Almost 5 Months After Proposing A Homeless Shelter In Sherman Oaks, City Staff Haven't Set Foot On the Land
Updated Monday, Dec. 24, 2018.
As part of a citywide initiative to alleviate Los Angeles' homeless crisis, City Councilman David Ryu proposed the city look into a potential emergency shelter at 5161 Sepulveda Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, on land owned by the U.S. Army. Ryu, who represents L.A.'s District 4, said in September that city staff planned to visit the property soon to conduct a feasibility study.
But nearly five months after the site was first proposed, no study has begun. No city employees have even set foot on the land.
That's because the city is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Army, which owns and manages the land. And working with the federal government is a slower process than coordinating at the state or local level, said Mark Pampanin, spokesman for Councilman Ryu's office.
"It takes a little longer to get through that red tape, but we're working on it," he said.
An Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman clarified that the Army Reserve operates on the land. A request for comment from the division stationed there has not yet been answered.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's office has also been reaching out to the Army to schedule a visit, along with staff from Mayor Eric Garcetti's office. In a letter written to Army Col. Victor R. Green in October and obtained by LAist, Feinstein urges the colonel to allow city staff to visit the "underutilized federal property," noting that he denied city staff a visit until an unspecified time in 2019 and has no plans to discuss the issue further with L.A. officials.
Feinstein acknowledges an apparent concern from the Army officer that the shelter could conflict with "Anti-Terrorism Force Proctection" rules, put in place to protect military personnel. But she pointed to rampant homelessness in the city, saying "every level of government needs to devote more resources" to address the "humanitarian crisis."
"We must, and can, do better," Feinstein wrote.
The site was first proposed in early August as part of the mayor's A Bridge Home initiative, which allocates $20 million from the city budget, split evenly among the 15 council districts, "to construct emergency bridge housing city-wide." Another site, Councilman Ryu's office had been eyeing for permanent affordable housing at 15314 Dickens St. was also listed on the proposal.
"Sherman Oaks just showed the city how it's done," Ryu said at the time.
Since then, Ryu's plans to address homelessness in his district been met with heavy resistance from some outspoken Sherman Oaks residents. In a planned protest at the councilman's open house event in September, residents drowned out what was meant to be a conversation about homelessness in the neighborhood with boos and chants. There were even threats of a recall directed at Ryu.
Speaking with LAist in the aftermath of the meeting, Ryu characterized the raucous response directed at him as residents who were "passionate about solving homelessness."
A petition against proposed housing plans in the neighborhood has more than 2,500 signatures.
Depsite that show of force from NIMBYs in some parts of his district, Ryu has had an easier time in Hollywood, where city officials broke ground Thursday on a new bridge housing center for women at a long-shuttered library.
The site, located at 1403 N. Gardner St., will have 30 beds and provide women "with a temporary home, counseling and services, and a pathway to more permanent housing and stability," according to the project's website. The project was approved for funding in May 2018 under Proposition HHH, which voters passed in 2016.
The Gardner project is the second project to break ground in Hollywood. The LGBT Center's Anita May Rosenstein Campus is set to open in 2019 and will include 98 units of affordable housing for seniors, 25 units for youth, and 100 beds for homeless youth, according to Ryu's office.
Meanwhile, the plans for the Dickens Street project were dropped. The property is owned by Caltrans and leased to LADOT, which uses it as a parking lot.
City Administrative Officer Richard H. Llewellyn, Jr. sent a letter to Ryu on Nov. 13, saying his office "does not recommend that the City proceed with further evaluation of the site for use as permanent affordable housing because the City does not own the property, and housing is not an allowed use under the lease."
Pampanin said Ryu and his staff are "not slowing down," though, explaining that they continue to discuss homeless solutions all over the district, including with partners in Los Feliz, Silver Lake and the Mid-City area.
"We're not leaving any stone unturned," he said.
Monday, Dec. 24: This article was updated with information from a letter written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein regarding the proposed shelter site on Army land.
10:45 a.m.: This article was updated to clarify that the Army Reserve operates on the land at 5161 Sepulveda Blvd.
This article was originally published at 10:20 a.m.
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