The Redondo Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night, Sept. 15, to move forward with a plan to provide temporary homeless shelters in a dirt parking lot beside Aviation Gym in the northern part of the city, though the location might change.
If the plan eventually goes forward, which would require additional votes of the City Council, the project would be the city’s first homeless shelter. The initiative comes at a time of increased homelessness in Redondo Beach and elsewhere in Los Angeles County as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal approved Tuesday called for the city to move forward with the Pallet company to provide a series of small modular shelters either 64 or 100 square feet. A preliminary plan suggested 15 of the smaller units at a cost of up to $120,000. Specific details including the location were subject to a future decision by the council after a review by city staff.
City Attorney Mike Webb said the small shelters were a way to deal with the homelessness issue humanely and in a way that protects the quality of life for the community. The idea would be to work with navigators at the shelters to locate permanent housing, Webb said.
There are currently more than 30 people who were homeless in Redondo Beach who are now housed in various hotel rooms at three sites through the county’s Project Roomkey, which will come to an end in October and November. Based on the most recent homeless count, there were 176 people experiencing homelessness in Redondo Beach.
“I felt it was important to bring this item to you before we had the worst case scenario with 30 plus people returning to the streets of Redondo,” Webb said.
More than 40 people submitted comments, and roughly a dozen spoke over video conference, many of them urging caution and greater outreach with residents and other cities before making a decision on that location.
“I appreciate thee sense of urgency, but that location is fraught with a lot of issues,” said resident Nancy King.
A series of 30 shelters by Pallet have been erected in Riverside.
Patrick Diller, director of business development for Pallet, said the company builds their shelters in Seattle employing people with experience in homelessness, criminal justice and drug addiction.
“We are trying to meet the emergency needs in communities whether it’s for disasters or for homelessness,” Diller said, adding that it’s a tool when paired with access to services that can help alleviate homelessness in a given area.
The city plans to use CARES Act federal funds to pay for the project.
City officials were also driven by a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 2018, Martin vs. Boise, that prohibits cities from enforcing rules against sleeping or camping if they don’t have a reasonable alternative. If the city has a shelter available, then more enforcement against individuals who refuse to accept housing could be possible, explained Webb.
Another option would be to locate a site outside the city but fairly nearby, but that posed a whole set of additional challenges, Webb said.
“If anyone knows of a city that we can rent a lot from, I would call them tomorrow, but I would assume that it might not be taken well,” Webb said.
Councilmember Laura Emdee said her constituents were split on the issue, based on feedback she received. Some were concerned about the cost as well as security and where individuals would use the bathroom or shower.
Webb said the location did not have to be permanent and the housing in general was meant to be temporary. But several residents were skeptical it could be easily moved.
“There is no perfect solution,” Webb said. “There is no perfect place. Every location will probably have people opposing it. The idea is you could move the location. It doesn’t become permanent and then no area of the city is unduly burdened.”
Mayor Bill Brand said homelessness was a problem that every city was dealing with and that tackling it with a temporary shelter was a way to be compassionate and not turn a blind eye to the problem.
“The prospect of this is not some way for Redondo Beach to become some sort of magnet,” Brand said. “That’s not what this is about. It’s about helping people to transition who have a variety of problems, so we maintain the quality of life in our community while still being able to help people as much as we can.”
Councilmember Todd Loewenstein said he supported the proposal but would not want it to stay at any location for very long. A basketball league that plays at the Aviation Gym could be concerned, Loewenstein said.
“We are not putting our heads in the sand. We are trying to solve something and until we do there is going to be more homeless,” Loewenstein said. “You say don’t erect these. But what is your solution? This is a temporary solution. It’s not something I will stand for for any length of time.”
Councilmember John Gran said he preferred putting the homeless shelter at Seaside Lagoon in the marina. “This is the right spot,” he said. “If you want something taken care of, you put it in plain sight.”