Tempers flare in Venice over temporary homeless shelter

Opponents were extremely vocal, underscoring challenge for mayor’s $30M program

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and a rendering of the proposed temporary shelter in Venice
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and a rendering of the proposed temporary shelter in Venice

Venice residents delivered the latest broadside this week against Mayor Eric Garcetti’s $30 million program to build temporary homeless shelters throughout the city.

At a town hall meeting over a proposed 154-bed shelter, some residents held signs urging Garcetti to “stop dumping on Venice.” Others mocked the name of the program — A Bridge Home — by calling it “A Bridge Home to crime, to waste, to nowhere.”

While the reaction was not unexpected in the affluent beachside community, the pushback underscores the challenge facing Garcetti, who has set a goal of delivering more than 3,300 units of housing under the program by 2020.

The latest tension over a proposed shelter also reveals a contradiction: people fear the shelters will bring in more people living on the street, but the people already living on the streets of Venice will likely remain if they don’t have any opportunities for housing.

The city wants to build the shelter on an abandoned three-acre Metro-owned parcel at the corner of Pacific and Sunset avenues. Metro plans to develop affordable housing there sometime in the coming years; the city’s plan is to use it as a temporary shelter in the meantime.

There were supporters of the shelter among the 1,000 or so attendees at Wednesday’s meeting. But the critics were far more vocal. People against the shelter claimed it would invite crime and what one person called a “volatile population,” to Venice, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Becky Dennison, Executive Director of the services group Venice Community Housing, said there’s no other way to solve the homeless crisis.

“If you don’t like people living on the streets, no matter your motivation, the only thing to do is provide housing,” Dennison said. “You can’t make people disappear off the face of the Earth.”

Dennison added that there is already bridge housing in Venice, but few people are aware of it, which she said proves that many fears over such housing is unfounded.

Garcetti has encountered opposition before. In June, public pressure over a proposed shelter on Vermont Avenue in Koreatown forced he and City Council President Herb Wesson to review alternative sites.

Garcetti’s started the program in January with $20 million in funding. The Council added $10 million and in March, each member of the Council pledged to build 222 units of supportive housing in their districts by July 1, 2020.

Seven of 15 districts have successfully approved at least that number already. Some have gone off without much issue. Bonin and Garcetti announced in September another shelter in the district at the West L.A. Department of Veterans Affairs campus in Brentwood.

The first shelter to open was in Downtown’s El Pueblo District in September.