VENICE Ca. -Dario Rodman-Alvarez, of Pacific Urbanism, which specializes in policy research and data modeling, was the guest of honor at Tuesday night's VNC Homeless Committee Meeting. He presented highlights of a study conducted at the behest of Homeless Committee Chair Frank Murphy (with whom he's collaborated with on data projects for several years) entitled Affordable Housing 2020 (seen here in its entirety).
He began by analyzing the reason behind why California's housing costs are among the highest in the US, including racially motivated disparities in housing (e.g., redlining tactics restricting mortgage availability dating back to the 1960s), overall low housing production due to the high cost of construction, and historical upzoning which has, over time, resulted in the replacement of multi-family units with single-family housing.
Rodman-Alvarez cited several government and academic studies which suggest that the City of Los Angeles, in order to keep up with demand, must produce a net of about 32,000 units affordable to middle and low income tenants per year by 2029. As of January, 2021, through Measure HHH and other funding sources, the City is producing only a fraction of that number, the majority of which are being built or have been built on the east side of town (with the exception of Venice, where the supply of affordable units has increased since 2015).
Per the report, in order to build its way out of this affordability crisis, the city would have to triple its budget and dedicate the whole thing to affordable housing in order to build enough units. Instead, Pacific Urbanism recommends "modest policy reforms that affirmatively further fair housing and alleviate the need for subsidized low income housing, including restoring development rights to land across the city", as well as a "more equitable distribution of affordable housing".
In all of CD11, there is an average of about 1.2 affordable units of housing per 100 residents. But in Venice, that number jumps to 3.3 units per 100 residents, suggesting, as the report states, that "Venice bears a disproportionate share".
Venice ranks 7th out of 35 community plan areas in Los Angeles for affordable units, while all of the other CPAs in CD11 rank at or near the bottom of that list. In addition, in 2020, Venice had nearly one bed for each of its unhoused residents, with far and away the highest number of both homeless and homeless beds outside of Skid Row.
When asked by Committee member Brian Ulf whether these numbers suggest that Venice is being used as a "containment zone" for homeless residents, housing and services, Rodman-Alvarez stated that he was uncomfortable with the term, but acknowledged that concentrating nearly all of CD-11's low-income housing, un-housed residents and homeless services into Venice's 3.3 square miles leads to an "out of sight/out of mind" approach to the issue, as well as a scarcity of services.
Public Commentary took exception with Rodman-Alvarez's implication that housing alone was the sole cause of homelessness, or that a housing-first approach was the best way to solve the crisis. And Committee member Pat Raphael suggested that Venice has much more to offer than merely services to those who, like himself, are unhoused and looking for somewhere to settle (Raphael explained earlier in the meeting that he travelled to Venice -- where he has found a calling writing columns for The Venice Beachhead -- from Maryland after losing his job as a real estate appraiser following the Great Recession of 2008).
Also on the agenda for the meeting was CD11 Bridge Housing liaison Dexter O'Connell's progress report on Pacific Sunset and related issues. O'Connell characterized the past month as a "good" one, with 8 persons housed thus far in February (all of them into permanent housing) and perhaps two more to be housed this week -- 20 total in 2021.
The facility is now limited to just 111 total residents following a resident's positive Covid test on January 31st, and despite all of the other residents testing negative since, remains in quarantine. He stated there have been no crimes at the facility in February.
In response to Board questions, O'Connell stated that the 30-bed, temporary shelter at Oakwood Recreation center is currently full as well. Brian Ulf asked why the Cadillac Hotel, Venice's only participant in Project Roomkey, now has 23 empty rooms (out of a total of 47), and O'Connell responded that the Councilman was "not happy with the County's management of Project Roomkey".
Neither was the Council office happy with the Bureau of Sanitation's unilateral decision to make dramatic budget cuts which have radically affected the service Venice is receiving, especially when it comes to encampment cleanups in the enforcement zone surrounding the facility. O'Connell said that the Council office was attempting to at least restore service back to what it was prior to the cuts.
The meeting wrapped with a recommendation that Mr. Rodman-Alvarez present his findings to the City Council, and that Mr. O'Connell come to the next meeting equipped with a detailed, written report posted online of all the data regarding Pacific Sunset, including a crime report and budget numbers.
The meeting adjourned around 9pm.