City Council Votes to Study Bringing Temporary Shelter to Will Rogers Beach

Los Angeles City Council gives green light to conduct feasibility study

By Sam Catanzaro

Lawmakers have approved Councilmember Mike Bonin’s plan to conduct a feasibility study on bringing homeless shelters to an array of Westside public spaces, parks and government buildings.

On May 26, Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 with one abstention to approve Bonin’s proposal to look into bringing more housing for homeless individuals to the Westside. The one dissenting vote was from Councilmember Joe Buscaino. 

On March 31, Bonin introduced a motion to Council that would evaluate the feasibility of bringing a variety of projects to combat homelessness to locations across the Westside.

“Addressing our homelessness crisis requires a wide range of solutions, applied urgently and simultaneously, targeting different populations and focusing a variety of resources, across the City of Los Angeles,” reads the motion. “Homelessness across Southern California, Los Angeles, and the 11th District continues to increase, and much more must be done. Different interventions must be tried, and more locations must be identified.”

Among the locations is the Los Angeles County-owned parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach at 17000 Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. According to Bonin, this location would serve as a temporary site for single-occupancy tiny-homes or safe camping.

The motion also calls for looking into the feasibility of bringing similar housing options to the following locations across the Westside: Mar Vista (Mar Vista Park), Marina Del Rey (Fisherman’s Village), Playa del Rey (Dockweiler Beach), Del Rey (private building at 5000 Beethoven Avenue), Westchester (Westchester Park) and West LA (West LA Municipal Building).

In addition, the motion proposes a single-occupancy tiny-homes or safe camping sites on a property owned by Culver City for a joint LA-Culver City program and at an undetermined location at LAX. The motion also would instruct the City Housing Authority to work with Council District 11 and willing property owners to enter into master lease agreements for hotel rooms or apartment units to be used for homeless housing.

“There are those who say there are places where we should look, and there are those that say there are places where we should not look. I am determined to be in that first [group]. And as I said. I do not feel it would be appropriate to say we can’t do it in my part of town,” Bonin said during the City Council meeting Wednesday. 

There was initially not supposed to be public comment during the virtual meeting Wednesday, but City Council President Nury Martinez under pressure allowed it to happen. The result was nearly two hours of public comment, with a majority of callers opposed to the proposal. 

Since its introduction, the motion has been met with opposition from residents and various stakeholders throughout Council District 11, including the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC), Brentwood Community Council and Supervisor Janice Hahn. 

The PPCC has been against the proposal since Bonin first introduced the legislation to City Council. Two weeks ago, however, amid the Palisades Fire, the PPCC upped their opposition. During the fire–started by a 48-year-old homeless man who has since been arrested–the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) used the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot as a command post. In a letter to Bonin and other officials, the PPCC argued the use of the parking lot for housing would reduce first responders’ ability to combat fires. 

“The dangerous Palisades Fire…has put this matter into stark relief for the Palisades community. Under no circumstances should public officials entertain the idea of sanctioning homeless habitation at Will Rogers State Beach (WRSB) or any of our nearby fire-prone areas,” the PCCC wrote. “Reducing the capacity in the WRSB parking lots for critical life and property saving activities would have a devastating impact on the Palisades community and the wider region. Our community is at acute risk of wildfires. Homeless individuals regularly set fires on our beaches and in nearby bluffs areas. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that fires in homeless encampments have nearly tripled in the first four months of 2021.” 

In addition, nearly 30,000 people have signed a petition opposing the use of beaches, parks and residential neighborhoods for shelter options. 

Some organizations, like the Venice Chamber of Commerce, have come out in support of parts of the proposal and against others. 

“The use of shared, public recreational spaces are a benefit and resource for the entire community of Los Angeles. California beaches are a unique and valued place for residents and visitors from throughout the world,” wrote Chamber President George Francisco. “The Chamber strongly supports use of the vacant West LA Civic Center for homeless shelters given its proximity to transportation and services in a safe environment.”

“The City and County need to do more to identify government owned land that is suitable for temporary housing and longer-term construction of low-income housing.” 

Among those who are fully behind the proposal is the Los Angeles Timeswho ran an editorial last weekend supporting Bonin’s motion. 

“…homelessness is an immediate emergency. Isn’t that what most city residents (except the ones in the Palisades, apparently) keep saying to anyone who will listen? And Bonin is an example of a council member acting on that,” reads the editorial. “It’s possible that putting camps even in parking lots will pose too many problems. Will it interfere with beachgoers trying to park? Will the Coastal Commission approve? Those are legitimate questions. So let a study examine all that.” 

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