The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved the long-delayed Lorena Plaza housing development in Boyle Heights for homeless and low-income people. Finally. The move came after Councilman Jose Huizar withdrew the obstacle he had placed in the project’s path and urged the council to support it. That’s a welcome step on Huizar’s part.
It was also long overdue. Despite having the blessing of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and the approval of the city’s Planning Department, the project — by the well-respected nonprofit developer A Community of Friends — languished in limbo for nearly two years after the owners of the neighboring El Mercado marketplace filed an appeal of the project’s environmental report. It took Huizar an entire year to schedule a hearing on the appeal. Then, after he recommended that the appeal be granted, it took another half year of sporadic meetings with the developer and others before Huizar finally did the thing he should have done all along: dismiss the appeal and let the project go forward.
Huizar insists that this isn’t the textbook case of NIMBYism it appears to be. But no matter how you characterize the charade of an environmental appeal by the owners of the El Mercado complex, Huizar allowed it to hold up a well-designed project that will provide a modest 24 units for homeless people and another 24 for low-income veterans and their families. If the project had been been approved two years ago, it would be in construction now. Instead, the delay raised costs needlessly for the nonprofit developer, while denying badly needed housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Huizar now concedes that he shouldn’t have let a year go by without some action on the appeal. In response, the message from Angelenos to Huizar and his colleagues should be clear: None of them should stall projects in their districts. We cannot afford any more unnecessary delays in building housing, especially not for poor or homeless people.
Homelessness is a crisis in this county. Building new housing is hard enough in California — there will always be someone challenging an environmental study, traffic mitigation plan or some other detail. And when it comes to homeless housing, you’ll even have people complaining that the project’s windows will let the new residents look out onto their neighbors’ property. (Really.) If we are going to get this housing built, we need political leaders to clear the way, not put up hurdles. And we need their constituents to demand as much.