Bridge Housing a Way Out, Or In?

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New construction next to planned bridge housing in Venice.

Dozens of residents with varying points of view gathered in Venice Beach on Saturday, hoping to hear Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin talk about the bridge housing project there, and to share their concerns. Many were disappointed that the public officials elected not to meet with them.

Other communities facing growing homeless populations are keeping an eye on the Venice project, to see if it might serve as a model. While West Hollywood launched it’s own Homeless Initiative, just this summer it was reported that a homeless encampment across from West Hollywood’s Poinsettia Park is growing so fast that some residents are choosing to move.

Los Angeles is banking on a vacant MTA property in Venice for a temporary, 100-bed housing project there, where the homeless population is estimated at 2,000.

Offering services to the homeless a block from the beach sounds too “enticing,” one resident says, and homeless activist Ted Hayes, founder of LA’s Dome Village in downtown LA, agreed, adding that sheltering the homeless there will attract more transients to the residential neighborhood, where home prices start at upwards of $2 million.

A city representative explained that they see it as a practical option, because private land to house the homeless is hard to come by.

Home to the south of the MTA property.

Home to the south of the MTA property.

After walking a couple blocks from the vacant MTA site where they plan to build the bridge housing, Councilmember Bonin Tweeted that “some opponents crashed and tried to disrupt the training, & then interrupted us we went door-to-door.”

In a second Tweet, he said “a majority of residents are supportive & hungry for action.”

But most of the residents who descended on the meeting location that spoke to were looking for answers or wanting their concerns heard, believing city officials are pushing the plan through without input from residents who live in the neighborhood. Numerous homes in the area where the Councilmember said he and the mayor walked displayed “No” to bridge housing signs.

Some of the volunteers charged with casing the neighborhood admitted that they hadn’t talked to many residents, because either they didn’t answer on this Saturday, or the volunteers couldn’t access most residences because of locked gates.

Click the video to hear what residents’ concerns, and solutions others have, including Ted Hayes, founder of LA’s Dome Village.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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