Published with the Valley News Group on May 6, 2021
Everyday people ask what’s being done to address the homelessness emergency. The good news is new projects and interventions are coming in every corner of Los Angeles, yet it continues to be our most intense and glaring crisis. In the West Valley we have fewer unhoused people than every other community in the city but this humanitarian crisis continues on our streets and sidewalks.
Only a few years ago, we had practically no shelter options, few services and no plan to meet the need. Here’s an update on some of our progress and projects in the West Valley.
- Cabin Communities: We’ve partnered with Hope of the Valley to create two new ‘tiny home’ villages in Reseda (set to open in a few weeks) and Tarzana. This swift and more affordable model will offer over 120 units to help those transitioning from the streets to more permanent housing. Each has a bed, a locking door, A/C, heat, and electric outlets. There will be shared restrooms, laundry facilities, 24/7 security, meals, and onsite case management.
- More Permanent and Affordable Housing: Although I have approved every single unit of permanent supportive housing proposed in my district, more is desperately needed. In addition to the almost 100 existing units in Winnetka Village, the Reseda Theater senior housing and Bell Creek development in Canoga Park are now underway, and combined with the pending Palm Vista project, altogether we’ll have nearly 200 more units.
- Safe Parking: People who are living in their vehicles receive a space with restrooms, security and services, including behind my district office where safe parking has been operating for almost two years without problems. It’s the least we can do for people living in cars who may not qualify for other programs. We recently expanded safe parking to a city-owned lot in Canoga Park and are exploring other potential sites.
- Hotels/Motels: Project Homekey buys or leases hotels/motels and converts them into permanent supportive housing. Project Roomkey is a temporary leased hotel program for people at risk. In 2020 two sites added over 100 rooms for unhoused folks in our community, and we are continuing discussions with several others.
- Bridge Home/The Willows: Earlier this year we opened our Bridge Housing site in Canoga Park which has welcomed dozens of local unhoused people into transitional housing. Due to the COVID-19, it has reduced capacity but soon we’ll be able to double the occupancy.
With all these projects, the land is most expensive component. Instead of spending millions on land, we can invest in creating housing and solutions. Folks regularly suggest privately-owned locations but are shocked when we share the cost to purchase or lease. In a Valley News Group publication, one constituent proposed making the old Rocketdyne site into a city park. People have also proposed using that site for homeless services. However, its owner purchased it a few years ago for more than $100 million. To buy it, or acquire it through condemnation, would cost well over $100 million plus expensive pollutant clean-up. I asked the owners to allow us to do a homeless intervention prior to their construction but, unfortunately, AQMD would not allow any human habitation until the environmental mitigations were complete. My team and I are constantly talking with private property owners, but to get viable sites open quickly we’ve needed to use city owned land.
Many are following Judge David O. Carter’s federal court, a wide-ranging lawsuit about homeless housing and services. He issued a preliminary injunction which included putting $1 billion in city funds into escrow for future projects, demanding a plan to immediately house every person on Skid Row, not shuffling the unhoused people to other communities. Both the City and LA County have appealed the injunction raising legal and practical objections.
Ultimately, progress is being made, but much more is needed. We soon will exceed the 60% goal of beds for unhoused people within the district that has been outlined by Judge Carter. My goal is to have housing or shelter for 100% of the unhoused people in my district and to help prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place. I’ll continue to update residents through my social media accounts and newsletter but if you have any questions about these projects or any other city issues please reach out to me at [email protected].
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