The Los Angeles City Council on Friday approved a controversial downtown pedestrian bridge that a developer said was needed to protect his tenants from homeless people living nearby.
Developer Geoffrey H. Palmer sought permission to build an elevated private bridge over Temple Street to join two sections of his 526-unit Da Vinci apartment project, which is under construction. His company told the city that transients under the nearby 110 Freeway pose a safety threat to his future renters.
The Central Area Planning Commission denied the bridge request last month, saying pedestrian activity belongs on the sidewalk. But Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the area, succeeded in overturning that decision after telling his colleagues that Palmer agreed to spend $25,000 on upkeep of other downtown pedestrian bridges. The council approved the bridge 11 to 0.
Huizar said it was “unfortunate” that the bridge had been characterized as a tool for bypassing the homeless. “Homeless encampments move all the time, particularly in this area of downtown Los Angeles, so it’s not really a homeless issue,” he said.
Palmer’s company, G.H. Palmer Associates, said in documents that the bridge request was being made because the firm is concerned about tenant safety and “potential incidents that could occur during the evening hours, when the homeless population is more active in the surrounding area.”
That message drew sharp criticism from activists who contend Palmer is vilifying the homeless and turning his back on the street. But downtown business groups defended him, saying he is constructing apartments in locations where other developers are afraid to build.
City planners rejected the bridge in February, saying the project conflicts with downtown design guidelines and planning policies. They warned the bridge could make the sidewalk less safe by sending foot traffic above Temple.
Palmer’s company filed an appeal, saying that forcing tenants to “use the street and interact with the homeless population” would not make the area any safer.
Huizar and Council President Herb Wesson signed a motion resurrecting the bridge proposal weeks later, saying it would address residents’ “public safety concerns.”