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Tue, Jul

Residents Of LA’s Pico-Midvale Neighborhood Propose Alternative Temporary Homeless Site

PLANNING WATCH LA

PLANNING WATCH - We are sharing a recent email blast from the Midvale-Pico Coalition.  Nearby residents are concerned about the City of Los Angeles’s continued support for an interim homeless housing project at the corner of Midvale and Pico, in West Los Angeles.  While we hope that Fix the City's litigation opposing this project succeeds, we know of many local land-use disputes where the Courts supported the City of Los Angeles, not LA residents.

Despite Los Angeles Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky (Council District 5) and Mayor Karren Bass's claims that the Midvale-Pico site meets a critical need for interim homeless housing in west Los Angeles, City Hall failed to follow up regarding the alternative location -- 1924 Cotner Avenue --  we proposed.  This site is three blocks west of Sepulveda Boulevard and is immediately available.  It would house more homeless people and would also be cheaper to operate.  This location also has substantial community support, would not harm local businesses, and would not negatively impact nearby residents   

At a local Homeowners Association (HOA) meeting, residents presented written documents and a detailed proposal regarding this site to elected officials. Unfortunately, the Mayor’s staff failed to follow-up on this material.  

Dubious claim by the City of LA’s Legislative Analyst:  In response to the community’s detailed alternative site proposal, the City’s Legislative Analyst (CLA) claimed it would not be possible to place trailers at this location, even though there are already many homeless people living there -- in tents, RVs, and vehicles.

While the community pressed hard for this alternative site, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky repeatedly stated that she will only consider additional locations as an addition to the Midvale-Pico location, not a replacement.  This followed a July 24, 2023, letter to some local residents, but not businesses, announcing a plan to locate an interim homeless housing facility at 2377 Midvale Avenue, currently a City parking lot.  Because Councilmember Yaroslavsky bypassed the established notification process, the local community was not able to provide any feedback about this site.

Then, at a subsequent community information meeting, there were no opportunities to ask questions, offer comments about the proposed project, or suggest an alternative site.

Councilmember Yaroslavsky also introduced a motion to seek an additional $980,000 grant for the Midvale-Pico temporary homeless housing facility.  Inexplicably, its cost per bed has not been publicly shared, even though the State’s Department of Healthcare Services, Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program would provide the grant.

Even though non-profit housing operators told the community that it would not be economically viable to operate a homeless shelter of less than 50 beds, Councilmember Yaroslavsky continues to press for this 33 bed facility.  The project’s first selected operator, Zachary Warma, left a position at LA Family Housing in December 2022 and began work at Council District 5 a month later.  He was selected to operate the 33 bed facility without a competitive bidding process.  LA Family Housing is, however, no longer involved with the project, following an ethics complaint against Warma.  The project was subsequently put out to a competitive bid, but only three applicants responded.  The selected bidder then bowed out when he/she learned about the project’s controversial history.

Required parking lots:  Local merchants currently require two parking lots because the City restricts parking on Pico Boulevard during peak hours and at night.  

Nearby residents are also extremely concerned over the placement of half of this temporary homeless project on an R1 (single-family houses) lot directly adjacent to a residential area.  Since the proposed shelter is a "low barrier" project, where the occupants are "stabilized" while waiting for permanent supportive housing, this adds to the surrounding neighborhood’s concerns.  

 
The Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard HOA boundaries.

After receiving many comments from the impacted community, the Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners' Association (WSSM) board voted to oppose the interim homeless housing project.  This project, announced in July 2023 by Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, has generated strong community opposition because there was no prior community outreach.  The WSSM supports local business and residential stakeholders who have opposed the project and recommended an alternative location.  The Pico-Midvale Coalition is contacting the Westside community, the media, and coordinating with Fix the City, an organization that legally challenged the project. 

The Big Picture: While the alternative Cotner Avenue site is obviously a better choice, this dispute does not address the underlying question of why homelessness continues to increase.  Such factors as up-zoning ordinances, evictions, and the purchase of single-family homes by large real estate companies, all play a role, regardless of where an interim homeless housing project is eventually located in West Los Angeles.


(This Planning Watch column is based on a document provided by Barbara Broide.  Dick Platkin is a retired city planner who reports on local planning issues in LA for CityWatchLA.  He is a board member of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA).  Previous columns are available at the CityWatchLA archives. Please send questions to [email protected].)