WESTCHESTER -At the beginning of August, Pacific Palisades received the good news that Will Rogers Beach Parking Lot would not be taken away from the public to put up makeshift housing for the homeless.
Those proposals, by City Councilmen Mike Bonin and Mark Ridley-Thomas, to take away park space and beach parking lots, were mostly dismissed by the City of L.A.’s Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo in an August 2021 report.
He recommended that “The Marina del Rey and the Dockweiler State Beach RV Park sites are still under assessment, and the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is communicating with the Federal Aviation Administration about the feasibility of using airport land for homeless interventions.”
Although Westchester residents pressed Bonin’s office for the proposed locations near the airport, none were forthcoming.
A letter from Cathryn Cason, manager of the Los Angeles Airports District office, to Westchester residents on September 2 said that they were asked by the City Council and others to consider possible locations on or near Los Angeles International Airport and Van Nuys Airport. . . . But “We have nothing further to offer on this matter until LAWA formally submits a proposal for us to consider.”
Frustrated, residents sent a September 19 email to Councilmember Joe Buscaino asking, “Could you please urge the City Council to demand the lists of LAWA sites submitted to the FAA for homeless intervention?”
Then on September 20, a single letter between LAWA CEO Justin Erbacci and Mark McClardy, Director, Office of Airports to the FAA was supplied.
In the letter, Erbacci writes, “Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Owned Site for Tiny Homes, Safe Parking, or Safe Sleep LAWA has identified possible sites for homeless interventions and requested that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review for approval. The FAA would have to agree to allow the use of airport land for homeless housing and waive the requirement that land purchased with FAA funds be leased at market rate.”
Pallet Housing Requests:
Northside Phase II: North of Westchester Blvd, east of Fire Station 5, west of La Tijera
Manchester Square: North of Century, east of Aviation, west of La Cienega
Erbacci wrote: The Manchester Square site is currently being utilized for laydown for our Landside Access Modernization Program. Were these sites to be available for the requested use, LAWA would like to understand the following from the FAA: since these sites were purchased with noise abatement grants are there any statutes, rules, grant assurances, or other policies that would preclude LAWA from leasing a portion of one or both of these sites to the City of Los Angeles for pallet housing?
He also explains that LAWA has significant aviation-related landholdings in Palmdale. Much of that property is not currently in use.
Residents say the site north of Westchester is inappropriate because the property is contiguous with Emerson Adult School, which is a school for adults with disabilities and adults who want to get their GED.
That location is also a short distance from Visitation School, a K-8 school that also has a preschool on site. A few blocks away from the site is Kentwood Elementary School.
Residents had made a public records request act on August 29, seeking emails between airport staff, CD 11, FAA and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. On September 2 LAWA wrote that the request status was closed.
“We reminded them they did not give us the information,” the resident said. “Now, they say they need more time.”
Residents asked again, “Could you please tell us when we will see the emails between Justin Erbacci & Michelle Schwartz & Samantha Bricker & Glenda Silva & Council District 11 & the FAA & Maxine Waters office concerning homeless interventions? We will reduce the time frame from Oct 2020 to present to make the search easier.”
With the Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028, it seems that City leaders would want to assure that visitors’ first impression of Los Angeles is not hundreds of homeless people living in huts near the airport or in parks.
This story was published in partnership with Circling the News.