The report from the city staff was, quite literally, chilling. Tevis Barnes, Culver City’s Housing and Rent Control Manger opened the discussion on Culver City’s application for funds from Project Homekey with the weather report. “This evening and tomorrow there is heavy weather predicted at 40 [degrees and] below. The winter shelter program from Los Angeles County does not have a shelter in [area] five . The nearest shelter is in [area] four, about 11 miles away. There are NO cold weather beds available in five.”
Five is not just the number of the administrative district that includes Culver City. It is also the the daily death count citing the fatalities that result from exposure every 24 hours from people forced to sleep on the streets.
The first item of business for the reorganized Culver City City Council on Dec. 13, 2021 was Action Item #4, The discussion of the Project Homekey Application, to acquire two Culver City motel sites to be converted to 38 supportive housing units and 35 interim housing units.
Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, of the Culver City Committee on Homeless. spoke from the virtual podium to support the proposal, noting that the annual homeless count showed an increase in homelessness in the the city. “We have two motels that have been throughly studied for the project. I urge the council to apply.”
Barnes also offered, “No degree of outreach or data tracking will help us solve homelessness. The only thing that will help is the creation of housing.”
Mark Lipman, also a member of the city committee on homelessness, emphasized from the audience that “Every single time a police budget item comes up on the agenda, I hear ‘if it saves one life, it is money well spent.’ This also applies to homelessness; if it saves one life, it is money well spent.”
City Manager John Nachbar stated “The key question facing the council is whether or not the council is willing to underwrite the [required] five years of operating costs at $4.9 million. We have identified some areas where we can offset the costs… It does not make sense for us to apply for the funds for Project Homekey without a guarantee that the city will have the operating funds [to maintain the program.]”
In his remarks, Council member Alex Fisch offered “I don’t think we will come up short. [Funding from Measure H is available] and I think the County will support this. I also think this is a once- in- multiple-generations opportunity…that will be of tremendous benefit to future city councils. I’m also confident that there are additional private partners out there who have not had an opportunity to make good on their statements of continuing types of support fro the city.”
Newly seated Mayor Dr. Daniel Lee focused on the balance for residents. “We do have two very strong factions in the city who are concerned about homelessness in the city. There are a number of people who don’t want to see unhoused people around them – there are other people who are more concerned about the unhoused people themselves…This could potentially solve both of these groups of people’s concerns…Since this is adaptive reuse, similar to Upward Bound House, [a shelter for families located on Washington Boulevard] the city has experience with that.”
Because of the requirement that a dollar amount be attached to funding, Nachbar noted that there may be a need to bring it back for support with a budget item in January. Both Barnes and City Attorney Heather Baker agreed that exact figures could be added in once the numbers were finalized.
The motion passed with 4 ayes and one no, Council member Eriksson being the sole dissent.
Future probability for supportive and interim housing got a little bit warmer.