Pallet homes fine where they are, says RB council

Harbor Interfaith’s Shari Weaver helps find unhoused people to live at the Pallet Project. Harbor Interfaith works out of an office at the site. Photo by JP Cordero

by Rachel Reeves

The Redondo Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to keep the pallet homes, which currently houses formerly unhoused people, where it is on Kingsdale Ave. in North Redondo Beach.

The pallet homes opened in December of last year thanks to pandemic-related relief funding. The plan proposed last October was for them to remain in North Redondo for six months, and then to discuss an extension or relocation. There was some back-and-forth about the northern and southern parts of Redondo Beach sharing the responsibility of hosting the portable housing units.

In April, the Council reviewed the success of the program, which has been so evident and well-reported that other cities have been looking to emulate it. So far, City Attorney Mike Webb estimated, 36 people have been transitioned from the shelter into permanent housing.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Zein Obagi said he was “furious” that another discussion about possible relocation was even on the agenda.

“There’s no need for a prolonged discussion — an emotionally charged discussion — about relocating something that’s located perfectly well currently,” he said. He continued: “Why are we stirring the pot just to stir the pot?”

Councilmember Nils Nehrenheim, who had suggested Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) as an alternative site, replied that the discussion would be more about extending the city’s partnership with BCHD, which currently delivers support services at the shelter site.

Webb explained that discussions about moving the shelter to the BCHD site were necessary because the Kingsdale site is zoned I-2, which does not include emergency shelters as a permissible use. It is currently operating under emergency declarations declared by the state, county, and city, pertaining to COVID-19. When the emergency declarations are lifted, the city will have to rezone the property to support this use or declare a “shelter crisis.”

The city is allowed to declare a crisis “upon a finding by that governing body that a significant number of persons within the jurisdiction of the governing body are without the ability to obtain shelter, and that the situation has resulted in a threat to the health and safety of those persons,” according to government code. 

“We just don’t want to have the end of the emergency catch us unaware,” City Attorney Mike Webb said. 

Public comment pertaining to the possible relocation was prolific.

Residents argued that the BCHD location would cause “civic turmoil,” and highlighted its proximity to four schools.

“Would you want homeless [people] wandering around your children where they walk home?” one resident wrote.

A spokesperson for Silverado, a facility that leases from BCHD to house seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions, wrote that with the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreading, “the health risk posed by a homeless population directly in our backyard could have devastating effects on the very lives of our residents and staff.” 

“Understanding there is a strong need to intervene and help the homeless in our local communities, it is imperative that you find a way to do this without subjecting another extremely vulnerable community to a plethora of additional health hazards, including the Coronavirus. Locating a temporary pallet shelter so close to the Silverado community would only cause more harm than good,” wrote a resident whose mother-in-law resides at Silverado. 

“Would you want your parents or your great grandparents to have to witness disturbing behaviors in their tender years?” another wrote.

One resident wrote that the idea was “insane, and entirely reckless.”

“You are out of your mind,” wrote another. 

And another: “This is a really dumb idea.” 

Police Chief Keith Kauffman reported at Tuesday night’s meeting that there hasn’t been “anything really significant” in terms of calls to the police department about behavior at the Kingsdale Avenue location, which is staffed with security around the clock. He added that crime-related issues in the area have been the result of the Metro coming from downtown, not the shelter.

Obagi made the motion to keep the shelter where it is, declare a state of emergency in order to support its continued operation, and direct staff to prepare a memorandum of understanding with BCHD, outlining the terms of the city’s support for the district’s services being proffered at the site. ER



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