Opinion Sunday: The People are the City!

City staff liaison Corri Plank requests use of MTA parking lot for homeless services.

Publishers Note and Disclosure. WEHOville’s home base is located in the Tri-West Neighborhood.

Residents in the Tri-West, Norma Triangle, and West Hollywood West band together to oppose using the MTA bus terminal located at 8800 Santa Monica Blvd. as a homeless outreach center.

Item 5C was brought forward by Mayor Pro Tem Lauren Meister and Councilmember Sepi Shyne. The item as presented was a request to County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to utilize a portion of the MTA Bus Terminal on Santa Monica Blvd. for homeless services. The item was tabled but will come back to council for approval after city staff develops a framework for input.

Below is a letter presented by Alex Gerstenzang, a Tri-West resident who, along with Bobbi Edrick of the Norma Triangle Resident Association and other residents of West Hollywood West, who banded together to oppose moving forward and ask city staff to abandon the idea of using the MTA for a homeless shelter and outreach.


Dear Councilmembers of the West Hollywood City Council,

The Citizens of Tri-West, WeHo North and WeHo West want the proposal to use the MTA Parking Lot 7 to be stopped and find other alternatives.

Citizens and businesses are ready to sign a petition to bring before the City Council – no one wants to create an epicenter for the Homeless at this LA MTA “7” location. In addition, at this moment we have yet to find any business on Santa Monica Blvd or on Melrose Avenue that supports the MTA Parking Lot 7 Initiative for homeless. Yesterday, I spoke to the Director of Operations at LA MTA “7” Facility … he made it clear he was not contacted and disagrees with the utilization claims by WeHo … he said“the Parking Lot is not underutilized”.

Numerous WeHo Citizens and Families are moving out due to safety concernsi.e. crime, vacant property breaking & entering, serious car vandalism, mailbox theft, malicious fires, etc. We know that property purchasers are making decisions not to buy based upon the proposed Homeless Initiative by Lauren Meister, Mayor Pro Tempore and Sepi Shyne, Councilmember. We have actual evidence of home sales not going through just because this proposal is still being considered.

Here is what Lauren Meister proposed:“I have asked staff to study the feasibility of partnering with LA County to create a temporary “drop-in” or service center at the Metro Division 7 site, and to vet the idea among residents and businesses as part of the Metro Division 7 property Visioning process. A drop-in facility could provide non-shelter services such as a restroom, shower, laundry and, importantly, access to medical and psychiatric services, legal services and case management. Right now, the West Hollywood Library is essentially acting as a drop-in center, and that’s not the best use for the only County library located in our city.”

  • Please Note: “temporary” means minimum of 2 years
  • Vet The Idea: No one from WeHo has vetted residents or businesses. Even the Chamber of Commerce is not in favor.
  • WeHo Library / New Park was about $150 million and the park will have three security guards who really cannot do anything to prevent homelessness.
  • Proposed facility showers & bathrooms would be open 24/7
  • Point of Informationby Jo Ann Yanagimoto-Pinedo, Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives with LA County’s Department of Mental Health said, “The concept for a “village inside a hospital facility” emerged afterunsuccessful attemptsby the county to build “enhanced neighborhood model treatment centers” in residential neighborhoods.
  • It was repeatedly mentioned by Lauren Meister and the WeHo Sub Committee for Homelessness that this MTA Parking Lot 7 is“not”near any businesses or residential areas.

MTA Lot 7 walking steps to these destinations: (my stride is 2,293 steps per mile)

  • To Sochi Sushi 100 steps
  • To Planet Nails 164 steps
  • To Tender Greens 179 steps
  • To AAA 200 steps
  • To Santa Palm Car Wash 235 steps
  • To LA Buns & Co 268 steps
  • To Yogurt Stop 322 steps
  • To Trunks 354 steps
  • To Flaming Saddles 364 steps
  • To LA Fitness 375 steps
  • To Huntley Drive 350 steps Residential street – WeHo Tri-West
  • To Block Party 414 steps
  • To ChicChi LaRue’s 434 steps
  • To Sprouts 450 steps
  • To Starbucks & Trader Joes 460 steps
  • To Bottega Louie 470 steps you also pass Rocco’s WeHo & Koontz Hardware
  • To Z Pizza 474 steps
  • To Pump 500 steps
  • To Salt & Straw 548 steps
  • To Starbucks 580 steps
  • To Pavilions front door 650 steps

As the above process took place, I experienced the following:

  • Homeless persons sleeping in the bus shelters on San Vicente and Santa Monica
  • Trash littered & trash cans dumped on Santa Monica Blvd South Side from MTA to San Vicente
  • Homeless person was yelling & threatening MTA armed security guard – he planned to murder him … the guard followed him past the Sushi restaurant
  • Pavilions: Homeless persons camping by Pavilions facing Santa Monica Blvd.
  • Starbucks: homeless persons occupying tables outside
  • Salt & Straw: Homeless person was trying to break the glass windows and screaming at people
  • Bank of America: Homeless persons annoying ATM users
  • Urth Café: Homeless person yelling obscenities to citizens & Sheriff’s as they stop for coffee at Urth
  • Wednesday & Thursday: Tri West & WeHo West 8 people going through trash … from 7 AM to 10 AM
  • Westbourne & Melrose: continuous issues with homeless camping out at Le Pain Quotidien property overnight and during the day

Overall:We ask the City Council to officially abandon this MTA Parking Lot 7 Initiative. We also would like the WeHo citizens & Business representatives to meet with or Zoom Call with theMTA leadership.

Many of the businesses on Santa Monica Blvd are dealing with homelessness “Every Day”. They were appalled that this proposal was even being considered. They have increased security and are on constant minute by minute management of theft, attempts to break windows, camping out, shoplifting, crime in parking lots, etc..

Other city and county leaders are not waiting … citizens are impatient:

  • Echo Park homeless people were forced to leave
  • City Councilman Mike Bonin recently announced an initiative—currently underway—to eradicate encampments in Venice by transitioning people into housing and services.
  • City Councilman Joe Busciano also has made clearing the streets of homeless encampments a hallmark of his mayoral campaign.
  • L.A. City Council voted to draft new rules regarding camping near “sensitive facilities,” like schools, parks, and libraries. The initiative would also prevent tent encampments from blocking sidewalks.
  • Palm Springs: closed a homeless organization similar to what was proposed for MTA parking lot, because citizens reported a migration to their neighborhood and increased crime.
  • Other WeHo Citizens will be adding their comments … and we would hope other alternatives are found like Crescent Heights Blvd, etc.

Thanks for Your Support The West Hollywood Community of Businesses & Citizens

Alex Gerstenzang


But that was not the last of it. In back and forth email’s between over 40 residents and City Council members including Mayor Pro-Tem Meister, a former President of the West Hollywood West Residents Association (WHWRA) , and Manny Rodriguez, a 17-year West Hollywood West Resident.

Meister’s response to Rodriguez was “the item was to see if Metro and the County would be willing to partner with us. It was on the agenda as new business and the public had the ability to weigh in and voice their opinions. And they obviously did and the item got tabled.”

But Rodriguez was not going to have it: Lauren, you support my point.

Just like someone can’t get approval to design a big gaudy house next door before first getting lawfully required input from the neighbors, you shouldn’t be trying to make deals with the county or Metro before vetting the idea with the residents. After all, you’re having a big Town Hall meeting all of a sudden. That must mean the topic is important enough to reach out. The Town Hall meeting will tell you whether or not making deals with Metro and the County is supported and what should be your next step. Resident input is just good information to have at a council meeting that contributes to an enlightened deliberation. If no-one had seen this item on the agenda, and you didn’t get any letters, you’d once again have had an unenlightened and uninformed vote.
The People Are The City.
Manny

But, the truth of the matter lies in the City Staff intent, without public discussion or input. Denials by Meister and Shyne that the MTA would be only used to provide services contradict the enclosed letter from Corri Plank representing the City of West Hollywood. Below as stated ” The lot at Division 7 appears to be underutilized and large enough to accommodate trailers for shelter. “ This policy initiative was not directed by the city council or included on any recent public agenda for discussion.

The point is the process and who is driving the decisions with or without public input. It’s been over a year since the City Council members have had a chance to have face to face meetings at the Council Chambers with Residents. Two new City Council members have joined the dais. These two new council members are elected to serve all the people.

City Staff is not supposed to drive the agenda. The City Council is supposed to drive the agenda with public input. And it appears the City Staff directly contradict what Meister is saying. ‘It is a ‘bait and switch’ again.’ responded one resident. Other examples of ‘let’s do it and study the effects after’ are “Out on Robertson,” which had no budget or public input. Scooters hit out streets without public input or ‘corrals’. The current proposal for a hotel ordinance is being pushed without a study session as requested by two council members and City Manager David Wilson, who happens to also have served as the City’s Risk Officer.

The People are the City. It would be nice if the city council heard our voices. In fact, it is imperative that a city council that has not faced the public in over a year and is insulated by Zoom and just 2 meetings a month hears your voice. Tell then what you think at council@weho.org

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TomSmart
TomSmart
2 months ago

I’m not shy, I’ll say it….I’M A PROUD NIMBY!! I’m happy if WEHO and other cities want to fund a building or lot in some desolate part of LA. We do not “owe” the homeless prime real estate anywhere. Shelter, food, medical etc can all be provided with a concentrated effort, not a bunch of small encampments throughout the city that only address the few.

08mellie
08mellie
2 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Tom, well said. This is for the WH mayor to curry favor her next government JOB. We have worked hard to create a small town that benefits our visitors, our residents, our business owners and our residents that broke sweat to own a home here. City Hall and Council have broken their promise to all of us. If the County & City of Los Angeles cannot handle the homeless PROBLEM (it’s a problem, a challenge is curing cancer) after Billions of $$$ dollars and nothing has improved, what makes anyone in West Hollywood think that this small town can make… Read more »

Reality
Reality
2 months ago
Reply to  08mellie

Agree with you and Tom. West Hollywood’s Homeless folks could have been assisted one person at a time. No one had the will or compassion to in essence, mentor someone through the system. Much easier to make grandiose plans, speak of potential incredible amounts of money needed and insert it into the overarching discussion of HOUSING. This is similar to the task of turning a battleship around in high seas and incoming fire. BUT no one is responsible at that point and it morphs into never-ending delegations studying how to put together a massive infrastructure to handle what ultimately is,… Read more »

William Seegmiller
2 months ago

Meaningful public input is essential and had been side stepped with other initiatives lately, so I can at least understand some people’s knee-jerk reaction to the proposal here. Nonetheless, this is a necessary and practical proposal if implemented correctly. But let’s get real- public input on these issues is usually overwhelmed by home owners groups who are more concerned with their property values than human lives. Other citizens fearing increased crime etc are at least concerned with more than $$$, but the NIMBY’s sell them the LIE that homeless services will increase crime. Personally, I’ve had enough of home owner… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by William Seegmiller
JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago

We’ve seen this play out in other cities before. This is nothing new. We don’t have to guess what will happen if a homeless center is plopped in the middle of our little city. We’ve seen it all before. Over and over again. It does bring crime and it does bring a slew of other problems. We. Don’t. Want. It. (and you talk as if you are not a homeowner. Until you bust your ass to put everything you have into a piece of real estate you won’t have an understanding for people that have a strong opposition to this.… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by JJ1
Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago
Reply to  JJ1

I await your proposal on a better idea on how to deal with this very real humanitarian crisis.

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I’ve said it many times… Advocate and fight to change the laws. Currently you can’t force an individual on the streets suffering from mentally illness or drug or alcohol addiction into a rehab facility where they can get the help they need. So they remain on the streets. If someone is found to be mentally ill or has a drug addiction problem they should be placed into a facility where they can get to a place of clarity. Only then can they get on the path to become productive citizens again. Until then we allow them to be drugged up… Read more »

Peter Buckley
Peter Buckley
2 months ago

Well it maybe a shocker to you, but homeowners are the backbone and are a major source of finance to this community.

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buckley

Yup. You can only take so much before we too will just throw up your hands and give up and then where would society be.

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter Buckley

As a homeowner, I can say that we are *not* the “backbone of the community.” The vast majority of people living in WeHo are renters. The city makes money off our spending, through sales tax. And a small percentage of homeowners’ property taxes (as it is paid to the County). In fact, renters make up more than 80% of the residents in West Hollywood: https://www.towncharts.com/California/Housing/West-Hollywood-city-CA-Housing-data.html Sales tax and TOT tax are, by far, the largest source of income for the City of WeHo. The majority comes from renters, and people who don’t live in the city. The latter travel here,… Read more »

Larry Block
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Randy

The number one source of income for the City of West Hollywood is our share of property taxes, sales taxes are next and tot hotel taxes have fallen way behind.

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Yes, Larry. It is actually number two. So I guess we were both incorrect. Sales taxes are number one. But that chart on your article is a projection, based on recovery from a pandemic. TOT and sales taxes are usually much higher.

https://wehoville.com/2021/06/22/budget-passes-3-1-meister-votes-against-noting-need-for-hotel-ordinance-impact-study/

I do not think actual homeowners make up the majority of those property taxes. We have a lot of commercial real estate and apartment buildings, which also pay property taxes. It would be nice to see a breakdown. Regardless, I do not see homeowners as the “backbone” of the city’s economy. No more than apartment-dwellers.

Last edited 2 months ago by Randy
Larry Block
Admin
2 months ago
Reply to  Randy

The sales tax is beating property tax in this years budget projection only because the voters increased the tax last election to 10.25 for this years projected budget. Hotel tax, was the number one source in the past and now its the number three source. Property taxes are the backbone of the community as without them there is no budget for schools and other community needs. While sales tax and tot tax are variable, property tax is a consistent guaranteed source of income fr all municipalities. (thus the backbone) They are paid by homeowners and commercial landowners. Renters do not… Read more »

08mellie
08mellie
2 months ago

You can write to the mayor and the council at large at council@weho.org, Sepi Shyne at sshyne@weho.org, and Lauren Meister at lmeister@weho.org.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 months ago

Yes, dear, this is NIMBYism pure and simple. We have a humanitarian crisis and the NIMBYs want to protect their lawns and shrubs. The humanitarian crisis is awful. truly reprehensible, and kicking the can down the street does nothing to resolve it. We live in a selfish, self-centered, and ego-driven society of me-me-me that fails to deal with societal ills that we must face and conquer. These are real human beings, real lives, real interests and real consequences that are more important than manicured front lawns. Sometimes (oftentimes) I hate being an American.

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

I’m not fighting to protect my lawn and shrubs, I’m fighting to protect my own future and that of my family. I have busted my ass for many years to finally on my own piece of real estate. This is an investment. This is my future. I’m planning on retiring someday and enjoying the final years of my life without having to work and this investment is going to help me do that -it’s not about lawns and shrubs. To minimize it to some trivial little thing like that is an insult and totally asinine. I agree with you on… Read more »

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  JJ1

Alan, I usually agree with you, and in this case, I totally agree with you.  JJ1, I too, am a homeowner in this neighborhood. And I also busted my ass to buy a home. I’ve been here for 22 years, and lived all over WeHo, before I bought my home, in 2005.  And I disagree with you. I’m tired of residents of this city claiming to be “liberal,” but when it comes down to it, they totally want to kick the can down the road. Example: the City of WeHo paying for the food hand-outs just east of La Brea.… Read more »

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  Randy

I’ve stated my case and what I think needs to be done. You disagree, that’s fine. What we have been doing for YEARS is not working. Throwing money at a problem will not work if the people involved don’t want to seek help/want help/know that they need help. I will continue to fight to do what I think needs to be done. Have a good evening.

Last edited 2 months ago by JJ1
Reality
Reality
2 months ago
Reply to  JJ1

One person at a time solves this issue. If anyone needs to be castigated it is the folks that supposedly dedicated themselves to PUBLIC SERVICE, That is not to be confused with self aggrandizement at the public trough. Folks coming to public service presumably have problem solving skills before they arrive rather than getting into a craft making survey committee leading to the beyond. Let’s get practical. Handling one individual is easier than 10, 20, 50 or 100 especially when mental instability and drug use is involved.

Mecurial Mike
Mecurial Mike
2 months ago

This will be happening in WEHO because of the WokeHoles running the city. A black homeless man from Penn was stalking a public garage in Santa Monica last week. He attacked the driver and his wife. Saying he was going to rape her. He threw the man out of his car, climbed in and ran over the man twice. The homeless possible rapist is now being charged with attempted murder. The same Woke white monsters run Santa Monica. Made excuses for not having a locked garage. A message to the Urinal Unisex Toilet Three: Get out of WEHO! You are… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Mecurial Mike
JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  Mecurial Mike

Don’t look now but William will be calling you a fear monger for this post.

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  Mecurial Mike

Since 2 out of the 3 of them got elected, barely 9 months ago, I would say that the majority wants them. Unless you are doing an independent poll, to see what their job approval ratings are.

What are we supposed to take from one story, concerning murder and rape, by a homeless person? Those crimes happen in WeHo, also. One story doesn’t paint a picture. You’d be better served to show some kind of statistics, involving crimes by homeless people.

TomSmart
TomSmart
2 months ago

The council members who support this should also be fine with shutting down the street in front of their homes for homeless trailers. Maybe some tents in their backyards, poolside too.

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Excellent idea. If you want to talk the talk then walk the walk

Randy
Randy
2 months ago
Reply to  JJ1

JJ1, how is that “walking the walk?” Nobody is proposing that they put them in front of your house, or on your property. They are talking about a giant parking lot, owned by the MTA, in a commercial zone.

Lauren Meister lives in the West Hollywood West neighborhood, which is close to this location. So she is “walking the walk.” I’m not sure where D’Amico stands, but he lives even closer. Like within 4 blocks, or less.

Voter
Voter
2 months ago

I’m not on the west side but it does not take brains to know you don’t put a homeless shelter in the most expensive zip codes or next to commercial areas. Our new West Hollywood Park will be a homeless heaven if this happens. How dumb can a city council be?

The Answer Is
The Answer Is
2 months ago
Reply to  Voter

Very dumb.

JJ1
JJ1
2 months ago
Reply to  The Answer Is

This last election brought us some real winners. They make uninformed decisions and have total disregard for the public’s voice. And it’s costing us dearly. Vote. Them. Out.

April Lang
April Lang
2 months ago

I’m all for giving homeless people a place to live. I believe every human being deserves that and more. But I drove down Formosa, south of Santa Monica Blvd between Romaine and Willoughby, and the homeless people camping out on that street have left a wide and smelly river of garbage all along and in the street. Not only was it gross, but it’s a health hazard. What the hell is West Hollywood doing to at the very least discourage this? How about SOME garbage receptacles? THERE APPEAR TO BE NONE! As we all know homeless people are camping out… Read more »

Matti
Matti
2 months ago
Reply to  April Lang

This side of Formosa is within the city of Los Angeles. It’s really sad, but drive all over Los Angeles, and you’ll see similar scenes.

Bob Fitzgerald
Bob Fitzgerald
2 months ago

As a resident in the area I am 1000% against this. Going to follow closely and see what I can do to block it.

Greg
Greg
2 months ago

LA county is 4,752 square miles.
There’s less expensive real estate and industrial areas better suited for homeless housing.

James B.
James B.
2 months ago

Hmmmm. Still don’t understand the vehement response to this. It was a “feasibility study”. …if I were doing my homework on this issue, I would: (i) explore which options were actually feasible (eg, could the bus terminal even be a possibility); and (ii) IF possible, then I would bring it to the residents to weigh in on. That seems to be the order of business here. The public response seems to be a step ahead ahead of the actual feasibility study. If we task those whom we elect to represent us and to find solutions on tough issues, let them… Read more »

Dawna Z
Dawna Z
2 months ago
Reply to  James B.

Hi James – Why do you think this was a feasibility study? Unfortunately, it was not. Take a look at the June 21 City Council Agenda item 5C and you’ll see that this was a second attempt (without public vetting) to acquire usage of the MTA 7 lot for homeless services. Prior to the Jun21 City Council meeting, in Apr/21, The City Council Subcommittee on Homelessness (without public vetting) had the City’s Strategic Initiatives Manager, Corri Planck, send a letter to MTA’s Principal Real Estate Officer, Diane Dominguez, requesting this usage. If MTA had approved it, the City’s plan was… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Dawna Z
WeBuiltThisCity
WeBuiltThisCity
2 months ago

Lava Mae is a nonprofit that offers all of the services that the City would like to provide. They have converted buses that can go anywhere.

This situation can be resolved in so many other ways that would not disrupt business, residents and increase the homelessness population in our area.

It would take a few town-hall meetings so people who have knowledge regarding this issue can share and participate in a resolution.

The question remains: Will the egos that now rule the City Council allow any input?

Ruth Williams
Ruth Williams
2 months ago

I haven’t seen anything in regard to the issues of liability? Will the city then be responsible for anything that occurs or MTA?

Alex Gerstenzang
Alex Gerstenzang
2 months ago

Thank You WeHoville for supporting this effort. In my years of helping WeHo, I have never seen a topic with so much support to be stopped. I agree with the comments this was initiated without Public Comment … we happen to catch this by one of WeHo TriWest’s neighbors seeing it on the Council Agenda. WeHo City was planning to implement (without any public vetting) had the MTA approved the Homeless Subcommittee’s request made in April. MTA denied the request Jun 1,2021. On the Jun. 21,2021 WeHo meeting agenda, the plan (again, without public vetting) was to send a letter to the… Read more »

08mellie
08mellie
2 months ago

ALEX, thank you. Any suggestions how we can support shooting this insane effort down? The County of LA cannot even handle this issue with billions at their fingertips let alone a small town like West Hollywood.

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