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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Architecture and design firms team up to address LA’s homeless crisis

Six firms create budget-conscious shelters mean to ease people into permanent housing
By Dennis Lynch | July 30, 2018 01:00PM

A rendering from DLR Group and EPT Design’s project

Los Angeles continues to try and come up with new ways to tackle its homeless crisis. In the latest version, the Urban Land Institute and six architecture firms have designed temporary transitional shelters meant to ease people into permanent housing.

Architecture firms DLR Group, Studio One Eleven, and JFAK Architects each paired with three landscape architecture firms: EPT Design, Relm and SWA. They designed 50-bed, 100-bed and 150-bed sites that the Urban Land Institute will present to the city.

Their goal was to create budget-conscious shelters that would provide needed services and would integrate with public spaces and the surrounding communities.

The designs each had to include on-site services, including mental health and employment assistance. All three teams incorporated public garden spaces and shared community spaces, like courtyards.

Some designs included segmented housing for people with varying needs. SWA and Studio One Eleven included family housing in a “neighborhood” arrangement, independent housing in larger structures and urgent housing combined with the site’s administration offices.

Getting locals to get on board with any shelter can be difficult. In the last few months, there was community opposition in Koreatown over a potential shelter. That has since cooled after City Council Speaker Herb Wesson agreed to look at alternative sites to a planned Vermont Avenue location.

For the shelter designs, the team also planned for an area with food trucks and gardens where shelter residents could mix with other people living in the neighborhood.

DLR Group and EPT Design grouped families together and included a nearby playground and a dog park on site. Relm and JFAK’s design for a smaller site includes a series of tree groves for residents.

L.A. has a $30 million budget for constructing transitional shelters around the city. ULI is also working with CBRE and Gensler for suitable sites for the shelters. ULI said it will also work directly with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and with the Council to develop criteria for the new locations.

Rising costs and the loss of state and federal funding has a question as to whether L.A. has enough funds to build the promised 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The city is looking at other ways to deal with the crisis, including a pilot program to develop thousands of so-called “granny flats,” or small backyard houses, for people in need.