The contentious question of whether to build a homeless shelter at 682 South Vermont Ave. in Koreatown will have to wait before an answer, after the Los Angeles City Council voted to perform additional evaluations at the site, under the city’s “A Bridge Home” program.
Additionally, two amendments directed city staff to find additional safe parking areas for people living in their cars around Koreatown, and to evaluate other areas in City Council District 10 for possible shelter sites. One such site is a parking lot at 1819 South Western Avenue, which is Councilman Herb Wesson’s own district office.
“I will work and live with people who live on the street,” Wesson said. “If it is feasible, I will bring them into my parking lot, because I don’t want anyone to say that I ask my people to make sacrifices I am not willing to make.”
The move came after dozens of public speakers accused the City Council, and Wesson in particular, of trying to build the shelter without community input. The past months have seen rallies and protests erupt in Koreatown, as Latino and Korean residents banded together to demand a solution to what they called “a lack of due process.” Miscommunications and misinformation also spread throughout the community, with many residents blaming City Council.
“Thank you for trying to divide this community,” resident Sharon Jeong said. “We are now stronger than ever. We resist your tyranny.”
At a May 16 rally at the proposed site, former Board of Equalization candidate Ben Pak alleged that at a 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.
However, a fair amount of shelter supporters also spoke on Friday.
“I know there’s a lot of fear from people who believe that this will automatically bring in drugs and crime to the community,” Koreatown resident David Song said. “I’d like to see a shelter in K-Town, because there’s a dire need for that.”
The “A Bridge Home” program 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.