New Los Feliz Homeless Shelter Is Moving 'Full Steam Ahead'

A rendering of the emergency bridge housing site now under construction on the edge of Griffith Park in Los Feliz. (Courtesy L.A. City Councilman David Ryu's office)

Los Angeles city officials broke ground this week on the latest homeless shelter under Mayor Eric Garcetti's A Bridge Home initiative.

The facility is being built at 3210 Riverside Drive in Los Feliz near the southeastern edge of Griffith Park. When it's completed, the shelter will provide beds for 100 men and women experiencing homelessness.

The goal of "bridge housing" is to give people a safe, short-term place to stay while outreach workers connect them with health services, counseling and long-term housing. When a person secures that housing solution, their bed opens up for someone else in need.

"The Los Feliz Bridge Home will bring those currently living on the street or the banks of the Los Angeles River into housing and real, life-changing care," Councilman David Ryu said in a press release.

The site will also include bathrooms and showers, communal space, storage facilities, an area for pets, and offices, where shelter residents can meet with counselors and social workers.

The $5.6 million project will be mostly funded through state grants, said Mark Pampanin, a spokesman for Councilman Ryu's office. The city has contracted People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) to operate the shelter.

Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, center left, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other city and community leaders break the ceremonial ground of a new emergency homeless shelter in Los Feliz on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (Courtesy Jackie D'Almeida, L.A. Council District 4)

The Los Feliz site is the third of four bridge housing locations that are either open, under construction, or planned in Ryu's council district (which includes parts of Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Sherman Oaks). One of those sites is planned a few blocks away on Riverside Drive at Hyperion Avenue. For that location, the city is looking to lease unused office space from a property owner who proposed the arrangement during district staff's outreach work, Pampanin said.

Ryu proposed the Los Feliz site for bridge housing about a year ago. The shelter is slated to open in late June, according to Pampanin. He told LAist it took a little longer than expected to break ground, due mainly to the site being near the Hollywood Fault line, which required a more in-depth seismological study to examine earthquake safety.

Still, the Los Feliz shelter's timeline has been fairly fast, compared to other bridge housing plans put forward elsewhere in the city.

The mayor's goal is to establish a temporary, emergency shelter in each of the city's 15 council districts, totaling at least 1,500 beds.

The expectation was that these bridge housing sites would be fast-tracked "from application to construction, allowing those that meet legal and environmental standards to open their doors in as little as 32 weeks," according to the program's website.

Back in June 2018, Councilman Mike Bonin proposed a shelter on vacant land in Venice that had been a Metro bus yard. Twenty months later, after more than a year and a half of neighborhood outrage, lawsuits, and construction delays, that shelter finally opened this week.

What made the process in Los Feliz different, according to Pampanin, is a "new narrative" on the homelessness crisis and a revised approach from city officials to focus on small group meetings with community members, which led to more community members feeling empowered to be part of the solution.

"What's changed is that you're seeing the city of Los Angeles and the communities across Los Angeles start to recognize that homelessness doesn't get better when we just say no," he said. "When you can actually have a conversation on that issue and you can talk about well, how do we solve it? How do we get that encampment off your corner and what should we do? People start to really realize that A Bridge Home, and then permanent supportive housing, is the best way to do that."

Despite that stronger community support, a neighborhood group opposed to the shelter has filed a lawsuit against the city, accusing officials of not following the proper environmental review protocols for the site. The Venice shelter faced similar lawsuits, but eventually a county judge ruled in favor of the city in that case, given the passage of Assembly Bill 1197, which grants the city of L.A exemptions to environmental reviews for supportive and emergency shelters.

"Frankly, that changes nothing for us," Pampanin told us on Wednesday. "No judge has said that we have to stop work, and we're confident that this case has very little merit. So we're moving full steam ahead."

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