Westside Councilmember Mike Bonin is looking at underused public parking lots to be put into service for safe parking, safe camping, or potentially tiny home villages. While none are in Culver City, they are close enough to be able to take some of the pressure off Ballona Creek as a place where homeless people set up camp.
Under current consideration are a parking lot at 11999 Vista Del Mar serving Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey, an RV park serving Dockweiler Beach at 120001 Vista Del Mar, and a parking lot next to Fisherman’s Village at 13755 Fiji Way in Marina del Rey. All locations are owned by Los Angeles County. How many houses each site can support has yet to be determined.
A tiny house is defined as a dwelling unit with a maximum of 400 square feet. The minimalist architecture is popular all over the world as a way to live less expensively and reduce waste. Tiny house villages run the full spectrum from deluxe mobile-home style parks with community centers and amenities to simple spaces dedicated to housing for the unhoused. Many tiny houses are also designed to be ‘off grid’ meaning that they use solar panels for electricity, recycle rainwater, and may rely on bottled propane for additional energy.
Jay Shafer, considered by many to be the father of the movement, built his first ‘tiny house’ in Iowa, in 1999, and lived in it for five years. It was a 110 square feet, with a steep gabled roof and a porch. Shafer himself had struggled to be able to afford housing and thought that what worked for him might also work for others. In 2002, Shafer co-founded, along with Greg Johnson, Shay Salomon and Nigel Valdez, the Small House Society. Salomon and Valdez subsequently published their guide to the modern Small House Movement, Little House on a Small Planet (2006.)
Multiple YouTube channels offer tours of tiny houses and guides on how to design and build them. In many countries, the challenge is that they don’t have a legal category of their own. Builders must design for code specifications for mobile homes or standard dwellings; a tiny house isn’t really either. But their continued popularity is putting pressure on municipalities on how to designate them.
With these tiny houses being municipally owned, many legal issues will be circumvented.
Los Angeles County already has on success story to lean on – their partnership with the non-profit Hope of the Valley is already operating one tiny home village in the Valley. The shelter opened last year on Chandler Boulevard in North Hollywood.
With the cost of housing unaffordable for many in Los Angeles County, small can be beautiful.
Photo of Chandler Boulevard Tiny House Village courtesy San Fernando Valley Business Journal