Residents and community leaders from Koreatown and the surrounding neighborhoods came together at a rally Wednesday morning to protest the proposed construction of an emergency homeless shelter at 682 South Vermont Ave.

The rally, which took place at a parking garage that would be torn down to build the shelter, featured members of both the Korean and Latino communities, who alleged that the decision to build the shelter and others like it had been made without their input. Community leaders also said that the site was too close to local businesses and public schools. Five schools are within a mile of the proposed site, including the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex.

“We are not against homelessness,” Board of Equalization candidate Ben Pak said. “Nevertheless the exclusion of the community in the decision making process is wrong.”

The rally was prompted by an announcement on May 2 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson that the $20 million “A Bridge Home” initiative had identified the Koreatown parking lot, managed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, as its first potential location.

“The homelessness crisis demands that we step forward and act boldly to get people off the streets as quickly as possible,” Garcetti said at the announcement. The site would be the first in a network of projects to add trailers, tents, showers, restrooms, storage facilities and other resources for homeless people.

From left: Board of Equalization candidate Ben Pak, Korean Federation of Los Angeles President Laura Jeon and Coalition to Protect Lincoln Heights representative John Fernandez, who all spoke at Wednesday’s rally in support of community input on the proposed emergency homeless shelter at 682 South Vermont Ave. in Koreatown.

Pak alleged that at a recent community meeting, members of the Latino community had been told that it was the Korean community opposing homeless shelters in Koreatown. However, both Pak and Full Rights For Immigrants Coalition coordinator Juan Jose Gutierrez said that wasn’t true. Both communities support solutions to homelessness, Gutierrez said, but opposed a decision-making process that didn’t include their input.

Gutierrez also said that Los Angeles leaders framing the issue as inclusiveness towards the homeless were missing the point, and instead risking polarization.

“Their rhetoric… looks a lot like a farce,” Gutierrez said.

“A Bridge Home” is part of a large spike in Garcetti’s homelessness spending plan. More than half of the new homeless spending would come from Measure HHH, approved in 2016, which is expected to raise $1.2 billion over 10 years for permanent supportive housing construction. The plan would split $20 million evenly per City Council district, to $1.3 million each, but some residents argue that the current proposals will only harm communities, and not help any homeless.

Local attorney Jake Jeong said the plan included housing for about 10,000 people, yet about 34,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles. The best option for both residents and homeless, Jeong said, would be to get the community involved in creating new solutions.

“This is not about the Koreans versus Herb Wesson,” Jeong said. “We are all on the same page.”


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