City Atty. Blasts Council Panel’s Action on Housing

August 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

City Attorney Mike Feuer issued a rare rebuke of some of his elected colleagues in Los Angeles Wednesday, decrying a City Council committee action that could lead to the delay or cancellation of an affordable housing complex in Boyle Heights.

Half of the 49 units at the complex would be set aside for the mentally ill or the homeless, and Feuer said more effort should be put into making the project happen.

Feuer, who rarely speaks out in opposition of City Council members, said, “We are in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Every leader, and every community, needs to be part of the solution. If there is any way this project can go forward, it should. My office stands ready to help make that happen.”

The project is being proposed by A Community of Friends, a nonprofit that builds housing for low-income and homeless people and operates 40 supportive housing complexes. The project, called Lorena Plaza, is planned for 3401 E. First St.

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Tuesday agreed with an appeal filed by the owners of a nearby shopping center, El Mercado de Los Angeles, which argued the project is in need of a phase 2 environmental impact report, in part because of an abandoned oil well on the property. If approved by the full council, the action could delay or cancel the project, and also increase its costs.

Dora Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends, told the committee she had met with the El Mercado and their representative eight times.

“At the last meeting, in January of this year, they made it very clear to me and my board member that their sole objection to Lorena Plaza is that we are providing housing for people with a mental health disability,” Gallo said.

“Council members, there is no merit to this appeal.”

Citing the oil well and a lack of soil tests by the developer, Councilman Jose Huizar moved that the committee approve the appeal, and none of the other committee members objected. The decision overturned one made by the director of the City Planning Department.

Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, said, “I am extremely sensitive to the way that environmental factors impact the community’s health and quality of life. It is a community that historically has been burdened by the ill effects of heavy industry contamination and pollution.”

Huizar also said the fact the project would help mentally ill or the homeless had no bearing on the decision and defended his record of advocating for affordable housing, including his support of thousands of units of affordable housing in Boyle Heights.

“It’s not about NIMBYism. What’s before us today is about environmental review,” Huizar said.

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