Q&A on Cabin Communities

Below is a summary of all questions related to the cabin communities submitted to my office, prior to the 12/14/2020 town hall presentation.  More than 200 questions were submitted, however many of them were the same or very similar.  Consequently, I  have consolidated the questions into the Q&A format below.  I attempted to represent every questions asked in these questions, however, if you feel that your question is not addressed in the following document, please feel free to reach out to my office at 818-774-4330 so that we can provide you an appropriate response

Sections:

The Site Selection Process and Alternatives

  • Community Input
  • Site Cleanliness, Security, and Resources
  • Crime Concerns
  • Cabin Community Resident Vetting Process
  • Future Enforcement and Buffer Zones
  • Length and Details of the Program
  • Service Provider Selection
  • Program Cost and Funding

 

The Site Selection Process and Alternatives 

Q1: Who determined that the Reseda and Tarzana locations were acceptable and which other sites were considered? 

Asked 25 times. 

A:  Ultimately, the City Council voted to fund these and other sites throughout the City as part of the “Homeless Roadmap” to create urgently needed housing/shelter and services for the unhoused.  Because of the homelessness crisis, a federal lawsuit and Mayoral and Council action, every district is required to find homeless interventions to help shelter the homeless population of its district— including cabin communities and other transitional housing.  I, my staff, and volunteers from my community action team reached out to more than 60 property owners throughout the district who own abandoned or underutilized lots. We can almost guarantee that any abandoned or underutilized lot you can think of within the district was approached to see if we could make something happen on that lot. At the end of the day, after most of these property owners declined our proposals, or required unreasonable amounts of money, or had environmental issues that made habitation impossible at this time, it made the most sense to move forward with lots already owned by the City or other government agencies for the cabin communities.  The other government owned lots were either already being studied for permanent supportive housing, are slated to become a Safe Parking lot, were too small, or were heavily used and required for parking.  See Q2 for other interventions planned on some of these other sites.  There were only two sites that could be feasibly used at this time in the Third District given the short window for tapping into available funds. One of which is the parking lot behind my Reseda District Office, adjacent to the West Valley Police Station, another is in Tarzana in an underutilized Orange Line Parking Lot owned by Metro.  There are also several more privately owned locations that may turn into additional shelter locations in the coming years.

 

Q2: Are there plans for future homeless sites in the West Valley and city?

Asked 16 times. 

A:  Yes, there are eight sites currently being installed in CD3 to help shelter homeless individuals with various services and housing types. The first is the Bridge Home in Canoga Park with 80 beds that will be operational in 1 month. There are also two hotels which are being purchased to become interim/permanent housing for the homeless, one in Reseda and one in Canoga Park, with 125 rooms in total. Funding has also been allocated to add additional beds to a special program I initiated, with Providence Cedar-Sinai and Tarzana Treatment Center. Also, I provided Haven Hills Domestic Violence Shelter with additional funding to expand its location to house homeless domestic violence victims. There will be a new Safe Parking lot opened in Canoga Park within the next several months. It was funded in the same phase as the cabin communities.  There are also a number of Permanent supportive housing and affordable housing projects currently planned and funded, including the 80 unit Bell Creek Apartments at 6940 Owensmouth Avenue in Canoga Park which is currently under construction. 

 

There are three cabin communities going up in the eastern end of the San Fernando Valley. One has been approved in the Harbor area, and two more are expected to be built in the Hollywood area. Other locations throughout the City are being considered as well. Cabin communities already function in Sonoma County and the cities of Riverside, Banning and Santa Cruz.

 

Q3: Why near the library and park that kids use? 

How will you monitor the site?

Asked 5 times.

A:  The site was not chosen because of its proximity to the library or the park, however there are currently homeless individuals living at the park and by the library. They currently are not receiving the services they may need to get out of homelessness. They, like other folks living on the nearby streets and in the nearby riverbed, would be better served if they lived in a cabin community.  Also, the community would be better served by having these folks in a place where they had access to restrooms, meals and showers.  The West Valley Municipal Building and West Valley Police station are next door to the cabin community. My staff and I are right there to assist with any issues or problems that arise to help ensure the program is successful. During Covid-19 we restrict the number of staff in the office at any one time but continue to use the office and will do so for monitoring. Although the cabin community residents will have a curfew and will be receiving services, and while experience has shown that they these residents will spend most of their time within their community’s perimeter, they will have access to the library and other amenities as they do now and just as any other resident of the larger community would have.

 

Q4: Can these be moved in the future to a different location?

Asked 4 times.

A: Yes. Pallet shelters/tiny homes are modular housing that can be moved.  However, the electrical and plumbing connections needed for a cabin community take time and funding, so once installed, the cabins should remain in place for a few years.

 

Q5: What replacement parking will you provide at the Tarzana site?

Asked 2 times.

A: The Tarzana site at the Reseda Blvd Orange Line Station was selected in coordination with Metro, which owns the property. Metro determined that the remaining parking in the other three parking lots at the Reseda Station is more than sufficient to meet the needs of transit riders for the foreseeable future.

 

Q6: Why not put the Cabin Community at Reseda Park?

Asked 1 time.

A: Installing a shelter on a City Park is not authorized under the Emergency Resolution and would conflict with the City Charter to maintain open space in an increasingly dense urban area.

 

Q7: Why not the MTA lot on “Canoga and Victory”?

Asked 1 time.

A:  Metro determined that they need most of the Canoga Station parking lot to serve transit riders.  There are several other homeless services and interim housing facilities proposed for Canoga Park.

 

Q8: Why can’t you put these cabin communities in a non-residential area such as a warehouse, empty lot, vacant building, parking structure, or an empty school? 

Asked 4 times.

A: I started with this goal and explored all potential vacant and underutilized properties for cabin installations, and more could be added in the future when and if there is a willing property owner and available funding.  For example, the Bridge Home site in Canoga Park is located in an old County Mental Health building that is being refurbished. They cannot simply be placed on private property without the owner's consent. A Property in Northridge (the former Skateland in CD12) has been proposed to become a bridge home because the owners wanted to donate their property for this purpose. LAUSD is developing plans which could include housing for teachers or homeless interventions for their properties/empty schools, however their sites are also in residential areas.  Unfortunately, the need for these homeless interventions is so great that it is not a question of choosing the ideal sites, but rather an attempt to move forward on every feasible site. 

 

Q9: Is it legal to build a homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood?

Asked 8 times.

A:  Yes, per State law and under the City’s Emergency Order a homeless shelter can be built anywhere, regardless of zoning. The city passed this order more than a year ago to address the homelessness crisis.

 

Q10: What legal recourse do neighbors have to move these cabin communities?

Asked 3 times.

A: The installation of these cabin communities and the creation of more than 6,000 new shelter/interim housing beds is being driven by a lawsuit (LA Alliance case). As part of that lawsuit the City and County entered into an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which requires the City to build these shelter beds and the County to pay $300 million towards them. At this time there is no legal recourse for neighbors to remove them, and the hope is that over time neighborhoods will see less street homelessness as these programs become available to provide needed shelter.  There is legal jeopardy if the City does not immediately install cabin communities and other transitional housing.   The Federal Judge in the LA Alliance is reviewing the City’s progress and could punish the City and County for failing to make adequate progress and could even put the City into receivership on these matters.  Such an action would remove all of the City’s and the community’s ability to help shape these interventions. 

 

Q11: What Environment Impact Report or local studies did you do? Why do these cabin communities not require CEQA review? Are you removing trees from these sites?

Asked 4 times.

A: A state law passed several years ago eliminated requirements for local impact studies for the installation of homeless shelters. However, after conversations with several other cities where cabin communities have been installed successfully, we are confident that these communities can be operated with a minimal impact on the surrounding community. The City Council file (here) reports note the related procedures and exemptions.  No trees will be removed. Please know that I worked to prevent the removal of any trees from these sites and believe the trees are integral to the cabin shading, privacy, and provide a healthy environment locally and globally. 

 

Q12: Will this impact my property’s value?

Asked 10 times.

A:  The cabin communities will be operated by a social service provider with extensive experience providing services to persons experiencing homelessness. There will be security and sanitation, and we do not expect any impacts to spill over into adjacent neighborhoods. At my Reseda District Office, there have not been negative impacts from the Safe Parking program operating in the parking lot for more than one year, and we expect the same here. The cabin communities are an improvement over unsheltered homelessness, and the negative impacts that have resulted from people living along Aliso Creek, the LA River and other locations.  I expect that your property value will continue to increase — especially since I have made Reseda the centerpiece of my economic development efforts and have secured over $100 million for Reseda specific economic development projects.  To learn more about these efforts known as my Reseda Rising Initiative, click here. 

 

Community Input

Q13: What was the community input process and who did you contact?

Asked 2 times.

A: As part of the homelessness recovery roadmap, the City conducted several reports and meetings relative to the implementation of new housing starting in June 2020 (see the City Council file here). When it was apparent the City intended to install cabin communities, safe parking, and more, my team and I initiated outreach, speaking directly with neighbors, community groups and nearby businesses to respond to questions and concerns. We presented the Cabin projects to the Tarzana and Reseda Neighborhood Councils in October. Additionally, my staff and I have presented the district homeless project plans to over a dozen community groups.

The Tarzana Neighborhood Council voted to support this cabin community on October 27, 2020. Councilmember Blumenfield presented the idea at the Reseda Neighborhood Council’s October 2020 meeting. When he presented at Reseda NC there were supportive comments, but no formal vote of support or opposition.

Because I was worried that all of these efforts might not be seen by the immediate neighbors, I insisted on mailing a letter directly to the adjacent residents of both Cabin Communities in October/November to inform them of the upcoming project. In September I was on Spectrum News discussing this plan and have been steadily spreading the news ever since, through newsletters, social media, etc.  And, last week I invited more than 1000 people via a mass mailing to the virtual “Town Hall Presentation” meeting about the cabin communities.. My team and I have also been making dozens of personal phone calls and responding to letters and emails. But this is just the  beginning. I am forming a Cabin Community Committee for each site that will include members of the surrounding neighborhoods.  These committees will work with me and the service provider on issues related to their respective cabin communities to ensure their success.

There have been 10 public City Council meetings regarding cabin communities so far since the original motion was filed on June 24, 2020.

The CAO filed a report that identified feasible sites in Council District 3 on August 12, 2020 within the framework of the proposed Strategy and Funding Recommendations on COVID-19 Homelessness Roadmap. That report recommended funding for the Vanalden and Archwood cabin community, as well as two in North Hollywood. That report was heard in the Ad Hoc Covid Committee on September 2; and CARES Act funding in the amount of $3.4M was approved by Council on September 9. On September 9, Council also approved a CEQA statutory exemption for the DO project. Funding for the Reseda Blvd Orange Line Station cabin community in Tarzana was proposed by the on September 22, 2020. The $3.4M in funding was approved by Council on September 30. Council also approved a BOE Report on September 25 that included the CEQA statutory exemption.

On November 12, the CAO issued a report recommending allocation of CDBG-Covid Funds for the projects, based on bids received: $1.7M for the Reseda lot and $1.1M for the Orange Line Station; and recommending allocation of ESG-Covid funds and funds from the County Homeless Funding Agreement. Another report, regarding funding, was heard by the Ad Hoc Covid Committee and approved by Council on November 24. Another funding vote was on Wednesday December 3 to increase the amount for both projects in my district. Subsequent meetings and reports continue to be held, the latest was January 28, 2021.

Also, Letters had been sent to the immediate neighbors of the community on November 2, 2020 and a mass mailing was sent out on December 1, 2020. In addition there has been a virtual town hall presentation on December 14, 2020 which can still be viewed on Councilmember Blumenfield’s YouTube page and there will be an interactive virtual town hall coming up once the service provider is onboard.   This is in addition to the numerous one on one meetings that the Councilmember, his staff and his homeless community action team (BobCAT) has had with individual neighbors, HOAs, businesses and stakeholders. 

 

Q14: Who can the community contact at the cabin communities?

Asked 1 time.

A: You can always reach out to my office.  There will be a service provider contact for the site, once the service provider has been determined.   

 

Q15: How can we help now and in the future?

Asked 2 times.

A: I know there are a lot of concerns about the unknown and we will monitor this site every day to see what works and what doesn’t. However, I also envision a wonderful future where the housed members of our community are able to volunteer at these cabin communities, helping to provide food, supplies, care packages and emotional support. The homeless are some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and I feel confident that our community will step up to help care for them.  This is not without precedent, and the generosity of neighbors is appreciated. 

 

Site Cleanliness, Security, and Resources

 

Q16: What does 24/7 security mean?

Asked 13 times.

A: There will be an onsite security guard stationed at the facility throughout the day and night.  There will, of course, also be service provider staff onsite who manage the facility. 

 

Q17: How do you keep the area inside and outside the cabin community clean?

Asked 4 times.

A: The service provider will be working with the individuals living in the community to maintain cleanliness inside. I will also work with the service provider to help maintain the cleanliness of the surrounding area. However, I have also been fighting hard to have 500 foot buffer zones around these shelters where Sanitation could be called in to remove any trash that had accumulated around the facility and camping would not be allowed. I have faced some serious opposition to this proposal but will continue to fight for cleanliness in our community. 

 

Q18: How many people will live in the cabin community?

Asked 3 times.

A: The Reseda site is estimated to hold 50 cabins and the Tarzana site is estimated to hold 75.  While each cabin can technically hold 2 people and couples are allowed to live together, I expect that most cabins will have only one — especially during the pandemic. 

 

Q19: Are there showers, bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, etc.?

Asked 5 times.

A: There will be showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities, storage, a doggie run, and space for service providers to work onsite.  There will not be a kitchen onsite but meals will be provided to all residents.  The cabin communities were designed to enable residents to have most of their needs handled onsite. 

 

Crime Concerns

Q20: How does LAPD feel? Can we hear from them regarding their plans to monitor, engage with the site?

Asked 6 times.

A: LAPD was advised that these were coming.  Like you, some officers expressed concerns about the unknown. However, they acknowledged that having unhoused individuals at the location would not change their responses to calls if required. Private security will be on site 24/7.

 

Q21: Who do we call for crime issues or mental health issues of the cabin residents?

Asked 3 times.

A: The site service provider will manage the facility.  There will be onsite security and service workers. LAPD or LAFD will respond if called for an emergency.

 

Q22: Will this increase crime? How will you prevent this from becoming a crime magnet?

Asked 7 times.

A: There are no statistics that suggest that crime will automatically increase simply because a cabin community has been installed.  Getting people off the streets and meeting their basic needs for food and shelter may reduce crime. I will continue to work with LAPD and monitor crime in this area and throughout my district. In other cities, these communities have proven effective and safe with rules, security, and services on site. I am committed to making sure that any interim housing does not become a magnet for crime or nuisances.  A good operator makes all the difference. Please know that many homeless individuals I have spoken with are looking forward to having a safe place to sleep where they will no longer be as readily victimized because they will have their own locking door and security onsite. Also, some of the nuisance issues currently associated with local homeless folks will be alleviated because the folks who have moved into the cabins will no longer have to wander the neighborhood in search of food and restrooms, will no longer have to store their belongings on the sidewalk or schlep them in a shopping cart everywhere they go, and will now be under the care and supervision of a professional service provider who will help them design and implement a productive plan for their future and make sure they have access to the services they need.  

 

Q23: How will LAPD budget cuts impact the monitoring of these sites and response to 911 calls?

Asked 1 time.

A: LAPD will not be the responsible entity for monitoring these sites. The service provider will maintain that security responsibility. LAPD has already stated that they no longer intend to respond to concerns about homeless individuals living on the street who are not committing a crime. Instead, having a place for the unsheltered people to live indoors should reduce the number of calls to the police regarding homeless individuals living in squalor on our sidewalks.  The LAPD budget is virtually the same as it was last year (Approximately $3 Billion) but this is less than they need to maintain the same level of service on account of higher labor costs and the City’s revenues are still plummeting because of the COVID induced recession. Hopefully, there won’t be further cuts and hopefully the Congress will enact a local assistance measure or the State will share its budget surplus with its cities that are suffering financially right now. 

 

Q24: Why did you say homeless encampments draw crime but choose to put this here?

Asked 1 time.

A: First of all, this is not an encampment, it is the opposite of encampment. It is a stable interim housing program where the residents are offered resources and security to help them to recover from the trauma of living on the streets on their way to permanent housing. There have been a handful of locations in the city where homeless encampments have built up around shelter locations. I do not want to see this happen in my district and will continue to do everything in my power to keep these projects clean and free from being a magnet for additional encampments.  I do not think the sites in Reseda or Tarzana will become magnets — it has mostly happened in the areas where shelters were put in locations where large encampments already existed.  Reseda and Tarzana have a more scattered homeless population which is more like the majority of Bridge Home locations that have not become magnets for new homeless encampments. Also,we will work closely with the Service Provider to make sure they too are focused on preventing such problems. 

 

Cabin Community Resident Vetting Process

Q25: How will you stop homeless folks from outside the district from coming in? Are the cabins reserved for West Valley homeless people?

Asked 1 time.

A: For years, LAHSA has built trust and relationships with our local homeless population who are logged in a coordinated entry system to help determine who receives a space at the cabin community. The goal is to provide shelter to those individuals already living on the streets in my district. These cabins are intended to specifically serve people in my district who are prioritized in the MOU with LA County that is funding these beds. Since our underpasses have already been cleared, with these people already in interim housing, this means mostly elderly and vulnerable people are prioritized for the cabins.  We will work closely with and monitor the service provider to make sure they honor the required prioritization of serving the local CD3 homeless population. 

 

Q26: What is the vetting process/entry requirements?

Asked 6 times.

A: Admission will be by referral from a case worker and enrollment with LAHSA. Even so, we anticipate that the barriers to entry will be relatively low to ensure that help is offered to as many people as possible. This would include connecting all shelter residents to appropriate services, whether for mental health, drug addiction or other issues.  The exact vetting process will be outlined by the service provider once they are onboard. 

 

Q27: Can you provide a breakdown of the homelessness population in your district? 

Asked 1 time.

A: According to the 2020 homelessness count (see here), there are 704 total homeless individuals in my district; about 600 were unsheltered. Six-hundred are individuals and 104 are part of a homeless family. Of these people experiencing homelessness, 226 report surviving domestic violence, 56 are veterans, 110 have a disability. In addition, about half of this population live in  vehicles while the other half live directly on the street. 

 

Q28: How can you induce people to enter the cabins?

Asked 7 times.

A: While visiting local homeless encampments over recent months, the people experiencing homelessness routinely tell me of their desire to find stable housing. I literally have asked almost every homeless person I’ve interacted with whether they would consider living in such a cabin if it were available and the response has been overwhelmingly “yes.” This is further supported by the success of my recent pilot project in conjunction with LAHSA and LAFH to house all homeless folks at the underpasses in my district. When offered, people who experience homelessness typically accept shelter if immediately available. Those who do not represent a surprisingly small percentage of the total homeless population. Furthermore, these cabins were designed in consultation with homeless people to make sure that they would be attractive to live in and they have successfully induced homeless people in other areas. 

 

Q29: Will cabin residents be vetted and monitored for drug use?

How will drug use be prevented?

Asked 4 times.

A: The service provider will work hard to promote a healthy and safe environment. Part of the rehousing path for some people is rehabilitation for substance abuse and harm reduction. Similar to the current outreach process with LAHSA social workers, the service provider will manage each cabin community resident with a case manager who will provide substance addiction alternatives as needed.  Once a service provider is onboard they will be able to describe their exact vetting process and their process for dealing with drug use.  Illegal drug use is not permitted in the cabin community.

 

Q30: Will the vetting prevent sex offenders from coming into our neighborhood? 

Asked 2 times.

A: Although, in 2015 the California State Supreme Court issued a ruling modifying CA Penal Code 3003.5’s blanket prohibition on sex offenders residing within 2,000 feet of schools and parks, housing and shelter placement can be prohibited on a case-by-case basis related to their parole details (see State DCR information here). Accordingly, service providers routinely use the Megan’s list database to make sure they know who their clients are and, within the bounds of Federal and State laws (such as the Fair Housing Act), ensure that they are assigned to shelters that are not near where children are present. 

 

Future Enforcement and Buffer Zones

Q31: What are the plans for those in-district homeless folks who do not want to live in the cabin community?

Asked 1 time.

A: Outreach workers will continue to encourage these individuals to move off the streets and into any other available shelter or housing (Bridge housing, Permanent supportive housing,etc). There will always be challenges with some individuals who are not ready to accept housing and services — but experience has shown that almost all homeless people will accept shelter if that shelter is appropriate for them (ie, proximate to their known location, allows pets, or allows for couples, is safe, etc). The bigger problem is that there aren't enough shelter options for the homeless people who do want shelter or housing.  Also, until laws change at the State and Federal level, we cannot force anyone to accept housing, but we know that a very high percentage of homeless individuals will accept housing that is located in the neighborhoods they know well.  However, there is also a possibility that there could be a settlement agreement reached in the Federal LA Alliance lawsuit that might enable Los Angeles to enforce anti-camping laws once a Council district has provided housing for at least 60% of its homeless population.  This type of settlement agreement has been reached in 28 other cities facing a similar lawsuit that were presided over by Judge Carter. To read more about this possibility click here

  

Q32: Why are you doing this and not pursuing proper changes to legislation to address homelessness? When will you reinstate the anti-camping laws? 

Asked 1 time.

A:  I am pursuing legislation to address homelessness. I pushed to put measure HHH on the ballot to create funding for permanent supportive housing; pushed legislation to streamline housing production, hotel acquisition, etc; pushed legislation to require and incentivize more affordable housing.  I do not view anti-camping laws as a solution for homelessness, however I believe that certain anti-camping laws are needed to keep our streets and sidewalks safe and passable.  Doing this will ultimately help improve community quality of life and will incentivize community acceptance of additional shelters and interventions. I believe people should have a right to shelter/ a roof over their head, but they do not have a right to sleep on any sidewalk or park bench. 

I have been on the forefront of introducing common sense and humanitarian laws to balance our community’s public health and safety with the need to house our homeless neighbors. I believe we need to update our Municipal code (LAMCs 41.18 and 56.11) to prohibit "urban camping" within 500 feet of critical freeway underpass choke points and within 500 feet of certain homeless shelters such as new cabin communities. This is in line with what federal Judge David O. Carter has asked the City to accomplish in the current federal lawsuit (LA Alliance) which says the City has failed to provide adequate shelter and to keep sidewalks and streets usable for the public. Unfortunately, several councilmembers opposed this effort when my proposal to do this came up in Council, and the vote was postponed. While the implementation details may change or get more explicitly spelled out, I believe that such legislation will get passed in 2021.  

Also, as mentioned in a previous response, there is also a possibility that there could be a settlement agreement reached in the federal LA Alliance lawsuit that might enable Los Angeles to enforce anti-camping laws once a Council district has provided shelter for at least 60% of its homeless population.  This type of settlement agreement has been reached in 28 other cities facing a similar lawsuit that were presided over by Judge Carter. To read more about this possibility click here



Q33: When the current homeless are housed how will you address the future homeless?

Asked 3 times.

A: Homelessness will continue to be a challenge for some time, not just in the City of Los Angeles. With the current pandemic and economic challenges, we will need to continue to do all we can to partner with LA County and provide both shelter and services to everyone who needs it. We also need to build additional affordable housing and supportive housing. Micro-units, congregate housing, social housing and other creative ways need to be utilized to get people sheltered. In fact, one of my previous ideas was “too innovative” for a program designed to find innovative ideas – you can read about that here. This type of idea may be more feasible with newer, more flexible funding that is coming online from the State.

Ultimately, to truly address homeless we need to deal with bigger issues of poverty, economic inequity, housing affordability, economic development, drug addiction, mental health, etc.  As mentioned in the previous two questions, there is also a possibility that there could be a settlement agreement reached in the federal LA Alliance lawsuit that might enable Los Angeles to enforce anti-camping laws once a Council district has provided housing for at least 60% of its current homeless population.  This type of settlement agreement has been reached in 28 other cities facing a similar lawsuit that were presided over by Judge Carter. To read more about this possibility click here



Q34: Can RV dwellers park at these sites?

Asked 2 times.

A:  No, RV dwellers cannot park at cabin community sites. I am pursuing the possibility of alternative sites dedicated to RV dwelling - specifically a safe parking program for RVs or possibly a future “RV Village.” We have already set up sites in the district for RV’s to dispose of their waste for free to help prevent illegal and dangerous dumping of sewage. 

 

Length and Details of the Program 

Q35: When will the cabins go away or are these permanent?

Asked 5 times.

A: “Cabin communities” will be temporary.  The shelters are expected to last about 5 years.   

 

Q36: How will services and case management be provided? How does the program address each person’s needs (Job training, mental health, recreation, etc.)? What is the supervision and accountability process for cabin residents?

Asked 5 times.

A: The service provider will provide these services and case management onsite. This includes wrap around services for people and eliminating barriers that often get in the way of people obtaining resources (e.g. documentation requirements, identification, health care eligibility and treatment needs). More details will be available once the City has signed with a service provider for these two locations.  I will make sure that the service provider engages with the community to answer all of these questions.

 

Q37: What is the history of this program elsewhere? What is the success rate? What defined success?

Asked 7 times.

A: The tiny home, cabin community model is relatively new but has been successfully implemented in other places. I define success in terms 1) the percentage of people that successfully transition from the site into permanent supportive housing or other positive outcomes and 2) having few or no negative interactions with the surrounding community.  Oakland implemented a similar type of cabin community program and defined their success rate as 66% (see here). Riverside also has been able to move a majority of their  cabin community residents into permanent housing so far. 

 

Q38: When will these cabins be built and active?

Asked 3 times.

A: The estimated installation timeline projects that both cabin communities will finish construction in Spring 2021.

 

Q39: What happens if a resident is evicted from the cabins?

Asked 2 times.

A: The service provider will do everything they can to address the needs of anyone who may violate the rules. If an agreement cannot be reached, they will be asked to leave. More details will be available once we have signed with a service provider for these sites. 

 

Service Provider Selection

Q40: Who is in charge of running these facilities and/or programs?

An experienced non-profit service provider will run these facilities, just as they have been contracted to run the Project RoomKey facilities and the Recreation and Parks shelters operating throughout the City for the last several months. Hope of the Valley has been offered the contract and they are expected to officially sign on as the service provider in the near future. 

 

Q41: Who oversees the service provider? What licensing or monitoring will the City provide?

Asked 4 times.

A: The service provider will report to LAHSA, the City, and my office on relevant updates, issues, and adjustments to the program. Any licensing for social or human service providers is typically handled by LA County. My staff and I will be in close regular contact with the service provider to ensure the program is well run and achieves its goals.  Also, a community cabin committee will be established to work with me and the service provider. 

 

Q42: Can the City change service providers and if so, what metrics decide this?

Asked 2 times.

A: As with any typical agreement between the City and a service provider, there will be a contract with a clear list of terms and responsibilities. If necessary, or if a service provider is in breach of contract, the City can identify a new service provider.

 

Program Cost and Funding

Q43: Who is paying for this and from where do the funds come?

Asked 5 times.

A: Funding for the capital costs—construction of the cabin community—and operating costs—providing social services, security, utilities, etc.--comes primarily from the United States, California, and Los Angeles County governments, both under existing and new homelessness programs and COVID relief funding. That includes the City’s allocation of federal CARES Act funds for COVID relief, State homeless funds from programs called HEAP and HHAP, and County funds provided under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and LA County to create 6,000 new shelter/interim housing beds and provide services for unsheltered people living near freeways or who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. A detailed funding proposal is outlined in this recent report

I think that the cost of these Cabins are too high, and I have been very public in raising this concern.  The LA Times recently did a story comparing the high costs of LA’s units with other cities.  I am asking the Controller to review LA’s high cost/unit and will do everything I can to push the bureaucracy to cut costs.  Some of the higher construction cost is strategic as it will reduce operational costs — installing sewage pipes rather than paying high monthly costs to pump/maintain mobile bathrooms and showers actually saves money.  The costs will come down as the City gains more experience in putting up these cabin communities, but the crisis is urgent and we cannot wait for the perfect to move forward on the good.  The cabin communities in the 3rd district are not as expensive as other ones being installed in the City that require grading and longer distances to hook up water, power and sewage connections. 

Please know that the total cost includes the cost of the shelter and all of the necessary infrastructure improvements. The cabins themselves cost only about $5,000 each, but the showers, bathrooms, laundry, service trailer and infrastructure connections all get folded into the total price per cabin, as well as each cabin’s electrical connections, heat, and air conditioning.

Q44: If you’re using Covid-19 funds, what happens when those funds run out?

Asked 1 time.

A:  While some COVID funds are being used for the construction, they are not required for ongoing operations. According to the CAO reports (here and here), there is no impact to the City’s General Fund as a result of the recommendations for emergency homeless housing in part because of important funding provided by the Federal government (CARES Act) and LA County under the above-mentioned MOU. 

 

Q45: Why do this rather than build permanent supportive housing?

Asked 7 times.

A: It is not an either or situation, we need to do both and are doing both. Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is much more expensive and time consuming to build. PSH also requires assistance from the private sector. We need to address the immediate need for shelter and also build more permanent housing that is affordable. 

 

Q46: Where are the public records discussing these projects?

Asked 3 times.

A: The first time the cabin community behind the District Office was formally proposed in a City document was in this August CAO Report regarding a proposed Strategy and Funding Recommendations on COVID-19 Homelessness Roadmap. That report recommended funding for the Vanalden and Archwood cabin community, as well as two in North Hollywood. That report was heard in the Ad Hoc Covid Committee on September 2; and CARES Act funding in the amount of $3.4M was approved by Council on September 9. On September 9, Council also approved a CEQA statutory exemption for the DO project (page 2 of this report).  All of these meetings were open to the public and documented.

Funding for the Reseda Blvd Orange Line Station cabin community in Tarzana was proposed by the CAO in this CAO report. The $3.4M in funding was approved by Council on September 30. Council also approved this BOE Report that included the CEQA statutory exemption. 

On November 12, the CAO issued a report recommending allocation of CDBG-Covid Funds for the projects, based on bids received: $1.7M for the Reseda lot and $1.1M for the Orange Line Station; and recommending allocation of ESG-Covid funds and funds from the County Homeless Funding Agreement. Because CARES Act funds must be spent by December 31, and construction will not be completed by then, the report also recommended substituting State HHAP funds for the CARES Act funds as needed beyond the end of the year (unless the time to spend CARES Act funds is extended). The report was heard by the Ad Hoc Covid Committee and approved by Council on November 24. The latest funding vote was on Wednesday December 3 to increase the amount for both projects (page 3 of this report).

There have been 10 public City Council meetings regarding cabin communities so far since the original motion was filed on June 24, 2020.

The CAO filed a report that identified feasible sites in Council District 3 on August 12, 2020 within the framework of the proposed Strategy and Funding Recommendations on COVID-19 Homelessness Roadmap. That report recommended funding for the Vanalden and Archwood cabin community, as well as two in North Hollywood. That report was heard in the Ad Hoc Covid Committee on September 2; and CARES Act funding in the amount of $3.4M was approved by Council on September 9. On September 9, Council also approved a CEQA statutory exemption for the DO project. Funding for the Reseda Blvd Orange Line Station cabin community in Tarzana was proposed by the on September 22, 2020. The $3.4M in funding was approved by Council on September 30. Council also approved a BOE Report on September 25 that included the CEQA statutory exemption.

On November 12, the CAO issued a report recommending allocation of CDBG-Covid Funds for the projects, based on bids received: $1.7M for the Reseda lot and $1.1M for the Orange Line Station; and recommending allocation of ESG-Covid funds and funds from the County Homeless Funding Agreement. Another report, regarding funding, was heard by the Ad Hoc Covid Committee and approved by Council on November 24. Another funding vote was on Wednesday December 3 to increase the amount for both projects in my district. Subsequent meetings and reports continue to be held, the latest was January 28, 2021.

Also, Letters had been sent to the immediate neighbors of the community on November 2, 2020 and a mass mailing was sent out on December 1, 2020. In addition there has been a virtual town hall presentation on December 14, 2020 which can still be viewed on Councilmember Blumenfield’s YouTube page and there will be an interactive virtual town hall coming up once the service provider is onboard.   This is in addition to the numerous one on one meetings that the Councilmember, his staff and his homeless community action team (BobCAT) has had with individual neighbors, HOAs, businesses and stakeholders. 


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