Redondo Beach seeks home for homeless Pallet House people [updated]

by Kevin Cody

Over 100 comments have been submitted to the Redondo Beach City Council about a proposal to move 15 pallet houses for the homeless to the Beach Cities Health District parking lot, on Prospect Avenue in south Redondo. The 8-foot-tall by 8-foot-long aluminum pallet houses have been housing homeless on city owned property on Kingsdale Avenue, in north Redondo, since December 28. (They are called Pallet Houses because they are shipped on pallets.)

The council is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its Tuesday, July 13 meeting.

Approximately 50 percent of the council comments oppose the move. Approximately 30 percent support the move. But nearly 100 percent of the comments have one thing in common. They reflect the city’s north/south divide. Comments from north Redondo residents almost unanimously expressed support for moving the pallet houses to the BCHD parking lot. Comments from South Redondo residents almost unanimously support leaving the pallet houses where they are.

The council has been vexed on where to place the shelters since last year, when it received approximately $1 million in federal and county grants for homeless programs. Last October, the council voted to place the pallet houses in north Redondo, but with the understanding they would be moved to south Redondo after six months. Seaside Lagoon and Moonstone Park, in King Harbor, were mentioned as potential south Redondo sites. 

District 5 (north Redondo) Councilwoman Laura Emdee recalled this week that the locations discussed last October were limited to city owned properties. Because of funding time restraints, there would not have been time to negotiate with private property owners. But now, those time restraints are not a factor. 

Unlike the Kingsdale and BCHD locations, Emdee added, there are two Redondo locations zoned for emergency shelters. One is a city-owned, vacant lot behind the main post office on Catalina Avenue. The other is a privately owned, self storage facility at Marine Avenue and the 405 Freeway.

“All of the potential locations have pros and cons. We should look at all the options,” Emdee said.

Pharmacist Nathan Bhakta, owner of South Bay Pharmacy since 1992, wants more information about the pallet houses. Photo by Kevin Cody

At their April 13 meeting, the council voted to keep the pallet shelters at the north Redondo location. But, in acknowledgement of its October promise to move the housing to south Redondo, the council also directed staff to ask the BCHD if the pallet houses could be moved to its parking lot.

Councilman Zein Obagi, who represents District 4, where the pallet houses are now located, questioned why the issue is coming before the council for reconsideration. 

“The pallet shelter on Kingsdale has been a tremendous success. We don’t fix things that aren’t broken,” he said. 

District 1 (south Redondo) Councilman Nils Nehrenheim, who proposed talking to BCHD, said he thought of BCHD after looking on Google maps. 

“I saw this large asphalt parking lot that is secluded and secured with access to medical facilities,” Nehrenheim said.

City Attorney Mike Webb, who has spearheaded Redondo’s homeless efforts, subsequently wrote in a report to the council, “We met with BCHD staff on two occasions and there is a willingness to allow the City to utilize a portion of their back parking lot for a period of six months.”

Last Friday, a memo from BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly was distributed to BCHD tenants, advising them that the issue will be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting.

In an interview this week, Bakaly said, “Homelessness is a determinant of health, and so helping the homeless is consistent with the district’s goals. I’m impressed with what Redondo has done. The pallet homes are well managed and clean. Harbor Interfaith has an office there. There’s 24/7 security. An ordinance prohibits camping within 500 yards so there’s no risk of the area becoming a homeless encampment.

“If Redondo wants our help, we’ll weigh the issues with compassion, objectivity and analysis.” Bakaly said.

Tracey Bailey, of OceanSide Acupuncture, is concerned for her patients’ and employees’ safety. Photo by Kevin Cody

His tenant’s responses to the pallet houses have largely mirrored the comments submitted to the city council. 

Pharmacist Nathan Bhakta, owner of South Bay Pharmacy, has been a BCHD tenant since 1992. He said he sympathizes with the homeless, but needs to learn more about the safety provisions before expressing an opinion on the proposal.

Obstetrician Louise Connolly and acupuncturist Tracey Bailey, of OceanSide Acupuncture, are also longtime BCHD tenants.They oppose the proposal because of concern for their patients’ safety.

Silverado Senior Living vice president Daizel Gasperian, offered a litany of objections in his comment to the city council, wrote, “We are strongly opposing the temporary homeless transitional pallet shelter…. We care for over 60 vulnerable seniors with memory impairment and families who visit regularly. In addition, we employ over 80 associates, providing care 24 hours per day. This shelter presents a safety issue for our residents, families and associates. We have had ongoing challenges with the homeless coming into our building, presenting a risk to our safety…. We have experienced verbal confrontation and threats…. We have experienced poor sanitary situations that present an infection control problem that leads to questionable COVID exposure. Although we are sympathetic to their need for shelter and support, there must be a better location away from our senior living community, surrounding residential area and schools….” 

Nehrenheim agreed the homeless can present a health problem. 

“That’s why a few years ago we stopped the church at Broadway and Torrance from feeding the homeless, because it was causing an encampment, which could lead to public health issues. The pallet houses get them off the street. And according to Police Chief Kauffman’s report, there have been no public safety issues with the pallet houses on Kingsdale. The people there take pride in them. They decorate them with flowers,” Nehrenheim said.

The BCHD campus is in Councilman Christian Horvath’s District 3, which straddles north and south Redondo. He said this week, he’s not opposed to the pallet housing being moved to the BCHD location.

“The Kingsdale site is well managed and not creating a problem. But if the council wants to honor its promise to move the pallets to South Redondo for six months, I’m fine with that,” he said.

City attorney Mike Webb wrote in his report to the council that the pallet houses, in their first three months, helped 25 homeless transition to permanent housing. Webb’s report cited support for the program from local churches, the Woman’s and Moose Clubs, and numerous other groups. 

A homeless census in January found 92 homeless living in Redondo. ER

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Written by: Kevin Cody

Kevin is the publisher of Easy Reader and Beach. Share your news tips. 310 372-4611 ext. 110 or kevin[at]easyreadernews[dot]com

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