A homeless housing project in West L.A., backed by Mayor Karen Bass and opposed by some neighborhood groups because of its proximity to residential homes, was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on Friday.
The council, with exception of one member who was absent, voted unanimously in favor of the 33-bed facility on a city-owned parking lot at Midvale Avenue and Pico Boulevard, across from the former Westside Pavilion. The council also decided that the project is exempt from a comprehensive environmental review.
Bass, Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky and other supporters argue the project will provide relief for the area’s unhoused population. It will also help the city comply with a legal settlement that requires it to add beds.
Yaroslavsky spoke ahead of the vote, promising residents and business owners who opposed the project that she would secure additional parking before breaking ground and would also develop a neighborhood safety plan with the Los Angeles Police Department and local homeless service providers.
“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.”
Right now, Yaroslavsky said, fewer than 100 of the city’s 16,000 homeless beds are in her district.
“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 facility, which is projected to cost nearly $4.6 million, will include “sleeping cabins” with restrooms in each unit. There will also be on-site laundry facilities, storage bins and office space, according to a report from the city’s Bureau of Engineering. It’s expected to open in about a year, Yaroslavsky told The Times.
She said residents will have access to mental health and substance use disorder specialists, employment assistance and help finding permanent housing. There will be 24-hour security on-site. Most of the beds will be reserved for people who have ties to the area.
The Westside Neighborhood Council voted last week to oppose the project because it would be near homes and businesses along Pico Boulevard. The group also expressed “dismay that other sites were not being evaluated as alternatives.”
Controversy over the proposed facility ratcheted up earlier this week when Bass abruptly removed the president of the Transportation Commission days after he led his colleagues in delaying a vote on an environmental review waiver.
At a commission meeting, President Eric Eisenberg had expressed concern about the waiver and asked for a delay so the panel could hear more about the project from city representatives.
On Monday, Eisenberg said, he was informed by the mayor’s office that he was no longer a commissioner. Bass’ office has declined to explain why she removed Eisenberg.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, the Transportation Commission — now operating without Eisenberg — approved the waiver.
Bass has made reducing homelessness her top issue. Her Inside Safe initiative seeks to quickly move unhoused Angelenos into motels and hotels, and she has ordered city departments to hasten the construction of affordable housing and shelters.
Eisenberg, in a statement he provided to The Times, said he wasn’t convinced the project should be exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
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.
Barbara Broide, a neighborhood council member, urged the City Council at a committee hearing on the project earlier this month to look at different sites, including 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.”
Broide was one of several residents who hoped to address the City Council before Friday’s vote. But the council did not allow comments 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, a member of the Westside Neighborhood Assn., spoke in support of the project.
“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.”