The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was praised this week – and rightly so – for its courage and leadership in moving forward with reducing homelessness in Los Angeles. The board approved a spending plan that will funnel nearly $259 million into homeless services in the first year of Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase approved in March.
The statistics are grim: The homeless population in the county rose 23 percent between 2015 and 2016 to nearly 58,000, a third of whom are families and youth. Clearly, the growth in homelessness is outpacing the serious efforts underway to secure permanent shelter for all in a county that is one of the least-affordable in the country.
But the supervisors will have to be even more courageous if the money raised by taxpayers to get homeless people off the streets is to be effective. The first test of that courage is coming up on June 21, when the board is scheduled to vote on an affordable housing project in the San Gabriel Valley.
The project would convert the blighted, 185-unit Golden Motel on Rosemead Boulevard into permanent, supportive housing for 60 homeless veterans and 107 individuals. The proposal, made by a leading nonprofit developer specializing in affordable housing, has been accepted by the motel’s owner. It would directly reduce homelessness in the San Gabriel Valley, where currently more than 2,800 individuals have no roofs over their heads on a nightly basis.
The Golden Motel
project is a
But, as so often happens, ill-informed opposition has arisen to this project from neighbors with unfounded fears about the impact this project would have on local property values. These opponents have packed local City Council meetings, picketing and chanting against a proposal most have not taken the time to thoroughly weigh and understand.
- The Golden Motel has historically been used as housing of last resort for transient individuals and families.
There are no resident services offered at the motel, which has become a magnet for narcotics sales, battery and illegal possession of firearms. The Temple City Sheriff’s department has received approximately 10 calls to the property per month for the past five years to investigate criminal activity.
- The new proposal from Mercy Housing, a highly credible, nationally known nonprofit with an outstanding track record of building and managing affordable housing, would invest $17 million in interior and exterior property improvements.
Under its management, criminal background checks would be required and those who have committed felonies within the past seven years would not be admitted. Six case managers will live on site, assigned to help residents with their needs and connect them to services including literacy programs, job placement and therapy.
- Mercy Housing currently owns and manages 90 apartments for formerly homeless veterans, individuals and families in California and it has 200 additional projects in the works.
The El Monte Veterans Village, a Mercy-run site, is safe, clean and a model for affordable housing done right.
- Studies show that affordable housing does not reduce local property values.
In fact, upgrading a run-down, unsupervised eyesore like the Golden Motel into a refurbished and well-managed housing complex is likely to reduce crime and improve the entire neighborhood.
At this time, there are fewer than 300 units of permanent, supportive housing planned in the San Gabriel Valley – less than 10 % of the need. The Golden Motel project is a great first step to solving the problem of homelessness, but if it is derailed by ignorance and NIMBY-ism, that will be a very bad start to what should be a path forward for Los Angeles County.
We hope that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and in particular our new San Gabriel Valley representative Kathryn Barger, will make the right decision and vote to approve this stellar project and help give our veterans a well-deserved home of their own.
Akina Cox, Maria Edwards & John Jackson – Indivisible Alta-Pasadena
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