Protesters in Koreatown apparently were heard, as plans for a temporary homeless shelter have been altered.EXPAND
Protesters in Koreatown apparently were heard, as plans for a temporary homeless shelter have been altered.
Brett Callwood

L.A. Council Advances Plans for Temporary Housing for Homeless People

Plans for temporary housing for homeless people continue to move forward since the Los Angeles City Council gave the go-ahead on Friday, Aug. 17, for about $2.2 million to be used to assess 16 potential housing sites.

The sum of $2.27 million will be transferred to the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering, for staff and consultant costs associated with surveys, structural analysis, and geotechnical and environmental review, and other costs to begin or complete pre-development work for the sites, according to a city report.

These assessments, which also include a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis, must be completed before a potential site is formally approved as a bridge housing facility.

More than 31,000 people are homeless in L.A., according to the latest count from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

In April, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council declared an emergency shelter crisis and took advantage of a new state law that enabled cities to construct homeless shelters on any land owned or leased by the city. This gives the city the ability to construct shelters in new places, and much faster, according to the mayor’s website about A Bridge Home, the name of the program for temporary, emergency shelters for the homeless.

To expedite construction of these shelters, this year’s budget includes $20 million to build emergency shelters citywide, in each of the 15 council districts. The city is looking at land it already owns that's located near dense homeless encampments, according to the website.

Friday’s decision comes as City Council president Herb Wesson, whose district includes Koreatown, has been in talks with community members and organizations in the area about potential temporary and, now, possibly semi-permanent housing options.

Initially, a city parking lot in Koreatown at Vermont Avenue and Seventh Street, south of Wilshire Boulevard, was announced in May as the site of one of the city’s temporary homeless shelters with about 65 beds. After the Korean community staged multiple protests about not being engaged in the process, among other concerns, more discussions led to other options.

In recent weeks, Wesson, in partnership with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, identified the tennis courts south of Lafayette Park, near Wilshire and Hoover Street, as a potential site for temporary housing for the homeless. The location is about a half-mile east of the original proposed site.

In an interview with KPCC earlier this month, Wesson acknowledged more could have been done to engage residents about the original plan on a city parking lot. But after more outreach and listening to residents’ suggestions and concerns, the community has more options, he said.

Critics of the new plan say it doesn’t resolve any of the concerns that come with a homeless shelter and that it was moved from a Korean-American neighborhood to a Latino, mostly Central American immigrant community.

Vanessa Rodriguez, communications director for Wesson, said in an email that the following are sites the councilman’s office is working toward, in addition to Lafayette Park: 682 S. Vermont Ave. (the original site), now proposed as senior affordable housing; 1819 S. Western Ave. (parking lot at Wesson’s district office), bridge housing; and 923 Kenmore Ave., permanent supportive housing.

Wesson has called the opportunity to have permanent affordable housing in the region a “win-win.”

Possible temporary housing sites also have been discussed in Venice, Hollywood and West L.A., among other areas.

Across the city, the 16 sites included for assessment are those that have been approved through July 3, Ashley Thomas, communications director for Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, said in an email about Friday’s council action.

“Some council offices have proposed more than one [site], some haven’t proposed any,” Thomas said, in explaining why there were now 16 sites.

The Mayor’s Office now has 10 days to review the council’s action.

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