By Hunter Chase, Reporter
At the Oct. 22 meeting of the Wilmington Neighborhood Council, the board unanimously approved a motion to oppose the construction of a permanent supportive housing project for homeless seniors at 1424 Deepwater Ave., Wilmington. The board also unanimously opposed a proposed bridge housing development at 828 Eubank Ave., just a few blocks away from the Deepwater project.
The reason for the bridge housing shelter, which includes services similar to supportive housing, such as substance abuse recovery and mental healthcare, is because of a mandate from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, said Councilman Joe Buscaino’s Director of Communications Branimir Kvartuc at a demonstration in September 2018. Bridge home housing shelters are placed in the areas with the largest concentration of homeless people, and there are 540 homeless people in Wilmington.
One of the reasons for the council’s opposition to the Deepwater project was a lack of parking, with eight spaces for 56 units, said Gina Martinez, treasurer of the board.
In addition, only 50 percent of the housing is reserved for seniors. However, it is all permanent supportive housing, which is housing that includes services such as healthcare, training and job placement assistance.
“Any person in an apartment can leave, they can rent, they’re mobile, but what about the homeowners?” Martinez said. “Their single largest investment is their home.” There is not much that homeowners can do when property values go down, Martinez said.
Martinez said the Deepwater project goes against the Wilmington and Harbor City Community Plan. She quoted the plan, which includes among its issues the need to preserve low-density areas of neighborhoods whose residents are primarily single families. Wilmington is an R1 zone, which means that single-family homes are built there, with one unit per residence.
Their biggest reason for opposing the Eubank project was that the community received very little notice on the project, as a revocable, 42-month permit for the project was granted to the city of Los Angeles General Services Department at a special meeting of the Board of Harbor Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 8. The permit granted the General Services
Department the use of 1.08 acres of land owned by the city of Los Angeles Harbor Department. The meeting was in the morning when most people were at work, and it was held in San Pedro, instead of in Wilmington, Martinez said. Martinez said the council is asking for the community to have a say in the project, as they will be impacted by it.
“We’re asking the port commissioners to repeal that revocable permit until the people of Wilmington have an opportunity to have their say,” said Martinez. “We have never been given the opportunity as a community to say one way or another.”
Councilman Joe Buscaino can pull the plug on the projects if he wants to and he chose Wilmington, Martinez said.
At least 40 people came to the meeting to protest both projects, and many spoke at length regarding their opposition to it.
“I help those that are hurting and homeless every day,” said Lupe Lopez, a resident of Wilmington who works at another homeless shelter, the Long Beach Rescue Mission. “I don’t want to come home and see that in my backyard as well.”
Lopez asked why the authorities chose to “gut out and ruin” one of the quietest neighborhoods in the community when there are plenty of other land available.
The shelters will be using the Housing First model, which means that homeless people will be given housing before they are given help with any other problems, Lopez said.
According to Endhomelessness.org, homeless people that are housed in the Housing First model are more likely to stay in said housing, as other services can be provided to them while they are housed.
She criticized the decision to place the Eubank shelter so close to John Mendez Baseball Park, where her children play.
Residents of the community also held a public hearing to protest the Deepwater project’s location on Nov. 8. In an email advertising the protest, Lopez said the local council office should work with residents to decide where the facility should be placed.
Instead, the shelter will be placed in one of the quietest areas of the city, as Wilmington mainly consists of single-family homes, Lopez said in her email. She said this will involve a rezoning of the area, but neither Buscaino or the Board of Harbor Commissioners have spoken about rezoning.
The Eubank shelter’s permit only allows it to run until August 2023.