An Echo Park playground has become the latest point of contention between neighborhood residents and the Los Angeles City Council. City officials voted voted Wednesday to build supportive housing on land currently used by El Centro del Pueblo, an Echo Park nonprofit, which uses the playground for gang intervention and therapy services.
El Centro del Pueblo (ECDP) was established in 1974, and provides mental health services, immigration assistance, parenting classes, tutoring and recreation services. Billing itself as the sole free recreation provider in the area, ECDP estimated they serve approximately 7,400 clients per year on its website. The city initially rented the land to ECDP for about $7,000 annually, but the lease agreement is now monthly.
Los Angeles leaders say the facility would be better utilized as homeless housing.
“Homelessness is not an issue,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “It is the issue facing our city and county.”
O’Farrell was the councilman who first proposed the land use change. The motion authored by O’Farrell identifies ECDP as an ideal site for housing, since it is close to public transit and car-sharing options, public parking, service organizations and businesses.
Not all city leaders agreed with O’Farrell, though. City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo called the move an “attack on the Latino community,” and voted against the motion. He was joined only by Councilman Joe Buscaino. Cedillo compared the proposal to federal policies that separate migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexican border, as it would deprive the children of mental health services.
The site could provide up to 98 units if the project receives density bonuses.