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Report says no to homeless facilities at key L.A. parks

Los Angeles should not pursue plans for overnight camping or other homeless facilities at Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park and a parking lot next to Will Rogers State Beach, city policy analysts said Tuesday. In a four-page report, City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo said six locations floated by City Councilman Mike Bonin as possible sites for homeless facilities would be be too expensive or otherwise unsuitable — and should be disregarded. The findings could help Bonin quell an uproar in parts of his district, which stretches from Los Angeles International Airport north to Pacific Palisades. Several neighborhood groups had come out against Bonin’s decision to consider Will Rogers and other recreation areas as possible sites for temporary shelter. In his report, Szabo concluded that one parking lot at Will Rogers and another at Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey lack proper sewer access, fire hydrants and electrical service to accommodate 24/7 residential living. He also reported that Westchester Park and Mar Vista Park are already heavily used, attracting thousands of children and generating $500,000 per year for the Department of Recreation and Parks. Szabo recommended the city pursue outreach programs to help bring homeless people living in those parks indoors. Szabo also advised against putting a temporary homeless shelter at the city’s West Los Angeles municipal building, saying that location is too small. And he opposed the idea of overnight camping at a site near Beethoven Street in the Del Rey neighborhood, saying that location would require extensive grading and soil removal. Bonin, in an email to his constituents, said he had asked the city’s policy analysts to study those locations because the city faced “an urgent and growing” homelessness crisis — and wanted to make sure he had left “no stone unturned.” He said he would not continue pursuing the six sites that Szabo had identified as infeasible. “One of my big takeaways of this report is that it underscores the drawbacks of emergency shelters and bolsters the argument that we need actual housing, with appropriate services,” he said in the email. In his report, Szabo called for officials to continue assessing a few of Bonin’s suggested locations — an RV parking lot next to Dockweiler State Beach, a parking lot near a Marina del Rey boat ramp and property owned by Los Angeles International Airport. The LAX site would be reviewed for possible tiny homes, overnight camping or “safe” parking. Szabo cautioned that any use of LAX property would require sign-off from the Federal Aviation Administration. The Marina del Rey site would be studied as a possible location for tiny homes or overnight camping, while the RV lot would be considered for overnight parking. In addition, Culver City officials are working on developing a homeless facility on property that is on L.A.'s Westside but owned by Culver City, Szabo said. Bonin said he would urge the city to continue exploring those four locations while also pushing for other options, including the purchase of motels and faster construction of long-term housing with services. The report comes roughly a month after Bonin critics began gathering signatures for a possible recall of the councilman, saying they were unhappy with his handling of homelessness and other issues. Bonin is separately running for reelection in the June 2022 election. Venice attorney Traci Park, who recently launched a campaign to unseat Bonin, described Szabo’s report as a waste of time and money. “The community and other city agencies certainly could have told Mr. Bonin from the outset that the parks were not in fact underutilized, and that those beach locations were not suitable or appropriate in the first place,” she said. Park said she also remains concerned with the idea of converting the Dockweiler RV and Marina del Rey parking lots into homeless facilities. Such a move, she said, would reduce access to coastal and recreation areas.


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