Those who have heard CD 5 City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky speak at recent events (including the October 16 Hancock Park Homeowners Association annual meeting), have heard her say that one of the biggest challenges in moving the district’s unhoused residents off the streets and into housing is that while other Council Districts have, in some cases, hundreds of interim beds available for “general population” residents over the age of 18, CD 5 currently has none. And those beds are necessary to help stabilize people and connect them with the services they will need to move into permanent housing.
Yaroslavsky, who campaigned for office last year on an “all of the above” approach to creating new homeless housing in CD5, launched her first proposal for a new 33-bed interim housing facility, at 2377 Midvale Ave., a city-owned parking lot at the corner of Midvale and Pico Blvd. in CD5, last summer, and it was approved by the full City Council on October 20. But the path to approval was not smooth. While many people, particularly housing advocates, applauded the proposal, many others – especially those who live near the site – protested the location, which is close to a single-family residential neighborhood.
During the discussions, however, neighbors also promoted another possible site for an interim housing installation – along a section of Cotner Ave., a block south of Santa Monica Blvd. between the 405 freeway and Sepulveda Blvd., which fronts three city-owned maintenance facilities and is 350 feet across the freeway from the nearest residential area. And on October 27, Yaroslavsky submitted that proposal to the city for study as well.
Here are more details on the two projects – one now approved, and one just recently proposed – which together could bring more than 150 new interim housing beds to CD 5.
2377 Midvale Ave.
The Midvale project would replace a city-owned parking lot at Midvale Ave. and Pico Blvd. The 33-bed facility would be constructed by the LifeArk firm, which provides pre-fabricated, rapidly-deployable, modular building systems. And after its construction, the facility would be run by LA Family Housing, which operates several other interim housing facilities around the city.
According to Yaroslavsky’s informational page about the Pico/Midvale plan, the facility “is designed to serve unhoused people who reside in the neighborhoods surrounding the project. Each participant will be evaluated to determine whether or not they meet the criteria for this housing.” In addition, says the site:
- “Every participant will be assigned a dedicated case manager, in addition to receiving comprehensive assistance to address mental health or substance use issues, as well as link people to permanent housing.”
- “Participants will also have access to three daily meals, storage facilities, and restrooms located in their units.”
- “The project will have 24-hour security on site, as well as security cameras. There will also be increased LAPD patrol of the surrounding neighborhood.”
- “In addition, CD5 has asked LA Sanitation to implement a bi-weekly cleaning schedule for the immediate vicinity, and will monitor and adjust that schedule as needed.”
- “The project will be operated 24 hours a day; 7 days a week.”
- “Nighttime activity will be limited,” but “there will not be a strict curfew in place.”
Also, Yaroslavsky said new encampments near the facility will not be allowed, and while this particular parking lot will become unavailable for local businesses, “there are two additional parking lots within a 10 minute walk of this location, and additional street parking on Pico and Westwood Boulevards that have capacity to absorb parking needs.”
(Further details are provided on this list of questions and answers prepared by Yaroslavsky’s office in response to the large number of questions it received after the project was initially announced.)
While housing advocates have applauded the concept, however, many neighbors were not happy with the plan, afraid it would jeopardize safety in the adjacent residential neighborhood, and that it would hurt nearby businesses still recovering from pandemic-related losses. In fact, at a community open house in August, where Yaroslavsky, her staff, and Mayor Karen Bass attempted to present the details of the project for the first time, angry residents – some of them shouting for a recall of Yaroslavsky – prevented the officials from making their presentations, and the event was shut down, forcing the Councilmember to schedule a more easily regulated Zoom presentation about a week later.
But later that month, a still-angry group of residents staged a protest at the site, and the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, representing 14 area neighborhood and community councils (including the Westside Neighborhood Council, which represents the neighborhood where the new facility will be located), submitted a letter to the city complaining that they had not been given enough time to weigh in the the proposal. And after a lengthy and once again contentious special meeting of its Land Use committee in August, the WNC voted 12-2 on October 12 to officially oppose the project.
At the same time, however, others – especially housing and homeless advocates – praised the proposal, and the necessary interim housing it will provide for CD 5, which has been facing increasing pressure from the city to provide the needed housing for unsheltered residents who live in the district.
For example, Stories from the Frontline co-founder Allison Schallert, speaking in favor of the project at an October 4 hearing at the City Council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee, said “This is a state of emergency. We need all hands on deck. We need as many beds as possible…and we just need to move forward and provide beds and a way for people to survive on the streets of Los Angeles.” And Hang Out Do Good activist Helen Eigenberg said at the same hearing that “we have an extraordinary opportunity in front of us.” “I applaud Katy Yaroslavsky for her braveness” in creating the proposal, Eigenberg said. “It’s time to say yes.”
And in the end, the Council did just that.
At the same October 4 Committee hearing, committee member Bob Blumenfield acknowledged the neighbors’ concerns, but said fear of the unknown is always worse than the reality, and that he, too, applauds Yaroslavsky for stepping forward with the proposal. And committee chair Nithya Raman echoed Blumenfield, saying that, in her district, “When we opened up our interim housing site withs 144 beds, entire encampments that were near the site disappeared because all of the people that were in them went indoors into a facility which had a security guard in front of it, and the neighborhood around it became safer as a result of the site.”
The proposal then went to the full City Council, which approved it unanimously on October 20. But while it was definitely a victory for Yaroslavsky, she also said at the meeting that she does acknowledge the neighbors’ concerns, and “you have my word I’m very committed to doing right by you and your neighborhood.” She promised to work with the community, LAPD, and service providers at the site on a “robust security plan,” and said, “if that doesn’t work, we will make adjustments or shut it down.”
“We need these beds,” Yaroslavsky said. “33 doesn’t seem like enough interim beds…it’s not. But it’s 33 more than ever built in CD5 for general population adults.”
Finally, said Yaroslavsky, “We’ve seen time and again that when you do it right, [interim housing] helps bring people indoors, keep our streets clear of encampments, and meaningfully address the crisis on our streets.”
The project is expected to open sometime in 2024.
1924 Cotner Avenue / 11165 Missouri Avenue / 11168 Missouri Avenue / 11171 Nebraska Avenue
While the path to approval was rather rocky for the Pico/Midvale project, neighbors who opposed that installation offered at least one alternate proposal that has since gained a bit of traction…perhaps not instead of Pico/Midvale, but maybe in addition to it.
According to the neighbors’ proposal, temporarily closing a section of Cotner Ave., which runs parallel to the 405 Freeway, starting a block south of Santa Monica Blvd. and fronting three city-owned maintenance facilities, could provide space for “113 13-foot trailers designated for single occupancy, and six 18-foot trailers designated for dual occupancy, totaling 119 trailers. When fully occupied, 125 unhoused people will have shelter.”
Also, says the proposal, “Each trailer has its own bathroom and kitchenette. If 15-foot trailers are used instead of the 13-foot ones, the total number of trailers will reduce to 108.). The Safe Parking lot would accommodate 20 overnight vehicles.”
According to the proposal, this area is already used by many homeless residents, including, as of September 26, 20 RVs, 10 cars, and 20 tents, with those residents likely candidates for the new facility. And, say the neighbors, the city already owns at least some of the appropriate trailers, which were deployed by LA Rec and Parks as temporary homeless housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, once the trailers are installed, suggests the proposal, day-to-day operations and other services would be handled by a service provider selected by the city, along with temporary water and power lines to the trailers, waste-management service for the trailers’ sewage tanks, and city trash pickup.
The proposal was mentioned by a number of neighbors during the community and city council hearings on the Midvale project, as well as in several letters submitted by neighbors, and in a letter submitted by the Fix the City advocacy group during the Pico/Midvale approval period. And advocates for the Cotner site said at the time that it was preferrable to Pico/Midvale because it’s larger, less expensive than the modular housing at Pico/Midvale, and there are no nearby residences or businesses – only the city-owned properties on one side, and the 405 Freeway on the other.
And Yaroslavsky did listen. She did not abandon the Midvale proposal, but on October 26, she introduced a new City Council motion requesting that the appropriate city agencies also study the Cotner proposal and report back within 45 days “on costs, feasibility, and potential timing” for the project.
“If this idea is found to be feasible and cost-effective,” Yaroslavsky wrote in her weekly community newsletter on October 29, “it could provide us additional resources to resolve encampments across our District.”
And so far, the proposal is moving forward. On November 1, the City Council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee unanimously approved the report request, and on November 8, the Public Works Committee did the same. So both of those groups will weigh in again when the studies are ready.
If you would like to receive updates on the Cotner proposal as it works its way through city channels, see the Council File page for the motion, where you can subscribe to email notices, read comments and reports, and/or submit comments of your own.