A councilman’s proposal to house about five dozen homeless people in trailers on a downtown lot as a possible model for citywide temporary shelters was moved forward Wednesday by a Los Angeles City Council committee.
A motion outlining the plan was introduced in January by Councilman Jose Huizar and approved by the full City Council in February, but a Bureau of Engineering report finding that the project has a categorical exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act still needs to be approved by the full City Council, and was passed without objection by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.
Huizar also said he had held off in February on having a “full vote” on the project before significant outreach was done to the businesses and merchants near El Pueblo, as some have objected to the plan. A series of community meetings have since been held, and Huizar said he also held a meeting Tuesday night.
“When the merchants came out to the last meeting, there was over 15 to 30 of them here really upset because they had not been talked to about the plan,” Huizar said. “And in anything we do, whether we are creating permanent supportive housing or these types of shelters, there’s always going to be neighbors that don’t want them there. And it’s not to say that we are going to agree with them that they shouldn’t be there after we talked to them, but we should at least go out and talk to them and they are probably going to give us input that can makes this a better plan.”
Huizar said he told the merchants the city will reassess the plan after six months of the project’s implementation, and also added an amendment to his motion that would call for the report.
The plan calls for five trailers to be installed on a city-owned parking lot at Arcadia and Alameda streets to house people who sleep on the sidewalks in the area around the historic El Pueblo site off Main Street. It marks a significant new approach in how the city is looking to tackle the problem of homelessness.
Another motion was also approved by the City Council last week that will have the city study the feasibility of taking the same approach on a much larger scale in nearby Skid Row, where an estimated 2,000 people sleep on the streets every night.
“This is new and something that we are going to do all over the city,” Huizar said, adding, “This has to be successful, a lot is riding on this.”
The El Pueblo motion says the trailers could be installed and operated for six months at a cost of $2 million, and Huizar said the annual cost after that would be about $1.4 million.
The trailer proposal came from a task force formed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to brainstorm how to get thousands of unsheltered people off the streets. The initiative to provide temporary shelter is a new strategy for the city, which has focused primarily on encouraging the construction of permanent housing through $1.2 billion in voter-approved bonds under Measure HHH, which was passed in 2016.
The El Pueblo plan is to install three trailers for beds, one trailer to house administrative workers and case management services, and one hygiene trailer with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. Huizar said the hope is that the people who stay there could be transitioned into permanent housing within six months through the on-site services they would receive.
Huizar estimates the site would cost an average of about $60 per bed per night to operate, which is an estimate that can be applied to other trailer sites under consideration, including the Skid Row proposal, which he said could need $20 million to get up and running as a “back-of-the-envelope” estimate.
Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles jumped by 20 percent in 2017 while L.A. County saw a spike of 23 percent, according to the results of the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. In the city, the total number of homeless went up to 34,189 and the county number increased to 57,794.