LA to consider private lots as alternate sites for Koreatown homeless shelter

The city's preferred location is on public property, but opponents say it would disrupt the neighborhood

City Council Speaker Herb Wesson and the city's Vermont Avenue site
City Council Speaker Herb Wesson and the city's Vermont Avenue site

The city will now look into building a temporary homeless shelter on privately-owned lots in Koreatown, following a wave of protest over the preferred site, which would be on public property but along a busier block in the neighborhood.

City Council President Herb Wesson agreed to ask city staff to also review the private properties, according to the Los Angeles Times. Wesson will hold community meetings in the neighborhood before making a decision, the paper reported.

In May, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Wesson — who represents Koreatown as part of the 10th District — announced the plan to temporarily house dozens of homeless people along a section of Vermont Avenue. The move addressed the rapidly growing problem of homelessness in the city, but also spurred protests from residents and business leaders who said it would be too disruptive. Supporters of the plan also turned out.

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The temporary shelter was meant to be the first of its kind in the city as part of Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” program, which would ease restrictions on shelters so they could be built temporarily on publicly-owned land. Garcetti has set aside $430 million to tackle the city’s ballooning homeless crisis. The number of homeless residents in the city has grown by 49 percent since Garcetti took office in 2013.

Opponents of the plan claimed the parking lot at Vermont Avenue near Wilshire Boulevard was too close to schools and the central business corridor. They also said Wesson was excluding the Korean community from any decision-making regarding the project.

Koreatown has seen a surge in development and investment in recent years as investors bank on the neighborhood’s future popularity with younger renters. That has included small lot development and larger tower projects.

The dispute has been closely watched by other council members who are proposing their own temporary shelters in their districts. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch