homeless person sleep

Person experiencing homelessness sleeps on park bench in Pacific Palisades (Photo courtesy SMDP)

PACIFIC PALISADES -A proposal to convert several local beach lots into temporary housing cleared its first hurdle this week when the City of Los Angeles’ Committee on Homelessness and Poverty voted to authorize a feasibility study in a 4-1 vote.

Councilmember Mike Bonin and Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted the motion that asks to study temporary tiny homes/safe camping at Will Rogers State Beach, temporary tiny homes/safe camping at Dockweiler Beach, RV parking at Dockweiler and temporary tiny homes/safe camping in Marina del Rey.

In addition, the motion asks to study several other sites including property in Culver City, at 5000 Beethoven Ave in Del Rey, Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park, LAX property, the West LA Municipal Building and funding for more hotel rooms to be converted into homeless shelters.

Councilman Joe Buscaino was the lone opponent of the proposal among committee members saying that while the homelessness crisis is indeed an emergency, the proposal put forward isn’t feasible or fair.

“I feel that our beaches and parks provide priceless open space and recreation opportunities for thousands of our residents including low income residents throughout our county,” he said. “We need to balance the needs of both our unhoused residents with the needs of our housed residents.”

Public comment on the proposal was mixed both from neighborhood groups and individual residents.

Jessica Rogers, president of the Pacific Palisades Residents Association, said the proposal was a detriment to all Angelenos.

“In particular, all the Los Angelenos who are lower income, and who desperately need access to beaches and parks for their quality of life,” she said. “These emergency homeless shelters are a horrific problem in terms of safety for everyone involved. You have no current possibility to monitor and properly provide safety and apply any laws to remove any vagrants that will be attracted towards these emergency homeless shelters.”

Tiara Writer said the Westside needed more shelters to address the homelessness crisis and said the proposal should be expanded.

“On the Westside, we have plenty of space to support street safe dwelling, as well as permanent and supportive housing in the area, along with open spaces,” she said. “I do believe that Councilman Bonin should also be considering the Santa Monica airport as the airport is incorrectly zoned and the issue of homelessness is a county wide issue. We can’t allow cities like Santa Monica to uphold segregation and promote classism, which is what they are and have been doing for the last several years.”

Sam Herd said the proposal was unacceptable and that while he was sympathetic to the plight of the homeless, housing people in parks would increase crime and render the spaces unusable for families.

“Like almost everyone, we want to find improvements and solutions for the homeless, but putting them in a park is not a solution,” he said. “California is the fifth largest economy in the world, with some of the smartest people in the world, and putting people in parks and beaches is the best idea and solution that is currently being assessed. I think that’s embarrassing. Do better, be better, be a world leader in solutions.”

Mar Vista resident Marybeth Lacey supported the study.

“I live close to the park and I’m supportive of this motion because the status quo has been failing for a long time,” she said. “People living on the street and in the park are dying at twice the rate of people living at home, and it’s clear to me that the main reason that people are living outside is because of property economic hardship. The comments made by the opposition about crime, violence and danger are greatly exaggerated. And I know this because I visit the encampment that’s currently in the park every Saturday. I also know that my neighbors living in the streets, in the past have experienced loss, trauma, there’s no one size fits all solution, we need multiple options on the table. And that’s why we need to do that study.”

The motion Thursday didn’t approve the proposals, it just authorized a study of their cost, feasibility and impact. That report will be prepared by Los Angeles city staff and will return for additional discussion.