Lincoln Heights Parking Lots – Example of Measure HHH Bait and Switch Scam Pulled Over Voter’s Eyes

EASTSIDER-Wow! This is far from the acquiescent Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council I was part of back in the day, quietly controlled by USC’s David Galaviz as Council President. No sir, this NC and Community is spunky, calling out the bait and switch of Measure HHH, a so-called $1.2 billion dollar “Homeless” Measure. 

 

I wrote about this shortly after the Bond measure passed in 2016: 

“In a mid-November move, the recommendations had suddenly winnowed down to four developers, and the types of housing now magically include “Permanent Supportive Housing, Affordable Multifamily Housing, Mixed-Income Housing, Affordable Home ownership,” and my favorite, “Innovative Methods of Housing.” 

So just to be clear, this story is not about a bunch of NIMBY’s and Gentrification. This is a story of how the City of Los Angeles has perverted the advertised intent of Homeless Measure HHH and turned it into affordable housing development for cherry-picked builders, right here on Broadway in Lincoln Heights. 

The March 22nd Community Meeting 

So, let’s jump right in. The immediate meltdown occurred during a CD1 Community Meeting to go over the plan to build hundreds of units of housing on five parking lots around North Broadway. Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo was not treated gently at this meeting. Hat Tip to Philip Dorsey Iglauer, you can find his video of the entire meeting here.  

To put it mildly, the Councilmember ran into a buzz saw. And the City Administrative Office fared no better. 

The CAO’s presentation went over the same ground that I described in my prior post: 

“So, what we are left with in the initial phases of LA City’s master plan for homelessness are four developers who are authorized to build affordable housing or anything ‘innovative.’ Great” 

Actually, just for Lincoln Heights, there was a specific motion by Cedillo, which added a new designated developer GTM Holdings and W.O.R.K.S 

To be clear, the exact details of the project have not been fixed, and the March meeting was designed as the first of a series of Community meetings to flesh out the details. Unfortunately, these representations did not go over well with the crowd, which was quite large considering it was a rainy day, as well as very vocal. 

While a representative from GTM Holdings, who would be the actual builder, attempted to make a presentation, he was essentially booed off the stage. After that, the moderator from the Human Relations Commission went to question cards, giving up any hope of continuing the presentations. 

What we do know from an article in The Eastsider,  is that: 

“Under the current concept, the housing to be built in Lincoln Heights would include apartments that would be reserved for low-income tenants as well as units rented out at market rates. Some homeless people could end up living there as well for little or no rent and supported by social service programs, said council office spokesman Fredy Ceja.” 

Who’s the Developer, Anyway? 

Now aside from anything else, I do know something about both WORKS and GTM Holdings, the two entities contracted for the project. 

As I wrote some time ago about WORKS in the context of the Lincoln Heights Jail, their prior projects tend to be small scale, take a long time to build, and cost a lot of money. 

For example, look at their Teague Terrace project in Glassell Park, which 

“...was specifically designed to house the formerly homeless, including veterans, and persons with developmental disabilities. At one time, it involved some $10 million in Housing Department Revenue Bonds under the project’s previous name of Eagle Vista. 

“That project had a lot of partners, and aside from how long it took to build, the ROI was something like $10 million dollars to house around 60 people.” 

Regarding GTM Holdings, they are noted for such efforts as the Bonnie Brae Apartments and The Paseo at Californian, over in Westlake. Further, just as in the Lincoln Heights Jail bid, I have been told that former Councilmember Ed Reyes is hooked into this development, although it is unclear who’s paying him or what his deal is. What we do know about Mr. Reyes is that when he ran both CD1 and the PLUM Committee, and no land use project went anywhere without his personal ok. I was thrilled when he termed out, and personally wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. Hope I’m wrong about his participation. 

The Takeaway 

In terms of the Lincoln Heights Parking Lot Project, we don’t even know how much supportive apartment housing would be involved, how much of it would be for the homeless, or even how much would be market rate. Further, we are not told the total number of units to be built, other than it will be a fraction of the citywide 500-unit goal. 

Let’s face it, at this point the tipping point has long passed where government, particularly the LA City Council, can do anything to fix the homeless problem. There are something like 70,000 plus homeless people in the LA area, and the system simply cannot cope with these numbers. 

Furthermore, with waivers to developers for unaffordable “affordable” housing, more and more renters are getting tossed out on the street, where they can leave the County or join the ranks of the homeless themselves. 

Measure HHH was advertised as $1.2 billion dollars of bonds to provide shelter and supportive housing for homeless folks, and a caring public overwhelmingly supported the idea, even though you and I will pay for the bonds. Sadly, it was hijacked at the gate, with weasel language which allows the City to bait and switch and use homeless money for “affordable housing” developers. This Lincoln Heights Project is simply proof of that reality. Gee, ain’t that swell? 

For those who want to, there is a website for the Coalition to Protect Lincoln Heights.  

They also have a shot history of all these events here.  

For anyone who would like to anonymously share information on the Lincoln Heights Parking Lot Project, you can reach me at tony.butka@gmail.com

Stay tuned as events surrounding this project move forward. For now, it seemed clear that most of those present at the Community Meeting would rather to have the parking lots and the businesses they support.

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.