Mayor Garcetti responds to concerns about temporary homeless housing at the former Metro lot

For the first time in several years, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti was able to announce a decrease in homeless throughout Los Angeles

The city’s June 1 announcement that the former Metro bus depot at Main Street and Sunset Avenue would become temporary homeless housing by as early as December has raised a number of concerns among Venice residents, as local land-use decisions often do.

The 3.15-acre lot is already slated for the development of permanent supportive housing, so would serve as temporary (or “bridge”) housing for only about three years, officials say. The facility would include 24/7 access for residents with on-site security and supportive services, restrooms and showers, access to food, and space to store belongings.

Like the highly publicized temporary housing facility coming to a parking lot in Koreatown, Venice’s bridge housing is part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s $20-million “A Bridge Home” initiative, which also provides funds for participating neighborhoods to clean up former homeless encampments.

In 2015, Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council pledged $100 million toward homeless assistance, and the 2016-17 budget incorporated $138-million to address homelessness. Garcetti
also pushed hard for the passage of Proposition HHH in 2016 and county Measure H in 2017, expected to fund 10,000 affordable housing units and $355 million annually for homeless services over the next decade.

Garcetti spoke with reporter Gary Walker on Friday to discuss the Venice bridge housing plan and some of the anxieties neighbors have about it — including a homeless activist’s concerns that bridge housing could criminalize the homeless who do not participate, and a longtime homeowner’s concerns that infrastructure serving the homeless seems to be inordinately concentrated in Venice.

Locals were also given the chance to respond to Garcetti’s remarks.

1. Why is it almost always Venice, and almost never other Westside neighborhoods, that must accommodate new housing and services for the homeless?

Garcetti: The mayor’s office is calling on all council districts to facilitate bridge housing where it’s needed most: “We have to build housing where people are. These are their neighborhoods, where they have friends and possibly even work. People need to know that these facilities will be neighborhood-specific.”

Neighborhood activist and Main Street resident Jim Murez: “At present, in all of West L.A. only the Metro site is up for consideration. The 13-acre site at the West LA Municipal Center [1645 Corinth Ave.] … has LAPD and LAFD on site along with over 30,000 square feet of offices in the Council District 11 field office building. This site is zoned for high-density residential housing all around the parking lot area, and the existing abandoned West Los Angeles Courthouse building (about 40,000 square feet) only needs to be renovated to become permanent supportive housing. Why not put the temporary shelter housing there?”

2. There are 854 unsheltered homeless people in Venice, so is a bridge housing facility with a capacity of 100 going to be used as justification for pushing the rest of the homeless out of the area?

Garcetti: Studies show that occupants of bridge housing find other housing in as little as four months, so there’ll be a lot of turnover: “Instead of just housing 100 people, those beds could turn over two or three times within three years, so it could be 250 or 300 people in each of these bridge housing facilities.”

While city funds have been set aside to clean up former encampments after their occupants find housing, don’t expect city workers to immediately clear them out: “No area will be cleared until there are beds that are available. We plan to do outreach at the encampments before any of these areas are cleared and direct them to other shelters or to bridge housing.
Our goal is to get as many people in housing before we begin to clear any of the encampments, including the encampment on Third Avenue.”

Homeless Advocate David Busch: When bridge housing occupants find long-term housing outside of Venice and the lot is redeveloped into a mix of affordable and market-rate housing, Venice will only continue to homogenize and gentrify: “Venice is world-renowned for its artists and street people who have slept on the beach and lived on the streets for decades. I think there are a lot of people who are going to appreciate the offer of shelter. But I also think there will be others that see this as closing the door … If you’re an artist on the Venice Boardwalk, how are you going to afford an apartment in Venice? For people who love the cultural diversity and traditions of Venice, it is going to shut the door.”

3. Is anybody who questions or opposes homeless resources in Venice just going to be written off as a NIMBY?

Garcetti: “The loudest voices and the people who are the toughest sells often get the most attention, but sometimes they have legitimate concerns and they want answers. … So not everyone is a NIMBY, and we have to do our best to address everyone’s concerns.

“Change is hard. It’s never easy and it takes time. But I’m committed to getting Angelenos off the streets and into permanent supportive housing.  We moved over 16,000 people into housing last year, and we need to accelerate that pace even more. The way to solve homelessness is to build more housing.”

Oxford Triangle Resident Association member Mark Shockley: Writing off opposition as NIMBY “paints everyone with one brush and assumes we are not for public housing. I’m for affordable housing when it’s equally and equitably distributed across the city.”