The Los Angeles City Council passed a homeless housing project in West L.A. on Friday. Mayor Karen Bass backed the project, but some neighborhood groups were against it because it would be close to homes.
The council, with one member not present, decided unanimously in favor of building the 33-bed facility on a city-owned lot at the corner of Midvale Avenue and Pico Boulevard, across from the old Westside Pavilion. The council also decided that the project does not need a full environmental study.
Bass, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, and other supporters of the idea say it will help the homeless people in the area. It will also help the city meet the terms of a court order that says it needs to add beds.
Before the vote, Yaroslavsky told people who were against the project that she would get more parking before the project started and work with the Los Angeles Police Department and local homeless service providers to make a plan for the safety of the area.
“But let me be absolutely very clear, we need these beds,” said Yaroslavsky, who represents the area. “I know 33 beds doesn’t seem like a lot, because in all honesty, it’s not. It’s not nearly enough, considering the emergency we’re in right now.”
Yaroslavsky said that her area has less than 100 of the city’s 16,000 beds for homeless people right now.
“What this means for my constituents, not only in Westwood but across the entire 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,” she said.
The building is expected to cost around $4.6 million and will have “sleeping cabins” with bathrooms in each one. A report from the city’s Bureau of Engineering says that there will also be cleaning rooms, storage bins, and office space on-site. Yaroslavsky told The Times that it should be open in about a year.
She said that people who live there will be able to talk to experts in mental health and substance use disorders, get help finding work, and get help finding permanent housing. Guards will be on site 24 hours a day. People with ties to the area will be able to use most of the beds.
It was turned down by the Westside Neighborhood Council last week because the project would be too close to homes and businesses on Pico Boulevard. It also made them “dismay” that “other sites were not being evaluated as alternatives.”
This week, Bass quickly fired the president of the Transportation Commission, just days after he led his colleagues in delaying a vote on a waiver for environmental review. This caused more controversy over the planned facility.
In a commission meeting, President Eric Eisenberg was worried about the waiver and asked for a delay so that the group could hear more about the project from people from the city.
He said that on Monday, the mayor’s office told him that he was no longer a commissioner. Bass’s office has refused to say why Eisenberg was fired.
The waiver was accepted by the Transportation Commission at a special meeting on Wednesday. The Commission is now working without Eisenberg.
Bass’s main goal is to reduce homelessness. Her Inside Safe program aims to quickly place homeless Angelenos in motels and hotels, and she has told city departments to speed up the building of shelters and affordable homes.
Eisenberg told The Times in a statement that he didn’t think the project should be protected from the California Environmental Quality Act review process.
A “project of thirty small homes, with sewage, plumbing lines, and trash disposal, [could] cause a situation, where the benefits of the project do not outweigh the hazards to the community,” he wrote.
At an early this month committee meeting on the project, Barbara Broide, a member of the neighborhood council, asked the City Council to look at other sites, such as one on Cotner Avenue.
“We’re here to tell you this is the wrong location,” Broide said. “It’s a good project for another place.”
A lot of people from Broide wanted to speak to the City Council before Friday’s vote. But the council wouldn’t let people say anything until afterward.
“I just wanted the council to know that it has shredded the faith that dozens of my neighbors have in their government,” said Meg Sullivan, who lives in the council district. “They came here today to let you know their very reasonable concerns, which I share, about putting housing on a much-needed public lot on Midvale, and yet they were not able to speak.”
Margaret Gillespie, who is a member of the Westside Neighborhood Association, spoke in favor of the plan.
“I want to thank Councilmember Yaroslavsky for her leadership on this very difficult issue. It’s difficult because of all the misinformation that circulates and the false narratives about the homeless,” she said. “I support the project because 25 of the 30 units are reserved for people who live here.”
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