Mayor Garcetti’s NIMBY Resistance to Using Parker Center for Homeless Housing

HOMELESS POLITICS--In 2018 there is new urgency for saving Parker Center, the midcentury masterpiece by Welton Becket that has stood empty for years a block from City Hall, and which Mayor Eric Garcetti should recreate as the Parker Center Housing Complex for homeless residents.

  

Why shouldn’t the homeless community be housed in this empty landmark building that is extremely well-suited to housing? And where adaptive reuse of the building will readily accommodate nearly 500 units and house 724 people?

At a Coalition to Preserve LA press conference today at long-closed Parker Center, 10 media outlets came to find out why not.

Speakers including John Malpede of LA Poverty Dept.; Kaleb Havens of Catholic Workers; Mel Tilekeratne of SheDoesMovement.org; and advocate Louise Mbella agreed that this is an opportunity for Los Angeles elected leaders and city employees at City Hall and City Hall East to welcome homeless housing “right next door” that redresses past inequities.

The Parker Center Housing Complex plan makes a clear statement that NIMBYism against the very poor is not principally a problem of L.A. neighborhoods — but a problem of L.A.’s City Hall leadership. LA Conservancy found that saving and retrofitting Parker Center would cost $50 million less than Garcetti’s plan for a luxury skyscraper on the site.

A mayoral aide today dismissed the use of empty buildings for homeless housing that may need typical retrofitting like asbestos removal and earthquake strengthening. Yet these upgrades generally cost far less than the lavish $430,000 Garcetti plans to spend on each homeless unit, creating far too little housing to turn the tide.

– We at Coalition to Preserve LA have reported that Garcetti’s administration has not created a single unit of homeless housing since voters approved $1.2 billion in homeless housing funds 17 long months ago. Not one.

– Coalition to Preserve LA has also reported on the “veto letter”created by Chief Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn that gives each LA City Council member the ability to outright kill any homeless housing projects within his or her district. We have already seen one councilmember, Curren Price, veto a very small, garden-setting, homeless development on the site of a rusting car-storage yard. Today the homeless roam this street in high numbers.

– We at Coalition to Preserve LA have also reported on extreme barrierscreated by the Garcetti Administration and the City Council’s Administrative Oversight Committee led by CAO Llewellyn, that stopped or delayed by months every single proposal for homeless housing under Measure HHH.

LA voters rousingly approved Measure HHH, $1.2 billion to house our homeless. But how can the people lead, when the leaders are actively preventing, delaying and dragging their feet on even the most modest, carefully designed homes for the city’s poorest?

Thanks to prodigious red tape and failure to hire enough expertise, the City of Los Angeles has driven the cost up to $430,000 for a single unit of homeless housing.  That could buy a three-bedroom home in Riverside.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Conservancy convened a panel of experts who found that rehab and reuse of historic Parker Center would save at least $50 million compared to the $483 million luxury office tower Garcetti prefers. Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council leaders ignored the Conservancy, rejecting its findings.

How many nights safe in a bed could be paid for, for the cost of one designer office chair in the city’s proposed 27-story luxury skyscraper that would destroy Parker Center? 

Critics believe the City Council and Garcetti Administration “put a thumb on the scale” for a political outcome to assure a luxury skyscraper at the site.

By contrast, the Parker Center Housing Complex will be a beacon for the community, and reflect our strong desire to address one of the most challenging issues of our time, homeless housing. 

(Jill Stewart, a former journalist, is campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve LA, sponsor of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.)

-cw