At the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners meeting on August 6, two projects were brought forward that involved housing the homeless on City park property inside pallet structures (some 8′ by 8′ and others 10′ by 10′).
The first “town” would be created at North Hollywood Park on Chandler Boulevard and would include 34 shelters for 64 occupants on a half-acre out of 55 acres of park land. The project included outdoor lighting, perimeter fencing, hygiene trailers with restrooms, showers, lavatories, drinking fountains, a double gate, a new deck, ramp and stairs, a trash-bin area, outdoor seating, a pet area, new power service, new asphalt paving, k-rails for sidewalks, staff parking, site lighting, a food distribution area, and designated seating areas for food services.
The second proposed site was at Alexandria Park on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, off the Hollywood Freeway. It would occupy 1.72 acres at a 77-acre park, and would house 200 clients in 103 pallets, while including the same amenities as the Chandler Boulevard site.
The total cost was estimated at $13 million to house 270 people (about $48,000 per person). The structures would be occupied for up to three years on the park sites.
After the meeting, Circling the News asked if that was the correct dollar amount and Jimmy Kim, Recreation and Parks Superintendent of Emergency Managements Aid, said: “I would not be involved in identifying these types of costs and it is outside of my area of expertise. I would assume this would be under the Mayor’s Team.”
Councilmember Paul Krekorian explained that the North Hollywood site has been an “area that has a long history of criminal activity and this project brings much needed activity to this area of the park.” He explained that there was crime because the public was not using the area because there’s no water nearby and no restrooms.
At that meeting, Commissioner Nicole Chase specifically asked about community feedback.
Krekorian, whose district includes the two sites, assured commissioners, “The bridge sites that are being opened today have strong community support.”
When asked about support from commercial owners, Krekorian said “It’s a wait and see,” and told commissioners, “We have support from the community as we move forward. Providing safe, secure and hygienic service – not only for the homeless – will provide a great benefit to the community.”
At that meeting, two residents spoke and both disputed that the community had been consulted.
Based on Krekorian’s statement, the commissioners voted to approve the project.
Then the dam gate broke open at the August 20 RAP meeting during public comment. It appeared that Krekorian did not have the support from the community that he had claimed.
“I am against the plan, no one in the neighborhood was notified,” one resident said, noting that if people were allowed to live on park property, the number should be limited. Putting together more than 100 people in a small area was against Covid-19 recommendations. The person also said the land was right next to the freeway and wondered how that was different than living under freeway underpasses. The person suggested that the homeless be paid to keep the “town” clean—providing jobs.
“It is not safe to cram 175 occupants along Freeway 170 during the Covid-19. We have serious concerns,” another resident said, noting that RAP had made its decision based on what Councilmember Krekorian had said. “He did not have community support.”
A member of the Laurel Grove Homeowners Association said, “He [Krekorian] gave no notification of this. It was by chance that we found out. He told Commissioner Chase he had community support. He did not. We care about our community and it is too close to the Valley Plaza. Locating them [homeless] next to a freeway and on a limited green space is not good. Councilman Krekorian lied and that is deplorable.”
“You are endangering the lives of those they say they are purporting to help,” another caller said, noting that by putting that number of people next to the freeway was like a shadeless concentration camp. “The board’s plan gave no indication who will be running it and how it will end after three years.”
Another caller said, “We found out about this after the fact. Krekorian did it without advising any of the neighbors. I thought they were supposed to move the homeless away from the freeway. Instead there will be 176 people living closely together 130 feet from the freeway.”
Another member of the Laurel Grove Homeowners Association said, “This is right next to the freeway and 1,000 yards from the elementary school. No neighbors or businesses were consulted. This is one of the most duplicitous acts that has been done – taking away green space from the neighbors. Who is going to manage it?”
“I want this thing stopped,” one long-time resident said. “This is a sleezy backdoor act and it needs to be overturned. I’m irritated how city officials are treating us.”
Commissioners do not address issues during public comment, but at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Chase said, “I take it to heart when I ask about the community outreach and I find a lack of or limited outreach. It does concern me. We’re sensitive to our community about what we do or not support. I’m hoping in the future we can hear both sides.”
(Editor’s note: CTN initially published a story about these two projects to educate local residents about City parks–specifically the Palisades Recreation Center or Portrero Park — could it be site for pallet housing? In addition to comments from Palisades readers, CTN received comments from people in North Hollywood who found the story about the proposed housing on this site.
One individual wrote: “I am a Commercial property owner in North Hollywood near where the ‘Pallet Housing’ is proposed. This is an issue that is fraught with multiple problems. The local neighborhood HAS NOT BEEN CONSULTED DIRECTLY of this new development. The families which include children feel anxious & very concerned, as they should.
“By allowing this temporary housing for people with a multitude of emotional & drug abuse problems you expose the local community to very questionable elements. I am sure if this were your family living there you would not be in a hurry to rubber stamp this project.
“Please I am asking with great urgency to rethink this plan & choose another area where the community will not feel so threatened. Thank you.
A taxpayer & citizen.”
A second wrote: “1 The community was NOT informed of the shelter nor do most of us support the Pallet project in Alexandria Park in North Hollywood.
2 Building the shelter 130 feet away from the 170 freeway causes a health risk to the people living in the shelter.
3 The homes should be reduced to no more than 30 Pallets (not 103) like the other shelter projects throughout California to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Build 30 homes in different areas of California NOT located near freeways. This project was poorly planned, we weren’t notified, revise it!”)
Rec and Parks Director Michael Shull was contacted to see if a project, which has not started, yet, can be overturned once commissioners vote to approve it.