Aides to L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Thursday that the supervisor opposes the suggestion by two county planning commissioners, which would put a homeless shelter in the proposed Highlands development in the Tesoro Del Valle community.
About 80 Tesoro residents attended their homeowners association meeting on Tuesday night to discuss their concerns about the demand by at least two county planning commissioners in an Aug. 1 hearing on the 820-home project, said resident Steve Crestol.
On Thursday, Barger’s office issued a statement indicating that Tesoro residents need not worry.
“Supervisor Barger does not support a homeless shelter where there has been no discussion or consensus by the community,” Rosalind Wayman, Barger’s Santa Clarita Valley field deputy, said in a prepared statement. “She would never validate a shelter without community input. There is no need for an additional shelter in the area. The community-driven services currently provided by Bridge to Home have the supervisor’s full support.”
Barger spokesman Tony Bell said the Board of Supervisors is not considering the addition of a second homeless shelter in the Santa Clarita Valley, which is part of the supervisor’s district.
The nonprofit Bridge to Home currently operates a seasonal shelter, and is working with the county and the city of Santa Clarita to develop a permanent, year-round shelter near Drayton Street and Railroad Avenue.
“We would never support a project that had not been borne out of community conversations and need,” said Dana Vanderford, Barger’s homeless services deputy. “We strategically develop programs for homeless housing and supportive services in collaboration with the city of Santa Clarita and our long-time local provider, Bridge to Home.”
Mitch Glaser, the regional planning commission’s spokesman, said the commission has not actually voted to require a homeless shelter in the Highlands development, but that the commissioners had asked the developer to keep the county’s overarching goals of combating homelessness in mind when making their plans.
In the Aug. 1 meeting, commission Chair David W. Louie said: “We’ve seen many, many situations where homeless emergency housing has been resisted in that particular community because some residents felt it wasn’t appropriate. My sense is that (L.A. County) supervisors feel there needs to be recognition of that throughout the county.
“And, that all communities need to take on their fair share of emergency-home housing,” Louie continued. “So, I’m going to ask you to reconsider that — that of the 800-plus acres that you have, that you find a location within your development that could accommodate an emergency homeless facility.”
Louie’s Aug. 1 comments echoed those of Commissioner Doug Smith, who said, regarding affordable housing and a homeless shelter, “In my opinion, they need to be included in your development.”
The commission scheduled a continuation of the hearing for Nov. 7.
Glaser said that, before the Aug. 1 meeting, the commission wasn’t aware of the city’s efforts to establish a year-round shelter with the nonprofit homeless services provider, Bridge to Home. In the hearing, Hunt Braly, a consultant for the developer and a member of the executive committee overseeing Bridge to Home, said he didn’t see a need for another shelter in the SCV, as that year-round shelter was already in the process of being built.
Glaser added that the commissioners were looking at the homelessness question from a broader view.
“I think the perspective the commissioners were getting at is homelessness is a countywide issue, and there are fewer homeless people in the Santa Clarita Valley and north L.A. County than in the more densely populated areas of downtown L.A.,” he said. “The county’s concern in the last 10 years is to decentralize shelter and services throughout the county. So the point was to ask the Tesoro applicant to think about what he can do to address the need of supportive housing in the community still being planned, but to be clear, it was not a mandate.”
In the meantime, while the commission is not married to the idea of another shelter, it is up to the applicant to decide if they want to have a shelter, he said.
Michael Schlesinger, vice president of community development for the Bristol Land Co., which is developing the project, said the developers don’t believe another homeless shelter is needed in addition to what is planned by Bridge to Home.
“We’ve got a couple months to think about it, but I can tell you right now that we are opposed to affordable housing on our site and a homeless shelter,” he said. “A seasonal shelter in the SCV is enough for servicing the SCV.”
The project’s location, Schlesinger said, was unviable for the homeless population, with no bus transportation or access to local services.
Regardless of approval, the commission’s recommendations can be brought into review or appealed to the Board of Supervisors, Glaser said.
The developer’s updated plans are to be revealed at the continuance of the commission’s hearing on Nov. 7 in downtown Los Angeles at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
In addition to the 820 housing units, the Highlands developer also proposes nine multi-family lots, 12 water quality basin lots, three water tank lots, one helipad lot, six senior recreation area lots, six linear park lots and nine private park lots, a senior recreation center, 29 lots reserved for open space and 24 private driveways.