Another Homeless Shelter Plan Fell Through In Sherman Oaks, But There's A New One In Los Feliz
In August 2018, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu proposed an emergency homeless shelter be built at 5161 Sepulveda Blvd. in Sherman Oaks as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti's bridge housing initiative.
The plan led to a petition, an unruly protest at a neighborhood meeting, and threats to recall the District 4 councilman. Then, nothing.
Seven months later, the proposal is "no longer considered a viable option," Ryu wrote in a letter to constituents, because the U.S. Army, which owns and manages the land, has continually refused to allow city staff to set foot on the site.
According to Mark Pampanin, a spokesman for Councilman Ryu, city officials reached out to the Army's 63rd Readiness Division last year and initially had an "amicable and positive" phone conversation, with the Army agreeing to let city staff visit the site in the near future.
"That basically fell through after the phone call," Pampanin said. "They stopped being as responsive and then here we are today."
The leader of the division, which operates an Army Reserve center on the land, later walked back the agreement, citing security protocol concerns.
Then, the Army basically ghosted everyone, despite a letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging division chief Col. Victor R. Green to allow city staff to visit the "underutilized federal property" as Los Angeles grapples with the "humanitarian crisis" of homelessness.
"The Army Reserve's lack of response to both the City of Los Angeles as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein's office is evidence of their unwillingness to help local partners take on serious issues," Ryu wrote in the March 1 letter. "Until the Army Reserve retracts its refusal," 5161 Sepulveda Blvd. is no longer under consideration, he said.
LAist's phone calls and emails to the Army Reserve division were not returned.
This marks the second emergency shelter site in the neighborhood to be sunk. Both the Sepulveda site and a nixed proposal for 15314 Dickens St. were recommended to Ryu by the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council and the community homeowner's association.
According to Ron Ziff, president of the neighborhood council, there are no options left to bring homeless housing to the community.
"There is no next move," Ziff told LAist last month, before city officials officially cut their losses for the Army land. "There is no other property that we're aware of. There is nothing else in Sherman Oaks."
But Pampanin was slightly more optimistic that there's more to be done, saying Ryu's office remains "committed to addressing homelessness in Sherman Oaks."
"Finding good locations on city-owned property is tough in L.A., and Sherman Oaks is no exception," he said. "We are looking at our options in Sherman Oaks, not just for bridge housing, but for all types of homeless housing."
One of those options is a recent proposal to build supportive housing for senior citizens at 14534 -14536 Burbank Blvd. in Sherman Oaks.
The nonprofit Mercy Housing has applied for funding from Proposition HHH to build 58 apartments on the quarter-acre property. The L.A. City Council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee is set to vote on the funding this Wednesday.
"This development would have a meaningful impact for our homeless population, and it would provide much-needed housing for the most vulnerable among us," Ryu said in the March 1 letter, adding that while homelessness was down slightly in L.A. County last year, "it surged by 22% for people 62 years and older."
A NEW PLAN IN LOS FELIZ
While emergency shelters under the mayor's plan have fallen through in Sherman Oaks, another such shelter has been proposed in Los Feliz.
Early last month, Ryu filed a motion asking the city to explore the feasibility of bridge housing on what's currently a parking lot and open land owned by the Department of Recreation and Parks on the southeastern edge of Griffith Park.
Several "small group meetings" have been scheduled this month at Ryu's Hollywood district office for local residents to discuss the proposal with the councilman. The proposed site has support from both the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and Los Feliz Improvement Association, according to Pampanin.
It's also backed by the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, a group of homeless advocates who focus on the region between downtown L.A. and Hollywood.
The location is an ideal spot for homeless services, SELAH President Nithya Raman recently told LAist, because it "can serve unhoused residents in Los Feliz, Atwater Village, and Silver Lake, and is just a few minutes walk from the river where large numbers of people live."
"We do hope that this bridge housing facility can be so much more than just shelter beds," she said. "We hope that it can also be a place where people can drop in to access caseworkers, showers, and food, and a place where community members can volunteer and provide support for their neighbors experiencing homelessness."
The proposal is awaiting approval from the City Council, then a feasibility study can begin.
Elsewhere in Ryu's district, a new homeless housing program broke ground in Hollywood last week. Upgrades to the existing Aviva center at Hollywood Boulevard and Camino Palmero Street will create permanent bridge housing for young women experiencing homelessness. The project is separate from the mayor's bridge housing plan, which aims to create temporary sites.
Today is a good day in Hollywood. We are announcing another #BridgeHousing project with the incredible @avivacenter.— David E. Ryu (@davideryu) February 28, 2019
The Aviva Home will provide 42 units, job training and life skills to women facing homelessness. Proud to break ground on this new project with @MayorOfLA. pic.twitter.com/Da3IPPBtIv