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Sun, May

Tiny Home Villages, Homeless Criminalization, and Kevin de Leon

EASTSIDER - Since Kevin De Leon chose to make homelessness the centerpiece of his Mayoral campaign, it seems fair to see how that’s working out in his very own CD 14.

To that end, this story started out to be about his flagship Tiny Home Village in Highland Park. However, after some research, there will be pieces to come on the Homeless Committee as well as the Los Angeles Housing Authority, both of which seem to live in secrecy. 

First, hats off to the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council and its President Duncan Gregory for this one. On January 6th they hosted a “regular special” Zoom meeting, which dedicated a significant part of the time to the Project administrators, Hope of the Valley, staffing of the Village, and efforts to actually provide the support services promised under Measure H,  LA County’s 1/2 cent sales tax. 

The HHPNC Highlights

For those interested, here is the link to the actual Board meeting. It’s over 2 hours, with the Tiny Village action starting a bit after the first hour.  Try about an hour 15 minutes in for the back and forth.  It is good data. 

- There are two entrances to the Village, yet only one is operational 

- The one live entrance serves as a security check on those living there 

- Even though each dwelling has a key, the providers do not give the residents their key to keep 

- Evidently many residents are wand searched when entering the complex 

- The provider has a ‘three strikes and out’ policy, and it is unclear where those kicked out go (like on the street?). 

- It is unclear exactly how the bathrooms are cleaned, amongst complaints of messes and no cleaning products in them. 

- When it rained recently, guess what Tiny Village got flooded, though there is a dispute as to exactly how wet it got.

- There seem to be serious questions as to how many case managers and placement staff there are, given that the Measures were clear that support and social services would be available to get the homeless ready to re-enter society. 

- There is evidently both video surveillance and security guards, which does not make for a team outlook for the residents. 

And too much more to report here, other than the fact that Tiny Homes staff were present and quite defensive. 

Why All This is Important

Remember, it is Kevin Del Leon who decided to make homelessness his central campaign issue for Mayor.  Yet last I checked, there are still something like 40,000 or more unhoused people out there in Los Angeles.  And for those people the City Council actions have been simply draconian. 

For instance,on January 12th, The Eastsider reported that the L.A. City Council votes to enforce anti-camping ban across Northeast L.A. sites 

The Los Angeles City Council today voted to enforce its anti-camping law at 58 new locations, including numerous encampments across Northeast L.A., with two council members voting against the resolutions.

The five resolutions passed today will allow enforcement at 27 other locations in Councilman Gil Cedillo's district, 22 locations in Councilman Joe Buscaino's district and seven locations in Councilman Kevin de Leon's district.

The law, LAMC 41.18, which went into effect Sept. 3, prohibits sleeping, sitting, camping and obstructing the public right of way within 500 feet of "sensitive" facilities, including schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries.”

Putting all of this into context, it would seem that the tiny homes, as good an idea as they are, simply look like eye candy to hide the ugly reality that the City Council’s real actions are to simply criminalize the homeless who cannot fight back. 

If you look at the actual LAMC referred to in the article, here’s a taste of what it prohibits: 

“SEC. 41.18. SITTING, LYING, OR SLEEPING OR STORING, USING, MAINTAINING, OR PLACING PERSONAL PROPERTY IN THE PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY.

  • No person shall obstruct a street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way:
  • by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, in a manner that impedes passage, as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Pub. L, No. 101-336, 104 Stat. 328 (1990), as amended from time to time;
  • by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, within ten feet of any operational or utilizable driveway or loading dock;
  • by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, within five feet of any operational or utilizable building entrance or exit;
  • by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, within two feet of any fire hydrant, fire plug, or other fire department connection;
  • by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, within the public right-of-way in a manner that obstructs or unreasonably interferes with the use of the right-of-way for any activity for which the City has issued a permit”

So we now have a system where the City Council makes the police bust homeless people out on the streets while a minuscule fraction of them are ever going to get help in a tiny homes environment.  All while the Councilmembers pretend to be doing good deeds. Argh!

The Takeaway

It seems that there are two different runaway bureaucracies at play, and neither seems to have a coherent policy.  First, of course, is the LA City Council, which seems to operate in a separate universe.  I’ve put in a Public Records Act request to try and track all the pieces of how De Leon went from a Tiny Houses motion to what we now have in front of us, and what it’s cost.

Like, by what sleight of hand does LA City magically find a few million bucks here and there to suddenly pop up a “Tiny Village” in Highland Park? You know, the one we are talking about? Evidently first you slide over to the “Homelessness and Poverty Committee”, which no one ever heard about or follows, and simply make a motion.

We don’t need the details of LA’s ‘screw the unhoused’, since the Municipal Code is already a part of this article.

We do still need to figure out who and how the Providers are chosen for projects, as well as where/how the County 1/2 cent sales tax is actually spent to provide supportive services to get the homeless reintegrated into our society.  Both of these issues seem to belong to LAHSA (the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority), and you can find their website here.

I thought that the County was going to do away with them, but they seem to still be alive and intact.  Since their doings are opaque at best, I have reached out with a request to talk to staff.  We’ll see how that works out.

Seems to me that the current bottom line is the City Council wants us to see their series of tiny home projects as ameliorating homelessness, which is simply not true, and ignore all the incredible ‘roust the homeless’ orders they give to the LAPD and City Employees to enforce.

More to come..

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.)