Q&A for April 22, 2021 Cabin Community Town Hall


  • Site Location
  • Neighborhood Safety and Impact
  • Cabin Community Opening Timeline
  • Cabin Community Operations
  • Hope of the Valley Operations
  • Neighborhood Engagement
  • Homelessness In General and Laws

Site Location

Q: Why is this being considered near a school, park, and library?

A: The Reseda cabin community site was chosen not because of its proximity to the library or the park, but rather because of its proximity to the West Valley Municipal Building and West Valley Police station, which, because they are both right next door, allows me and my staff to be right there to assist with any issues or problems that arise to help ensure the program is successful. While we have had to restrict the number of staff people in our office at any one time during the pandemic, we do maintain a regular presence in the office and will continue to do so to help monitor the cabin community.  The fact that there are homeless folks living in the park and the library is merely representative of the fact that there are people in our communities who are unhoused, living on the street, and not receiving the services they may need to get themselves out of homelessness.  They, like other folks living on the surrounding streets and in the nearby riverbed, would be better served if they lived in cabin communities such as the one here in Reseda, where they have access to restrooms, food, showering facilities, and that provide the essential services in-house to help folks make the transition back into housing.

Although the cabin community residents will have a curfew and will be receiving services, and while experience has shown that these residents will spend most of their time within the cabin community perimeter, they will have access to the library and other amenities just as they do now, in the same manner that all other residents of our larger community have.   

Other cabin communities, both those that have been and that will be built are located near parks and residential communities.  In fact, a major part of the City’s homelessness mandate is to build transitional housing options in every community.  Nevertheless, many of these locations are sited in locations far from where homeless people currently reside. As a result, some of the folks who are offered the opportunity to live in these communities and to partake of the services and resources decline to do so.  And, by law, the City cannot force these folks to relocate.


Q: Why was this site selected? Can the City build these in other locations?

A: Discussions with Federal Court Judge Carter pushed the City to identify feasible sites within a relatively short period of time to avoid court receivership where the Court would make these decisions for the City.  To meet this objective on such a short timeline I, my staff, and volunteers from my community action team reached out to more than 60 property owners throughout the district who currently own abandoned or underutilized lots.  We approached almost every abandoned or underutilized lot you can think of within the district, focusing our search in commercial and industrial areas.  With most of these property owners either declining our proposals, demanding unreasonable amounts of money in exchange for our use of their land, or having environmental issues that made habitation impossible on their land, it made the most sense to move forward with lots already owned by the City or other government agencies for the cabin communities. Other government-owned lots we considered were either already being studied for permanent supportive housing, were slated to become Safe Parking lots, were too small for this project, or were too heavily trafficked and had to be utilized for existing parking demands. After an exhaustive search, and given the Court’s truncated timeline as well as a brief window to use available funds to finance the project, we were able to identify only two feasible sites, one of which is the parking lot behind my Reseda District Office, adjacent to the West Valley Police Station.  The other feasible lot was located in an underutilized Orange Line Parking Lot in Tarzana that is owned by Metro.  

There are several privately owned properties that may serve as additional homeless shelter locations in the coming years and if property owners with lots in areas zoned for commercial and industrial use are willing to work with the City, I would be excited to explore those options.


Neighborhood Safety and Impact

Q: Will the security guards patrol outside of the cabin community for crime and loiterers?

A: The security service will work in conjunction with LAPD to identify crimes and call LAPD if needed. The act of ‘criminal loitering’ requires that there be clear intent to commit the crime and it is not enough to assume that you know what someone else is thinking or planning, merely because they are homeless.. A person who simply loiters can be prohibited from doing so under some specific circumstances, such as near schools during school hours. However, the courts have deteremined that laws concerning loitering in most places were unduly unconstitutionally vague and overly broad, and, therefore, held them to be unenforceable.


Q: What does 24/7 security mean?

A: There will be two onsite security guards stationed at the facility throughout the day and night. There will, of course, also be Hope of the Valley staff onsite who manage the facility and intensively engage with the residents. LAPD patrols will continue and officers will respond to emergencies at the site.


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

A: Hope of the Valley will be working with the individuals living in the community to maintain cleanliness within the community.  I will also work with Hope of the Valley to help maintain the cleanliness of the area surrounding the cabin community.  Beyond that, the Department of Sanitation can be called upon to conduct spot cleaning of areas outside the cabin community to collect and remove any trash and abandoned items that have accumulated around the facility and in the surrounding area.  Further, I have also been fighting hard to create 500-foot buffer zones around these cabin communities and other similar shelters where camping would simply be prohibited and where more direct action can be taken to relocate folks who set up tents and other temporary shelters around the facility.  While I have faced some serious opposition to this proposal, I nevertheless am continuing to fight for cleanliness in our community.


Q: Can additional cameras be installed?

A: Yes. Councilmember Blumenfield is working with the LAPD to install additional cameras.  Cameras will cover the entire facility and beyond.


Q: How can you ensure the safety of the current community that live here?

A: Hope of the Valley has an excellent track record and has not experienced security problems around their current facilities.  The folks who will be living in the cabins are the most vulnerable members of our community who are actively trying to get their lives back on track.  Because participation in the cabin community program is voluntary, those who live there will be focused on improving their own situations and not making them worse. As such, these individuals should not be viewed as threats to the community.  Furthermore, these folks will be monitored while living in the cabin community and will have to abide by a curfew. As the Reseda facility is behind my office, my staff and I will also be checking on the facilities every day and will be regularly apprised of any issues.  In addition, LAPD will continue to have a strong presence in the area as the West Valley Division Headquarters is literally next door to the cabin community and the driveway that officers use is located next to the cabin community gate.  


Q: How will this impact my property values?

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. 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.


Q: Would the City provide funds to the HOA to purchase the gates, fences, or security guards?

A: The funding for the Cabin Communities cannot be spent on private property improvements. Hope of the Valley will have on-site 24/7 security, the 8ft tall perimeter fence, and strict curfew as means to mitigate security concerns. 


Cabin Community Opening Timeline

Q: What is the timeline for opening the cabin communities?

A: The Reseda Cabin Community behind my office is nearing completion and is scheduled to open mid-May. The Tarzana Cabin Community is scheduled to open early this summer.


Q: What can the community expect during the construction?

A: During construction neighbors may notice some heavy equipment, perimeter fencing, and the presence of engineers and construction workers. 


Q: What can the community expect while folks are moving in and after the opening?

A: The neighbors may notice an increase in personnel at the sites as folks are enrolled into the program and move into the cabins. Based on prior cabin communities, once folks move-in there is little foot traffic in the area. Most people stay inside the cabin community during the day and night. There is a nightly curfew as well. 


Cabin Community Operations

Q: How many cabins? Is it all male only or mixed gender resident?

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 occupant — especially during the pandemic.  The cabin community will assist vulnerable residents of all genders. 


Q: Do residents of this shelter have designated parking places? Will this impact West Valley Library parking?

A: There are no parking spaces for participants. In fact, most people experiencing homelessness who enroll in the cabin community programs do not have cars. The West Valley Library will not lose any assigned parking spaces to the residents of the cabin community. That being said, I am pursuing Safe Parking and RV parking for those homeless folks living in vehicles.


Q: What accommodations are made for homeless folks with pets?

A: Accommodating pets, primarily dogs, is one of the hurdles many homeless people face when deciding to accept shelter or not. That is why I am working to make pet-friendly homeless shelters a viable option in my district, and that includes at the cabin communities. There are other homeless interventions that accommodate pets including The Willows, A Bridge Home site.  The cabin community will allow for pets and will also include a pet relief/exercise area in the site. 


Q: What on-site responsibilities will be given to residents?  

A: Onsite residents are responsible for keeping their unit clean and safe and picking up after themselves. If they are able to work, they need to apply for employment or meet with job specialists who will help create individualized pathways towards employment. Residents are responsible for doing their own laundry, which includes their bedding. If they have pets they are responsible to make sure that their pets are properly fed, groomed, and, if necessary, kept on a leash.


Q: What off-site responsibilities will be given to cabin community residents? Such as neighborhood cleanups, volunteering, library work, food bank work, etc. 

A: Residents cannot be mandated to engage in off-site responsibilities but they will be encouraged to become active, productive members of the community. Councilmember Blumenfield regularly works with volunteer organizations dedicated to offering homeless folks opportunities to work for the community, including Don Larson’s Clean Streets, Clean Starts program. If participants are interested in volunteering they can be connected with appropriate programs.


Q: Will this attract other homeless people from the city or out of state?

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 should receive 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. It is a stable interim housing program where the residents are offered resources and security to help them recover from the trauma of living on the streets and help them transition back to being permanently housed. There have been a handful of locations in the city where homeless encampments have built up around shelter locations — but none of these locations were operated by Hope of the Valley and all were located places with existing, dense homeless populations where large encampments existed. 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 attracting additional encampments.  Hope of the Valley is committed to this as well.  Again, I do not think the sites in Reseda or Tarzana will become magnets. 


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

A: Although there is no law to force people into shelters, after visiting local homeless encampments for several years, I hear from people experiencing homelessness 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 living in 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.  These cabins were also designed in consultation with homeless people to make sure that they would be attractive to live.  Furthermore, the persons who will be living in these cabins have committed to bettering their lives and have agreed to abide by some basic rules. 


Q: What is the history of this program elsewhere? What is the success rate? What defines success?

A: The tiny home, cabin community model is relatively new but has been successfully implemented in other places. I define success in terms of: (1) the percentage of people that successfully transition from the site into permanent supportive housing or who have other positive outcomes; and (2) a program that seldom, if ever, negatively interacts with the surrounding community.  The City of Oakland, CA implemented a similar type of cabin community program and defined their success rate as 66% (see here). The City of Riverside, CA has also, so far, been able to transition a majority of their cabin community residents into permanent housing.


Hope of the Valley Operations

Q: Will each resident have an established time frame to live in this cabin community?

A: Participation in the cabin community programs is typically between 3 - 6 months prior to identifying suitable permanent supportive housing, family reconnection, independent living needs, rehabilitative programs, or other supportive service. As long as residents are working their case plan to end their homelessness they can continue to live in the Cabin Community.


Q: Where will Hope of the Valley staff and service providers park? 

A: Either in the parking lot or on the street depending on where parking is available.


Q: How will Hope of the Valley manage substance abuse and mental health issues?  

A: Drugs, alcohol and weapons are not permitted inside the cabin community. There will be a security guard stationed at the point of entry 24/7 who will wand residents before they enter and look through personal belongings each time re-entering the site.  Hope of the Valley will partner with mental health professionals such as the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors such as Tarzana Treatment Center to address residents' mental health and substance abuse issues. 


Q: How do you select residents for this shelter?

A: LAHSA will submit a list of currently homeless folks in the immediate area who are willing to accept shelter and services. Hope of the Valley will implement their vetting process before selecting the participants.  


Q: How are you going to screen for sex offenders?

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, Hope of the Valley uses 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.  This includes both the Reseda and Tarzana sites.


Q: Do you screen for alcohol and drug use? Are drugs allowed in the cabins?

A: As part of the intake and vetting process each participant’s alcohol and substance abuse acuity is determined during a discussion with outreach teams. Illegal drug use is not permitted in the cabin community.


Q: How can the noise be limited as much as possible?

A: There is a 10pm lights and sound curfew.


Q: Are residents required to be medication compliant, enroll in a 12 step program, or other way to keep them using their medications?

A: Hope of the Valley cannot mandate that they are medically compliant but they do work with them and their therapist to encourage compliance. They will work to establish a 12-step Recovery meeting onsite.


Q: Does Hope of the Valley have LCSW, MFT, other licensed therapists?

A: Yes, Hope of the Valley employs licensed therapists according to the needs of the cabin community residents. 


Q: What long-term options are available for residents after staying in the cabin communities and how will Hope of the Valley move the residents forward?

A: Hope of the Valley has a team of Housing Navigators whose job is to get clients permanently housed.  They work with landlords and link clients to potential housing programs to assist residents with transition to permanent or permanent supportive housing.


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

A: If a resident is evicted for non-compliance, Hope of the Valley will work with them to get them placed into a more suitable shelter.


Neighborhood Engagement

Q: Will there be a neighborhood liaison contact that we are able to connect with in the event residents are wandering on our street?

A: The Cabin Community phone number will be made public so residential neighbors can call, 24/7, should they see anything that needs attention.


Q: What is the possibility of making the grass area a dog park or community garden?

A: My cabin community committees will discuss this idea. I believe there are merits to these ideas which can bring the neighbors and participants mutual benefit for neighborhood beautification and make the participants more invested in the local neighborhood. A community garden or dog park may also deter any encampments. The cabin community committee will work with the community to discuss this.  Anything like this should only be done if the surrounding community favors it. 


Q: What is being done to bring our neighborhood together making this a success?

A: I have formed a cabin community committee for each site that includes members of the surrounding neighborhoods. These committees work with me and Hope of the Valley on issues related to their respective cabin communities to ensure their success. Also, I have also gone to the neighborhood councils, called neighbors, responded to all emails, held town hall meetings, made presentations, mailed letters, and more to keep everyone as informed as possible.


Homelessness In General and Laws

Q: Will the cabin communities help move the people living in underpasses?

A: Homeless folks living at the underpasses will certainly be included in the outreach and may accept housing at the cabin communities.  However, most of these folks have already been provided alternative shelter. Last Fall I partnered with LAHSA to perform an intensive location-based rapid rehousing program at all of the underpasses in my district. Approximately 60 people across the underpasses in my district (the majority of whom were at Winnetka and Corbin) received shelter placements. They were provided shelters that ranged from rapid rehousing to project RoomKey hotel rooms, to motel vouchers, to residential detox programs. They were not simply moved; they were enrolled in services and have become clients of Los Angeles Family Housing. They are each now on a path to exiting homelessness. 


Q: Can the City force an individual who is a threat to the public or themselves into a treatment program?

A: The State narrowly defines who can be involuntarily committed to conservatorship and this is typically for a maximum of one year. Conservatorship is a temporary status during which a judge appoints a responsible person or organization to care for another adult who is deemed unfit or incapable of taking care of themself. An individual must be “gravely disabled” which means the individual cannot fulfill, and is not receiving from others, basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing. Living on the sidewalk, for example, does not mean an individual is gravely disabled. Understandably, it is important to carefully define conservatorship and involuntary commitment to mental health programs. The State Legislature is the body that can change these laws and I continue to urge them to liberalize these laws as there are many people on the street who are in desperate need of such help. 


Q: What is the cost and where does the money come from? How much is the City spending on other emergency shelter programs such as Project Homekey?

Funding for the capital costs (construction of the cabin community) and operating costs (providing social services, security, utilities, etc.)  comes from the United States, California, and Los Angeles County and City Governments. This 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

Many people ask about the difference between cabin communities and Project Homekey or buying apartment buildings. The cost for each is drastically different in large part due to land acquisition, level of infrastructure needed, and necessary retrofitting. Cabin communities are built on undeveloped land (often on publicly owned land) which lowers the land acquisition cost but includes some infrastructure cost. Project Homekey involved purchasing underused hotels and motels at a higher acquisition cost but lower cost to install infrastructure or retrofit. Further, Project Homekey is designed as longer term, permanent supportive housing funded through State money. Although the idea of purchasing an apartment building is attractive, the high cost to purchase at fair market prices is often not cost-effective, nor are many property owners willing to sell. 

I think that the cost of these Cabins can be reduced, 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 asked 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.

The Reseda cabin community was assumed to cost a total of $3,388,900 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 was approved by Council on September 9. On September 9, Council also approved a CEQA statutory exemption for that project (page 2 of this report). 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 had to be spent by December 31, 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 was extended). The report 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 (page 3 of this report).


Q: Can you pass an ordinance to ban encampments in the public right of way?

A: Although enforcement is one of the last options, it may be possible to restore our anti-camping laws which the courts vacated (see here). Federal Judge Carter signalled his willingness to treat each City Council district as a mini-city within which stronger enforcement of public right of way anti-camping laws can be enforced if shelter is first offered. Based on this possibility six colleagues and I brought a measure to the Council that would update ordinances (known as 41.18 and 56.11). Unfortunately, some City Council colleagues were unwilling to support. The Council President sent the motion back to committee for further discussion and review.

My measure would have allowed the city to enforce anti-encampment laws in specific locations. The proposal would:

Allow buffer zones to prohibit camping or storage of belongings within 500 ft from new homeless service centers like Bridge Housing, cabin communities, and freeway underpasses. 

Necessitate a separate City Council approval (by resolution) for each buffer zone or underpass before it is made off-limits to camping. The Council would only pass a freeway underpass resolution once every person living in that underpass had been offered appropriate shelter. And, the Council would have to explicitly make findings that doing so was to promote public health, safety, or welfare.  This measure or a similar one will likely come back to the Council for a vote this year. 


Q: What else are you doing to address mental health and substance abuse?

A: I launched the successful Tarzana Treatment Centers and Providence Tarzana Medical Center Homeless Housing and Recovery Program (HHRP) program in 2019, to help and house unsheltered people with intake in the Emergency Room. Recently the City Council passed funding to make this program sustainable. While we can’t let requiring treatment or sobriety be a barrier to housing under federal fair housing rules, finding a good match for housing once someone exits a 30 day program to get sober has proven very challenging. The program reaches unsheltered people in the hospital ER which has proven to be an opportune time to offer services. They are more receptive, perhaps because they have hit a rock bottom or because the medical setting is more conducive to acceptance of help than an outreach effort on the street. The partnership of the medical professionals and streamlined access to a substance abuse program seems to give unsheltered people with substance abuse or mental health disorders a better chance to turn their lives around. Read more about this program here. The City is generally excluded from putting forward mental health and drug addiction programs because it is the responsibility of the County and all of the funds for such programs currently flow to the County. 


Q: What are you doing about people living in vehicles?

A: 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. Further, for regular passenger vehicles there is a Safe Parking program behind the West Valley library which has operated for years without issue. I am also pursuing Safe Parking programs in other parts of my district on City-owned lots and in cooperation with private property owners.


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

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.  

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.


Q: How close are you to reaching the 60% threshold for homelessness shelter?

A: According to the LAHSA Homeless Count (here) there are 606 unsheltered homeless people in the third Council District (more than 28K in the City). According to the tentative 60% threshold, my district needs 367 beds. Currently there are over 370 beds in the pipeline and I hope to work with Federal Judge Carter and City Council to implement the necessary code changes to meet the needs of the West Valley. Ultimately I want to have over 606 beds so that every homeless person in my district can access a safe place to sleep and rebuild their lives. 


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