Two big local issues were moved forward this week by the City Council and one of its key committees.
Brookside and Sycamore Square Zoning
On Wednesday, May 23, a long and heated local debate – over new “neighborhood conservation” zoning in the Brookside neighborhood – came to a close as the full City Council voted to approve a uniform R1-V3-RG single-family zone designation for the neighborhood. The city had originally proposed, and City Council Member David Ryu originally supported, the use of two different single-family zones in the area. One (officially known as R1-V3-RG, but commonly referred to in the discussion as “V3”) would have allowed variable patterns of building massing on larger lots originally developed with larger two-story homes, while another zone (R1-R3-VG, commonly referred to as “R3”) would require a rear-massing building pattern on the area’s smaller parcels, originally developed with mostly single-family homes.
The original dual-zone proposal deeply divided the neighborhood, however, and months of debate ended with Ryu’s office asking neighbors to petition the residents in the proposed R3 area. When the V3 variable massing option gained more signatures on those petitions, Ryu amended his motion, asking the Council to support a uniform variable massing pattern for all of Brookside. And the Council unanimously supported the amended motion at yesterday’s meeting.
With the same motion, the Council also supported an R1-V3-RG (variable massing) zone for the single family blocks in Sycamore Square, where neighbors and the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association had previously voted in favor of that option. The new R1-V3-RG zone will now become law in both neighborhoods.
Vermont Ave. Homeless Shelter Update
One day earlier, on Tuesday, May 22, the Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee held a public hearing on and then voted unanimously to move forward a proposal for a temporary 65-bed homeless crisis shelter at 682 S. Vermont (near the SE corner of Wilshire and Vermont, and one of 15 such shelters that are being planned – one in each city council district – around the city).
As previously reported in the Buzz, the issue has provoked strong debate in the Koreatown community, with many local residents angry that there were no community meetings to discuss the proposal before it began moving its way through the city approval process. Others, however, have argued just as strongly that the homeless crisis is such an emergency – with large numbers of informal, unregulated camps already in the neighborhood – that actions to humanely address the situation must move ahead as quickly as possible.
Advocates both for and against have staged protests and launched petition drives, and more than 100 people showed up at Tuesday’s hearing to speak on the subject (with speakers on both sides frequently booing their opponents). During the public comments, with the number of speakers on each side intentionally balanced by committee chair Marqueese Harris-Dawson, those opposed mostly said they support help and humane treatment for the homeless, but also feel that City Council President Herb Wesson, whose district the shelter would be in, and who originally proposed the Vermont location, was forcing the facility on the community and – in the words of one speaker – acting like a “dictator” in moving the proposal forward without neighborhood discussion.
In the end, however, the committee members agreed with Council and Committee Member Mike Bonin, who said the situation is so dire, “we must act” now to put temporary shelters in place while more permanent supportive housing is being built. “If people are dying on the street,” he said, “you don’t say ‘wait until we can build a hospital’ to help.”
Christine Johnson, owner of Miracle Mile Toys, who lives two blocks from the proposed shelter site and has participated in rallies and petition drives to support it, attended the meeting yesterday and was pleased with the outcome.
“With the frenzied pace of high rise developments here,” Johnson told the Buzz today, “the homeless issue is not going away. It’s beyond time to start implementing every solution possible. No more kicking the can down the road. I don’t think everyone realizes he desperation of residents here, the ones who really live and work and try to do business here. This is a problem that is in our faces from the moment we walk out the door every day, on every corner.”
But despite the fact that the committee, in the end, also supported the proposal, Johnson said the divisive and angry tone of the meeting also left her “emotionally exhausted.”
“We should be working together right now. It’s a waste of good energy and good hearts,” she said Neighbors who oppose the shelter “haven’t been heard, I get that. But now let’s move forward and make it the leading facility in the city. I think he opposition is loud and angry. But those of us who actually live in the immediate neighborhood support this and that’s fact.”
The shelter proposal will now move the to full City Council, which will hold another public hearing before taking a final vote. The hearing/meeting date has not yet been set.