Don’t sleep on this one, folks: The decision-makers in downtown Los Angeles are preparing to offload the big city’s homelessness problems on you.
Specifically, they’re making it Tesoro del Valle’s problem.
Here’s how: In a hearing Wednesday on the proposed addition of 820 homes to Tesoro del Valle, the L.A. County Regional Planning Commission not only reiterated its demand that the project include affordable housing, but also added a new demand: Somewhere in that 1,274-acre project, they want a homeless shelter.
The public hearing was continued until Nov. 7, when there surely will be a lively debate over both the appropriateness and the need for a homeless shelter in Tesoro del Valle.
I think there’s a consensus here in town that we need to provide shelter, compassion and other forms of assistance to the homeless in our community. So, I’m not saying there should be no such shelters or programs.
But we also need to balance these decisions against factors like the local level of need, an assessment of what’s already being done to meet that need, and fairness toward property owners.
Let’s start with need.
Estimates of the number of local homeless vary, but the consensus puts it between 300 and 400. If county planners are bent on adding one new shelter for every 800 new units built, we’ll soon have as many homeless shelters as Starbucks. Then, one of two things will happen: Either the shelters will stand unused, or someone will find a way to populate them.
Guess which way that will go.
The county has stated a preference for dealing with homelessness across all unincorporated territories, which includes parts of our valley that aren’t within Santa Clarita city limits. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, without regard to community factors.
Then there’s the question of what’s being done already. Hunt Braly, a local attorney and consultant for the Tesoro developer, Bristol Land Co., also serves on the executive committee of Bridge to Home, which operates Santa Clarita’s seasonal homeless shelter. So, he knows this stuff.
At the hearing, Braly informed the commissioners there isn’t a need for a new homeless shelter site because we already have one: The city of Santa Clarita has donated $1 million in land to Bridge to Home, which has also received $700,000 in capital project funding from the countywide Measure H, to go toward development of a year-round, permanent shelter near Drayton Street and Railroad Avenue.
That, evidently, isn’t enough for the county commissioners, who seem to think the SCV is not doing its fair share if all we do is address the needs of the homeless who are already here. We must, it seems, prepare to accept an export of homeless individuals from other communities.
That brings us to the impact on existing residents.
Again, understanding that we should provide services to people who really need them — and we are — let’s suppose you built two identical houses. Now put one of them next to a homeless shelter.
Which one is worth more?
The county is effectively making it the problem of every existing and future Tesoro resident, devaluing their property to “solve” a problem that’s already being addressed here.
I hope this doesn’t indicate a resurgence of the things that caused this community to form its own city in the first place: A county government that is distant and out of touch with our community, and doesn’t seem to care about actual need vs. the impacts of its decisions on existing taxpayers. I know our own Supervisor Kathryn Barger doesn’t match that description, but she is just one vote out of five on the Board of Supervisors.
Like I said. Don’t sleep on this. The county is getting ready to export L.A.’s homeless to our sleepy little burg.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @TimWhyte.