By Justin Martinez
As part of his far-reaching plan to combat homelessness in Los Angeles, CD 14 Councilmember Kevin de León recently filed a motion that could bring small, prefabricated housing units to two locations in Northeast L.A. One location, in Eagle Rock, is the city-owned parking lot at 7541 N. Figueroa Street next to the on/off ramps of the 134 Freeway.
Another location, in Highland Park, is an unused portion of Arroyo Drive near S. Avenue 64 and the 110 Freeway.
The housing units, known as pallet shelters, would be similar to the 40 unit pallet housing community recently opened in North Hollywood. The shelters are intended as “bridge” housing for people as they transition to permanent housing.
Currently, the N. Figueroa lot is a homeless encampment with some 13 tents. The Arroyo Drive location is an inaccessbile section of the roadway next to the 110 Freeway.
De León’s motion for pallet housing was one topic in a wide ranging discussion on homelessness during a Zoom meeting Feb. 11 sponsored by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.
De León attended the meeting along with Sarah Flaherty, his field deputy for Eagle Rock. De León and Flaherty discussed De León’s anti-homelessness plan, entitled “A Way Home,” which is a series of motions to provide 25,000 new housing units for unhoused Angelenos by 2025. The proposals include permanent and temporary housing programs.
“The problem is incredibly acute here,” De León said in the meeting. He was referring to L.A. in general and CD 14 in particular, which includes downtown Los Angeles, with its substantial unhoused community, as well as eastside neighborhoods. De León drove home the urgency with figures, noting at one point that the unhoused population of CD 14 — 7,617 residents at last count — is larger than the unhoused populations in some cities, including Chicago, Houston and Phoenix.
The push for pallet shelters is one response to the urgency: “Because they’re prefabricated, we’re able to drop them in extremely quickly, they’re very economical,” Flaherty said. “I think leaning on that to rapidly increase our housing stock is a great route to pursue.”
Pallet shelters would also represent an increase in what Flaherty called the “woefully inadequate” resources available to help the unhoused in Northeast L.A. Flaherty noted, for example, that only 30 shelter beds are available at the winter shelter in Glassell Park to serve the area’s nearly 400 unhoused residents.
In the weeks since De León introduced “A Way Home” on Jan. 12, two of the motions in the initiative have been approved by the city council. The Streamlined Permitting Motion and Standard Plans Motion, which passed on Feb. 9, reduce the time and cost of constructing new affordable housing by simplifying and expediting permits and approvals required by the city.
The motion calling for pallet housing is currently in the city council’s homelessness committee.
Other motions in the “A Way Home” initiative are at different stages in the process, according to Flaherty, with some awaiting a full vote by the city council, some pending committee approval and some yet to be placed on the agenda for discussion.
Those motions seek to increase the use of hotels, motels, publicly owned land, and abandoned and underused commercial real estate to shelter unhoused residents. The motions also call for exploring how to use money from the Prop. HHH anti-homelessness bond for more effective remedies than those that have been put forward thus far.
De León and Flaherty emphasized the importance of community action to achieve the goals set out in ‘A Way Home.’ Especially helpful, they said, are letters of support for the initiative to CD 14 and to City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, the chair of the Homeless and Poverty committee.
De León ended the meeting inviting the community to share their ideas for ending homelessness with him and Flaherty. “It’s all hands on deck,” he said, adding that ideas from the local level would be “invaluable.”
You can contact CD 14 at (323)-254-5295 or at email@example.com.
You can contact Mark Ridley-Thomas, chair of the Homelessness and Poverty committee, at (213)-473-7010 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: Text and photo caption on the proposed Highland Park location was changed to state that the housing would be located on a currently inaccessible part of Arroyo Dr. across a vacant lot and adjacent to the 110 Freeway. The original text and caption incorrectly indicated that the housing would be located on the vacant lot shown in the photo.
Justin Martinez, an Eagle Rock native and a junior at Occidental College, is a participant in the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, a collaboration between the Boulevard Sentinel and The Occidental campus newspaper.