“The Chamber of Commerce is opposing this motion,” said Fay Vahdani, the Chamber’s representative on the Pacific Palisades Community Council. “We’ve seen what has happened in Brentwood and Venice and it has destroyed those communities.”
Lasting nearly two hours, last night’s PPCC meeting on Zoom was devoted almost entirely to a motion by City Councilmen Mike Bonin and Mark Ridley-Thomas that would allow “tiny homes” for the homeless to be placed in the lengthy parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach (in addition to other beach and recreation center locations within the City of L.A.).
Upwards of 475 people attended the virtual meeting, and those who spoke were almost unanimous in their opposition to the plan put forth by Bonin and Ridley-Thomas, citing fears about how this would impact people visiting the beach and summertime activities such as summer camps and the Junior Lifeguard program.
One person commented, “The beach is a playground for all of Los Angeles County to visit.” Another noted, “I bring my niece from East L.A. to this beach. It’s a safe space. We have to look how it [the motion] affects the entire County, not just us [Pacific Palisades].”
Bonin started the meeting by outlining his plan and noting that with almost 70,000 people living on the streets in the Los Angeles area, something must be done to overcome this emergency crisis. He stated that the L.A. Homeless Services Authority has discovered that about 30,000 homeless people want housing and it’s imperative to get them off the streets.
The Bonin-Ridley-Thomas motion would allow “tiny homes” at Will Rogers, Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey and Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey. They want a lease agreement for a temporary “safe camping” site at a privately-owned parcel at 5000 Beethoven Ave. in Del Rey and sites established at Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park and an LAX-owned property.
Bonin emphasized that even though they listed specific locations in their motion, this is just the start of the discussion, and that every community has to step up. “With an epic crisis demanding a citywide response, each councilmember needs to offer solutions in the district they represent,” he said.
Bonin noted that motels have been purchased in Westchester and Marina Del Rey, bridge housing has opened in Venice, Brentwood and Mar Vista, “safe parking” is offered in West L.A., Westchester and Brentwood, and “safe camping” has opened in Brentwood. Private property owners either say “no” or are cost-prohibitive, leaving them out of the solution, Bonin said.
He then answered questions for next 45 minutes, defending his position.
Residents were quick to point out that this isn’t an emergency because it has been going on since 2007 when police stopped enforcing vagrant laws.
It was pointed out that there are no services for the homeless at Will Rogers Beach and that vagrants are sometimes killed trying to cross the six lanes of Pacific Coast Highway.
“[Will Rogers] is a terrible location and should not be considered,” one resident said. “It is one of the jewels of Los Angeles, and moving people there would be a mistake.”
Several residents pointed out that the City has not kept residents safe in areas that have already been set aside, such as the Venice bus yard and along the V.A. property in Brentwood.
“I ride on the bicycle path and the homeless harass cyclists [in Venice],” said one person, who asked Bonin who would manage the homeless sites. Another resident chimed in, “The bike path is a jewel for the entire city. Riding through Venice is scary with the excrement and the needles.”
Another man said he had just moved from Venice to the Palisades, after living two blocks from the bridge housing. He said it wasn’t safe for his family. “I do not want to see this happen to my new home.”
Bonin chided people for continuing to mention Venice and Brentwood. “If we keep repeating the problems, we are not looking at the solutions,” he said.
Another person pointed out that the targeted housing numbers are unrealistic. If 30,000 people need to be housed, that would be like building four MGM Grand hotels that each hold 8,000 people. Putting 100 people along the beach or in parks would not come close to solving the problem.
“A scalable solution is missing,” one person said. “Putting a few units here, a few units there is not viable. If you study the numbers they don’t add up.”
Another speaker pointed out that people are moving here from out of state and ending up on the streets. “The City is looking to take care of people from around the country. It’s going to continue to happen, unless they stop making it attractive [with homes, tents and no law enforcement].”
Another resident said, “This isn’t a solution, giving the most expensive real estate to the homeless.” And somebody else chimed in, “I am adamantly against this ludicrous proposal. I work six and a half days a week to live here, and I won’t give it up to these people.”
Since 2016, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness has used donated funds to hire two social workers who work tirelessly with numerous volunteers to get homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent housing.
In a statement, they opposed Bonin’s motion and wrote: “The PPTFH Board first became aware of Councilman Bonin’s motion instructing the City Administrative Officer and other City offices to evaluate and identify funding for additional, temporary homeless housing sites only when it was announced to the general public.
“Consistent with our mission to address the destructive consequences of homelessness in Pacific Palisades, PPTFH supports tangible efforts to implement compassionate and effective solutions, services and access to permanent supportive housing for our homeless people that also ensure the continued protection and wellbeing of our community. While we appreciate Councilman Bonin’s continued focus on this issue, we do not believe that this motion, as written, adequately supports these goals nor provides an effective solution.”
The Community Council has drafted a motion opposing Bonin’s plan, which may come before the City Council on April 22. This motion, which was overwhelmingly supported by board members, can be found at PacPalicc.org.
Another speaker last night was Michelle Bisnoff, chair of the Brentwood Community Council. She said that her town, also in Bonin’s district, is dealing with the large encampment that occupies the area around the VA property.
“We had a homicide and a suicide attempt,” she said, noting that 30 to 50 acres need to be set aside for the homeless that could help with rehabilitation, including mental health facilities and places for drug abuse treatment.
“Scalability is missing in this motion,” Bisnoff said. “We will be drafting an opposition to the motion.”
(Editor’s note: Early April 5, two homeless men, who live in the 112600 block of San Vicente, just outside of the VA, got into an argument. Investigators say one of the men, Pedro Flores, 34, got in his vehicle and ran over a 51-year-old man, dragged him more than 200 yards, killing him. They say Flores also hit another homeless man in his mid-30s, who is hospitalized but is expected to recover.)
In an August 13, 2020 CTN story (“L.A. Rec and Park Commissioners Approve Pallet Housing for Homeless at Two Park Sites,” commissioners approved “tiny homes” in North Hollywood Park and at Alexandria Park on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The cost was given as $13 million to house 270 people. Although Councilman Paul Krekorian assured the RAP Commissioners that residents supported the construction, most residents were unaware of the bridge housing and said they had not been consulted.