An ambitious, long-term plan to house the homeless in the Harbor Area is being rolled out to various community groups for feedback this month.
Driving the more expansive and long-range plans for housing homeless folks is a federal lawsuit requiring Los Angeles City Council districts to pick up the pace and establish enough beds to house up to 60% of those living on the streets within their boundaries.
With the quiet release this month of the new 15th District proposal, area officials appear ready to move forward on a number of options in the Harbor Area.
The draft calls for several new shelters, safe parking sites, and an 89-unit permanent supportive housing project on an industrial building site at North Beacon and O’Farrell streets in San Pedro.
The Council District 15 Housing Solutions Action Plan — which takes in areas from Watts to San Pedro — includes:
- A safe parking area for residents living in vehicles and RVs at the Municipal Parking Lot at Seventh and Beacon streets in San Pedro (25 spaces), and at 19610 S. Hamilton Ave. in Harbor Gateway (25 spaces);
- A new Bridge Home “2.0” project featuring a pallet shelter village facility, with at least 75 units that can accommodate two individuals each at the Harbor Sports Complex, 1221 Figueroa Place (by the first quarter in 2021);
- Two new California Home Key sites to be acquired by Dec. 9 — a Travelodge at 18600 Normandie Ave. in Harbor Gateway (40 units) and a Motel 6 at 820 W. Sepulveda Blvd. in Harbor City (57 units); and
- The addition of several permanent supportive housing, Rapid Re-Housing (leasing properties now on the market), affordable housing and affordable set-asides in market-rate developments, some of which are already in the pipeline.
The blueprint comes as the city scrambles to satisfy a court agreement that promises to provide 6,000 beds in the city and county by spring 2021.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter earlier this month told the parties involved in a lawsuit — the LA Alliance v. City and County of Los Angeles — that production of homeless housing is too slow in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the rise in deaths on city streets.
“You’re already so far behind, it’s disgraceful,” Carter told officials at a hearing at City Hall in the first week of November.
Each council district needs to reach a threshold that offers enough beds to house 60% of the homeless population in that district.
The CD15 Action Plan document says the Harbor-to-Watts district is “well on its way to meet this threshold with a total of 2,150+ beds in place or in the pipeline.” The additional plans would create an added 1,183 beds.
Still, there are some issues surrounding homelessness that the action plan doesn’t address — such as unhealthy conditions on sidewalks.
Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents District 15, plans to file a City Council motion with three of his colleagues — Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Monica Rodriguez and Paul Krekorian — that requests more regulations on where and when people can sleep or sit on the streets.
The lack of regulations “has led to unhealthy conditions on city streets, and the obstruction of free passage on sidewalks,” says a copy of the motion, which the councilmembers will introduce during the Nov. 24 council meeting. “The city understands the urgency to implement solutions today instead of tomorrow.”
Buscaino was not available for a comment.
The motion argues that the city will be “more successful” in placing new shelters if neighbors have assurances that more will be done to clear and improve the conditions on sidewalks.
The motion asks the city establish buffer zones for designated sidewalks and other infrastructure.
Overall, the 15th District housing plan, drawn up by Buscaino’s office, hasn’t received much exposure yet, but has quietly started to make the rounds within the community.
It’s already drawn some praise for taking a broader approach to the issue.
“It was nice to see a plan laid out,” said Elise Swanson, president and CEO of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. “It was very comprehensive and I think it’s the type of approach we need to see.”
Amber Sheikh Ginsberg of San Pedro, who heads up the CD15 working group on homelessness, commended the plan for taking a “holistic approach.”
“I think for so long we’ve been looking solutions piecemeal,” she said. “This is going to all add up to a decent number of beds and services.”
As with anything having to do with the homelessness, however, the plan will likely receive some robust debate as well.
The goal, according to the plan, is to reach the capacity to support at least 60% of the homeless population at any given time. That translates, the report said, to a target of 1,400 individuals in 2020.
District 15 — which takes in San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and Watts — saw a modest decrease in the number of people who are homeless in LA County’s latest tally from January, from 2,629 in 2019 to 2,257 in 2020.
Projects finished so far include a Navigation (and storage) Center at the LAPD’s Harbor Division Station, along with three Bridge Home temporary shelters, which provide a combined 300 beds in San Pedro, Wilmington and Watts. Motel space also has been added under the county’s Room Key program that now is phasing out.
What the new action plan provides is a longer-range look at how more people can be housed, including in permanent homes. The proposal is designed to meet the court’s requirements for the 15th Council District.
A cornerstone component will be an 89-unit permanent supportive housing development, named Beacon Landing, in the 300 block of North Beacon Street in San Pedro. Funding for that development comes from a $40 million Innovation Challenge Award paid via Proposition HHH, a ballot measure that provides money for housing.
The Beacon Landing development will be a permanent fixture, serving those transitioning into housing and represents a new approach — modular, off-site construction — that is designed to save both money and time.
Construction will begin at the end of 2021/early 2022 with a goal to finish by early 2023.
Early questions from community groups center mainly around the lack of parking for the project’s residents, who could number as many as 100.
Eight spaces for staff will be set aside on the block-long industrial/commercial property.
But because residents likely will not have cars, there is no parking for tenants, although there are plans being discussed to lease spaces on the Caltrans property nearby where the Bridge Home shelter now stands.
Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities, which is the lead developer on the project, said the plan has so far received positive responses, with parking being the main exception.
“By limiting the parking,” Hughes said, “we’re doing two things, reducing the cost of the housing and also providing more housing.”
The approach, she added, also allows for a more generous public open space (5,000 square feet) to be included along Beacon Street.
The Beacon Landing plan was unveiled to the San Pedro Chamber’s Economic Development Committee recently and is set to go before the full chamber board the week of Nov. 16.
City News Service contributed to this report.