Gayley Avenue building proposed by Councilmember Paul Koretz.
By Sam Catanzaro
According to the 2018 Los Angeles Point-in-time Homeless Count, there are around 31,516 homeless individuals in the City of Los Angeles and 23,000 of these individuals are unsheltered. Because of the high number of unsheltered individuals, lawmakers in Los Angeles are labeling the situation a crisis and are taking legislative steps to address homelessness in the city.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is attempting to spearhead homelessness with his A Bridge Home campaign. In this program, Mayor Garcetti has asked every Councilmember to look at homeless encampments in their district and find locations for a bridge housing facility. This week Los Angeles City Council will consider a Bridge Housing site in District 5, which includes Century City and Westwood. The proposed location is in Westwood, at 741 Gayley Avenue in a building currently owned by Chabad Westwood.
“In order to best address the problem of homelessness in the City, and help homeless individuals make the transition to stable housing, homeless shelter bed capacity should be expanded Citywide,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz who represents Century City and Westwood.
Mayor Garcetti’s program seeks to provide temporary housing to individuals who have received a housing voucher but are still waiting for a unit to become available.
“When someone gets a housing voucher, it may take them months, or even longer, to find an available unit. And in the meantime, they’re essentially told to wait in a tent on the sidewalk,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin who represents much of West Los Angeles.
Bridge housing is different than the City’s emergency winter shelters, which separate couples and family members by gender and prohibit individuals from bringing personal belongings.
“In bridge housing, people have a place to call their own, 24-hours, 7 days a week. They have access to restrooms, showers, storage and three meals a day. Residents are allowed to bring their belongings, bring their pets and stay with their spouses, partners and family members,” said Christina Miller, Senior Project Manager in the Homeless Strategies Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Bridge housing has been a hot topic on the Westside. In September, City Officials announced that a bridge housing facility will open in 2019 at the West LA Veterans VA campus. This will be the first A Bridge Home center to open on the Westside and will provide transitional housing for up to 100 homeless veterans.
In addition, there is a debate in Venice, which is part of District 11, about a bridge housing facility proposed for an unused Metro Transit Authority lot on Main Street. MTA closed the lot in 2015 after receiving multiple offers from developers interested in the site. The property can be used for housing for the next three years, however, because there is no deal in place.
The proposed location has, however, stirred up some opposition among many in Venice who worry that the proposed site will disrupt the mostly residential neighborhood. In addition, there is concern about the shelter being within a 1,000-foot radius of Westminster Elementary School.
In light of this debate, at a recent Venice Neighborhood Council meeting, alternative locations for a bridge housing facility in District 11 were discussed, one of which is near Century City and Westwood, the West Los Angeles Civic Center located 1645 Corinth Ave. This large property currently includes the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) West Division offices, a public library the, vacant West Los Angeles Courthouse and a 1.2-acre parking lot. The State of California owns the property and is currently in the process of selling it.
It remains to be seen how the Westwood community will react to Councilmember Koretz’s proposed location on Gayley Avenue, as the planning is still in its early stages. City Council has instructed the City Administrative Officer, with the assistance of the Chief Legislative Analyst, the Bureau of Engineering and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, to evaluate the property at 741 Gayley Avenue to determine if the property is suitable for development as a crisis and bridge housing facility. If the property is determined to be suitable for development as a bridge housing facility, the City Council will instruct the City Homeless Coordinator to coordinate with the Los Angeles County to identify funds for operations at the sites.