(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Westside Current on March 9 and is reprinted with permission. It is important story because it highlights that a City Councilman should work with residents and not hide decisions. At least one Highlands resident is worried about what might become of the eldercare facility, if it is not successful.)
The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP) held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the purchase of two hotels for project Home Key.
Residents learned about the purchase from a social media post by Councilmember Mike Bonin.
“We learned about the hotel sales the same time everyone else did,” said the president of the NCWP, Paula Gerez, who said the Council was kept in the dark.
The purchases include a 133-room Extended Stay America Hotel located at 6531 S. Sepulveda Boulevard and the 46-unit LAX Suites at 11838 Aviation Boulevard.
This would be the fourth acquisition of a hotels in the council district (to residents’ knowledge) without community involvement.
The Super 8 Motel located at 9250 Airport Boulevard and the Ramada Inn located on Washington Boulevard in Venice were purchased last year without public awareness/comment or community involvement.
Council District 11 field deputy Abby Austin admitted to attendees on Tuesday that the community had been kept in the dark but said the public would have a chance to weigh in moving forward.
Alan Reed, the president of a homeowner’s association less than a mile from the Extended Stay spoke during public comment. He expressed his “grievance and disgust” for the lack of notice and transparency to the surrounding community. “The entire way this was done–there are no details. This is unacceptable.”
“I’m not opposed to helping the homeless, but I have a lot of issues with this project,” said another neighbor who lives a block from the motel. “If we can get the answers to the questions, I would be supportive, but right now there are a lot of questions.”
Traci Park, a candidate for Council District 11, offered support to the community. Park lives near the Ramada Inn Homeless Shelter and “I’m familiar with what is taking place because the Council office did not engage with members of our community or the Venice Neighborhood Council when purchasing the Ramada.
She led an appeal charge, and in an appeal to the Board of Public Works, Park wrote, “We are a very small community – this [homeless] problem is choking our neighborhoods. It’s not an objection to shelters we have–it’s the City’s failure to take care of what takes place within them that concerns us.”
Management of the Venice Bridge Home as well as Westchester Safe Parking were also brought up numerous times during board and public comment.
“No one was checking on safe parking and all the sudden we had issues in the park blow up,” a board member said. ” Upkeep and maintenance need to be discussed at the very least.”
Cost Per Key
The existing Extended Stay America Hotel is a 133-unit hotel built-in 1999. The City purchased the hotel for almost $67 million, with closing scheduled this spring or summer. The property includes a three-story building with guest rooms, a lobby, office, family room and laundry facilities, and is surrounded by a surface parking lot.
The hotel was part of a package where the city spent $500 million to buy 16 hotels and apartment complexes for homeless residents.
The Housing Authority City of Los Angeles (HACLA) said the hotel will be used as interim or long-term housing for persons experiencing homelessness and at risk of Homelessness.
Forty-six (46) units will be leased as Chronic Homelessness units, and eighty-five (85) will be targeted to persons who are At Risk of Homelessness.
Funding for the project will come from state funds matched by the City of Los Angeles.
Austin stated that she didn’t have details about the LAX Suites because it was funded by the County but would get the information to the community when she had it.
The Westchester Neighborhood Council is drafting a community impact statement. The Deadline to submit a CIS is Monday, March 14.