After heated town hall, LA councilmember ‘still committed’ to Venice homeless shelter

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After an acrimonious town hall Wednesday night in which residents shouted, booed, and chanted “recall,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin says he remains focused on building a temporary homeless shelter at a former bus lot in Venice.

“The Councilmember is still committed to helping reduce encampments in Venice by building bridge housing” at the Metro-owned site, Bonin spokesperson David Graham-Caso tells Curbed.

Bonin was joined by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore at Wednesday night’s meeting. Battling off jeers, the officials discussed plans for the 154-bed shelter, which would be funded through the mayor’s “A Bridge Home” program.

Announced in April, the initiative is aimed at developing temporary housing centers in each of the city’s 15 council districts to give homeless residents in those areas a place to stay while working with service providers to find permanent housing.

Another shelter in Bonin’s district is already moving forward at the Veterans Affairs campus in Brentwood. But the councilmember told the crowd Wednesday that roughly half of the 2,000 homeless residents living in his district are in Venice.

The neighborhood is home to the largest concentration of homeless residents on the Westside.

“Doing nothing is not an alternative,” said Bonin Wednesday. “We must act.”

.@MayorOfLA and @mikebonin hold a town hall to discuss a bridge housing project proposed for the MTA lot in #Venice. A packed house, a contentious and heated meeting so far. The story on #KCAL9 10pm #CBSLA 11pm @CBSLA@KCBSKCALDesk@jenpierce12@StewartTVNews#homelessnesspic.twitter.com/kmJixl0hl5

— Rachel Kim (@CBSLARachel) October 18, 2018

Members of the audience voiced a legion of concerns about the project, from whether it would lead to an increase in crime in the neighborhood to whether it could attract more homeless residents to the area.

Garcetti, Bonin, and Moore tried to dispel these fears but were often drowned out by chants of “Venice says no.”

Residents of Koreatown also reacted with fierce opposition to a proposed shelter near the Wilshire/Vermont subway station. Councilmember Herb Wesson, who represents the area, eventually agreed to construct a shelter at a different site.

Graham-Caso says that Bonin and members of his staff are still reviewing input gathered at the meeting in Venice and are having conversations with residents.

Designs for the site, presented at the meeting Wednesday, “will likely change based on community feedback,” he says. “There will be a review process and series of public hearings after a [new] design is finalized.”

Plans for the project call for 100 beds for adults, located in a large canopy-like structure with a climate-controlled interior. An additional 54 beds for homeless youth would be located in portable trailers similar to those at a Downtown LA shelter near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument.

That facility opened in September and is the first—and, so far, the only—shelter built through the Bridge Home initiative.

According to Graham-Caso, a design change won’t stall the Venice project. He tells Curbed that the council office aims to open the shelter “around the spring of 2019.”

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