Community Members Express Opposition During Public Comment
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
More than 475 attendees tuned into the April 8 Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on Zoom for a discussion of Councilmember Mike Bonin’s recent motion proposing the potential use of the parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach as a temporary homeless shelter site.
“This is a very big and broad plan that is part of a bigger citywide strategy and a single element of it is getting a lot of attention,” Bonin said at the beginning of his presentation.
Bonin submitted a motion to city officials on Wednesday, March 31, to evaluate and identify funding for supportive housing sites across West Los Angeles, including Pacific Palisades. He requested to look into the use of the county-owned parking lot at Will Rogers State Beach, located at 17000 CA-1, as a temporary site for single-occupancy tiny homes or safe camping.
Other temporary sites proposed include single-occupancy tiny homes, safe camping or safe parking at Parking Lot #3 at Dockweiler Beach; RV safe parking at the county-owned RV park at Dockweiler Beach; and single-occupancy tiny homes or safe camping at the Fisherman’s Village parking lot in Marina del Rey.
“What we’re responding to is a crisis of absolutely epidemic proportions in Los Angeles,” Bonin said. “The status quo is absolutely unacceptable, we have encampments in almost every neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles.”
He reported that the most recent numbers indicate that five people experiencing homelessness are dying each day in the city, a figure that is up from three per day about a year and a half ago. Because of the pandemic and related recession, Bonin explained, “homelessness has increased dramatically in LA.”
During the presentation, Bonin explained that a lawsuit, which is currently in settlement discussions, would have councilmembers in each district contribute to “emergency” and “immediate” measures by finding locations for shelters within their respective districts.
Bonin explained that in order to respond to increases in homelessness, there needs to be long-term, medium-term and immediate/life-saving solutions.
A cabin community, which is one of the options Bonin proposed to be looked at for the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot, is a collection of small structures that are constructed “quickly and inexpensively” and provide on-site services, security and sanitation—as well as “a path out of homelessness.” Depending on the model selected, cabins range in cost from $6,000 to $8,000, according to Bonin.
Safe camping is a similar design, with sleeping in tents instead of cabins. An example is what has been implemented at the VA site in Brentwood. Both of these options, as well as safe parking, provide what Bonin described as “immediate solutions.”
“My motion that we put in says, ‘Let’s look at these locations, let’s begin the conversation about these locations,’” Bonin said. “What has not been decided is a precise location of where something would go.” Other factors to be discussed include what type of housing and at what capacity.
Now that the motion has been submitted, it will go to the Homeless and Poverty Committee. If it is approved by the committee and city council, evaluation begins. Site specific evaluation includes layout, capacity and infrastructure, funding, public input, and public approvals.
“None of these locations are ideal and I would much prefer to find better ones, and we are open to them,” Bonin said toward the end of his presentation. “If there is a significant opposition to this particular location, I would love to hear ideas for another opportunity in Pacific Palisades to address homelessness as we are doing in other neighborhoods in the 11th District.”
The meeting then opened up to questions and comments that board members had for the councilmember.
“On behalf of Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce, we are opposing this plan, and as an advocate for the Palisades neighborhood and the business community, it is our position that a public parking lot is not an appropriate site for temporary single-occupancy tiny homes or safe camping sites,” Chamber Vice-Chair Fay Vahdani said.
PPCC Area 3 1st Alternate Danielle Samulon shared a comparison of Will Rogers State Beach to Central Park: “This is the city’s backyard,” she said, adding that people from all around the city come to Pacific Palisades for the beach.
After Bonin signed off, community members used their one minute during the public comment portion of the meeting to express opposition to the motion, including concerns of the bike path being destroyed, potential impacts on public health and safety, fire hazard, risk of crime, and lack of funding for enforcement.
“I will fight this proposal as hard as I can and I know I have a lot of company,” one resident shared. “This is a ridiculous solution to a huge problem.”
Immediately following the discussion, PPCC Chair David Card introduced a draft motion, prepared by Secretary Chris Spitz, to oppose the use of “beaches, parks and any open space dedicated for public recreational use in the city and/or county of Los Angeles” to shelter or house homeless individuals as proposed in the motion by the councilmember.
“The Pacific Palisades community has overwhelmingly expressed the opinion that our beaches and parks are a public trust that must be protected and preserved and that the uses proposed in the motion would violate that trust,” the draft of the motion reads.
An informal straw poll of board members unanimously approved the PPCC motion.
“The Bonin motion has recently been assigned to the City Council Homelessness and Poverty Committee and we don’t know for certain when it will be heard,” PPCC said in a meeting recap email. “There is a possibility that the council file may be agendized at the next regularly scheduled committee hearing on April 22 (before a formal board vote could be taken). Should this occur, PPCC’s Executive Committee would be authorized per PPCC’s bylaws to submit a position in accordance with the Straw Poll Motion.”
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