Proposed Housing for Homeless Could Be a First in San Fernando Valley

A supportive housing project that would be the first built in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley using funds from the Proposition HHH homeless housing bond is facing opposition from residents and the area’s elected councilman, a sign of the difficulty of building such developments, even in a city with one of the nation’s largest homeless populations.

Developer Affirmed Housing Group Inc. has proposed a 63-unit development known as The Topanga Apartments at 10243 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. in the Chatsworth area, according to city documents. It would be built at the site of what is now an auto repair shop, which sits in a suburban area surrounded by businesses and single family homes.

According to city documents, Los Angeles’ Housing and Community Investment Department recently approved funding for the project using around $8.29 million from Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond aimed at building approximately 10,000 units of supportive housing in Los Angeles. It was passed by voters in 2016 in an effort to put a dent in the homeless crisis, but no developments funded by the bond have yet opened.

The Topanga Apartments project needs approvals, including a final decision from the Los Angeles City Council, before it can move forward.

However, the newly elected Los Angeles City Councilman John Lee, who represents the area beginning this week, has reservations.

“From conversations with constituents, it is clear that the Topanga project as presently proposed is physically out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and was pushed forward without adequate outreach to the businesses and families that will be most affected,” Councilman Lee wrote in an email. “I oppose the Topanga project as presently proposed and insist that developers work with communities before pursuing such efforts.”

That echoes some criticisms facing other housing projects aimed at getting homeless people off the streets.

Opposition by some local residents has been widespread at many of the supportive housing projects funded by HHH or other programs from Koreatown to Sherman Oaks. Increased construction costs, delays and other complications combined with the local opposition have generally made Proposition HHH projects difficult to complete.

Other efforts include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s A Bridge Home program, which aims to create temporary shelters for homeless individuals waiting for permanent housing in all 15 council districts. But those projects have faced local opposition as well. The program has seen a few locations open across the city, according to Garcetti’s website, but a proposed location in Venice Beach has inspired some nearby residents to collect about $200,000 to mount a lawsuit against the development.

Los Angeles is second only to New York in the number of homeless individuals. Almost 60,000 people are without homes in Los Angeles County, up 12% from the previous year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

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