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L.A. councilman takes aim at tiny homes on wheels

San Pedro residents packed a neighborhood council meeting Tuesday night to express their concerns about tiny houses built for the homeless that have been popping up on their streets.

Tiny wooden homes on wheels, roughly the size of garden sheds, have popped up on San Pedro streets as a temporary way to house the homeless.

The wooden structures are reminiscent of the small home created by a South Los Angeles man that became famous through a viral video, drawing millions of viewers on YouTube and spurring tens of thousands of dollars in donations to build more tiny homes for those in need.

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But after a handful of similar structures appeared in San Pedro, Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he wants them removed immediately, calling them "a threat in many ways to our public safety."

The councilman complained the movable homes lacked running water, sewer connections or reflective markings to make them more visible to passing drivers at night. Three have been set up near a county clinic in recent days.

"These shacks are not the solution to end homelessness in our city," Buscaino said, arguing that the city needs more permanent supportive housing. The councilman said that the people building the homes have good intentions, but the sheds "ultimately will become nuisances."

In a proposal released Tuesday, the councilman asked for city lawyers to report on whether putting the homes on public streets or private property was legal and to recommend "removal protocol" for city departments.

This year, when the video went viral, a spokesman for the city building department said the tiny home featured in that video was so small that it wouldn't need required permits if it were built on private property.

James Preston Allen, president of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, said the homes had been put up by community activists. Allen said that beyond the debate over the tiny homes, San Pedro residents have been sharply divided over homeless issues.

"The divide is between those people in our district ... who are attempting to find housing and support services for all of these unfortunate individuals and those people who are simply saying, 'Not in my front yard,'" Allen said.

The head of one local group trying to assist the homeless said she was uneasy about the idea. "We haven't really solved the problem if they don't have restrooms or facilities to cook," said Tahia Hayslet, executive director of the nonprofit Harbor Interfaith Services, which assists the homeless.

The local neighborhood council, which has yet to weigh in on the tiny houses, was expected to discuss the project in more detail Tuesday night.

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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