Mobile Homes Going to Mar Vista Gardens : Homeless Shelter OKd for Project

Times Staff Writer

Homeless families will be housed in seven mobile homes at the Mar Vista Gardens public housing project near Culver City within three to four weeks, Los Angeles city officials said last week.

The temporary housing, intended to provide shelter for three to six months while the families seek permanent places to live, was approved Thursday by the city Planning Commission, which also agreed to allow eight mobile homes at the San Fernando Gardens housing project in Pacoima.

The commission’s action, which was opposed by several Westside residents who live near Mar Vista Gardens, permits the city to keep the mobile homes at the projects for two years. Families that move on to permanent housing will be replaced by other homeless families, city officials said.

A Housing Authority spokesman said building permits to erect foundations for the mobile homes will be obtained next week, and sewer, water, electricity and gas hookups will be connected once the trailers are moved onto the property in the next couple of weeks.

sh Final Action

Joseph Gelletich, director of development for the Housing Authority, said the Planning Commission action is final, meaning the agency does not need further approval from the City Council. The City Council approved a general citywide plan for the mobile homes last fall.

The two- and three-bedroom trailers are among 102 purchased by the city last summer from the Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency, where they had been used as housing for construction workers.

Ten of the trailers already have been placed at the Ramona Gardens housing project in East Los Angeles, where four homeless families now are living. Others are planned for Normont Terrace in Harbor City and Avalon Gardens in South-Central Los Angeles. The city still has not found locations for about 20 of the trailers.

Deputy Mayor Grace Davis told the commissioners that homeless families housed in the trailers will be screened by social agencies selected by the city. The housing is not intended for the so-called “hard-core” homeless, she said, but rather is designed to give families who have run into some hard luck a chance to get back on their feet.

“The families to be housed are really no different than the families that are already there in the housing projects,” Davis said. “People in the housing project who did not have subsidies from the Housing Authority would probably be homeless too.”

sh Talks With Agency

City officials are negotiating with Valley Shelter, an emergency homeless shelter in North Hollywood, to screen applicants for the Pacoima trailers and provide counseling and other services for the families that will live in them.

In Mar Vista, the city has not chosen a social services agency, although People Assisting the Homeless, St. Joseph Center and Jewish Family Services have all expressed an interest, city officials said.

“We are working primarily with agencies that already have an emergency shelter or work with homeless families that can use the trailers as transitional housing,” said Gloria Clark of the city’s Community Development Department, which is overseeing placement of the trailers. “We want to get families that will be able to use the services.”

Housing Authority officials and aides to Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents the Mar Vista Gardens area, and Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who represents Pacoima, said residents of the projects and nearby homeowners have been supportive of plans to place the trailers at the projects.

But at the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, about half a dozen people who live near Mar Vista Gardens complained that the trailers would attract crime, gang activity and drugs to an area they said is already burdened by serious problems.

sh ‘Doesn’t Seem Fair’

They asked the commission to place the trailers somewhere else, although they offered no alternatives.

The city is “going to bring more people who are more depressed into this depressed area,” said Eleanor Timmons, who has lived three houses away from the project for 30 years. “It just doesn’t seem fair to me.”

Commissioner Sam Botwin defended the policy, saying the homeless families may actually upgrade the neighborhood by bringing in new social service programs. Commissioner William G. Luddy agreed.

“I understand the concerns of the neighborhood,” he said, “but I think they will turn out to be better neighbors than you think.”