeless shelter, any writings which evidenced any restriction upon using the parcels for that purpose and any writings which evidenced any plans the City had for development of the parcels that would be inconsistent with using them for homeless shelters.
On June 23 the CAO responded by delivering to me the documents LAWA delivered to it pursuant to the Mayor’s Directive No. 3. It included a 50 page, single space spread sheet which identified vacant parcels of land within LAX which the City could quickly use to develop safe camping, tiny homes and other interim shelter for homeless persons. It did not include any writings which evidenced any law, regulation or contract pursuant to which the FAA could bar the City from using the LAX Parcels for homeless shelter. Nor did it include any writing which evidenced any plans LAWA has for developing those parcels in the near future for projects that would be inconsistent for using them for interim homeless shelter. This means there are no laws, regulations, contracts or plans which would bar the City from using the LAX parcels for interim homeless shelter.
Many of these parcels are not near houses, churches or other uses that might be inconsistent with safe camping, safe parking, and tiny homes for homeless persons. Rather, they are surrounded by commercial, industrial and airport uses. This includes the multi acre vacant parcels at the intersection of La Cienega and Century and 111 th Street and Aviation. (See attached pictures.) Ken Craft, the CEO of Hope of the Valley, which has built six tiny home villages in the San Fernando Valley, has inspected these parcels and stated they would be ideal for tiny homes. His views are credible because HOV developed and operated its tiny home villages in the Valley with funds the CAO obtained for it.
It should be noted that the City has previously used its vacant parcels at LAX for temporary housing for airline employees. (See “Lot B’s Off Duty Ground Crew” LA Times July 20, 2009,) So it can do it again for the homeless.
It should also be noted that apart from the LAX Parcels, there are no other places to house the homeless in Council District 11 which covers most of the Westside of Los Angeles.
In March Councilwoman Park held a zoom town hall during which she admitted there were no parcels of land or buildings to house the homeless in her district. She concluded her admission with a plea to tell her about any parcels or buildings which could be used for that purpose because she did not know of any. Her homelessness deputy, Juan Fregoso, concurred in her remarks.
The CAO and the City Controller reached the same conclusions as Councilwoman Park in their reports dated August 10, 2021 and January 14, 2022 This leaves the LAX parcels as the only suitable ones in CD 11 for homeless shelter.
Finally, it should be noted that the City has ample resources to immediately develop the LAX Parcels for interim homeless shelter. In his 2023 State of the State address Governor Newsome said he would deliver 500 tiny homes to Los Angeles. As the Times reported on June 30, there is $1.3 billion in the current City budget for homeless services starting July 1, and last month the Federal Government selected Los Angeles
as one of the cities to participate in All Inside, a new, two year federal program targeting homelessness which will bring even more money to the City.
There are important issues about using the LAX Parcels for interim homeless housing. These include airplane noise and the wishes of people who live and work in the vicinity of LAX. These issues should be addressed head on in a careful and thorough manner.
To that end, the Mayor, LAWA and Councilwoman Park in consultation with the relevant neighborhood councils, including Venice, Del Rey and Westchester, should immediately establish a task force with representatives from the appropriate City
Departments and neighborhoods to study and make recommendations about those issues.
The time for ignoring the use of the LAX Parcels for interim homeless shelter is over. The time to act is now.