AIDS Healthcare Foundation sues city over Skid Row project

Nonprofit claims city unlawfully denied its bid to build a 262-unit development

AIDS Healthcare Foundation executive director Michael Weinstein is suing the center of measure HHH
AIDS Healthcare Foundation executive director Michael Weinstein is suing the center of measure HHH

A Los Angeles advocacy group has taken the city to court over a mammoth affordable housing program that is already under fire.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, or AHF, filed a complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court last week demanding the city undo its denial of a $24.8 million loan request under Measure HHH, money AHF planned to use to build 262 units of affordable housing in the Skid Row neighborhood.

The litigation comes three weeks after a scathing audit from the City Controller’s office that found none of the 10,000 supportive housing units promised under the $1.2 billion bond measure have been completed.

In the lawsuit, Hollywood based-AHF assailed the city’s HHH process as “rife with arbitrary actions that are in direct contravention with its obligations” to provide 10,000 units of supportive housing under the measure.

AHF said it submitted a proposal in June to build between 248 and 262 housing units at Seventh and Julian Streets for single and older adults, including LGBTQ individuals and people living with chronic health conditions. AHF already owned the land. The city denied the application in August, stating it awarded the money to six other applicants.

AHF asserts the city unlawfully withheld the names of the winning bidder, and that the mayor’s office and Housing and Community Investment Development department used a methodology in violation of its own proposal process. For example, the city dinged AIDS Healthcare Foundation for proposing an untested design structure even as it explicitly sought out innovative designs, the lawsuit claims.

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“The city’s HHH process was fair to all applicants,” said city spokesperson Alex Comisar. “While AHF wasn’t awarded HHH funds, we appreciate their work to create more affordable housing and look forward to partnering with them in the future.”

The city did not respond to other questions surrounding the lawsuit and measure HHH.

L.A. voters approved measure HHH amid a city homeless population of approximately 40,000 and reports the city must build hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units, according to the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing.

Developers and housing advocates applauded the measure for opening the spigot to publicly financed residential development. But the city controller’s office found that even though the city has earmarked virtually all the $1.2 billion, none of the units have been built – and most have not even begun construction.

Like AHF, the controller took issue with the approval process, with the report finding it was “divided into multiple phases” and “requires several layers of review and appeal.”

The 32-year-old AHF began primarily as an AIDS prevention advocacy group, but has increasingly gotten involved in housing issues in California. The group, led by Michael Weinstein, spent $17 million in 2018 attempting to overturn a law that prevented municipalities from enacting their own rent control measures. AHF has also initiated several lawsuits this year in the hopes of derailing a few controversial developments. In July, AHF sued to preserve the Amoeba Records in Hollywood, and in September filed suit to delay or stop the Crossroads of the World redevelopment.