City to look at building homeless housing in Echo Park

Echo Park -- City staff and a committee have backed a proposal to build affordable housing on a recreation yard -- a move opposed by a social services agency that runs the facility.

A report from the City Administrative Officer recommends that the city seek proposals from developers to build between 54 and nearly 100 units of affordable and multi-family housing with social services at 1146 N. Glendale Blvd. The site, which is slightly larger than half an acre, is wedged between restaurants and nightclubs to the north on Sunset Boulevard and a church parking garage on the south. 

The report also recommends that any new development consider the feasibility of including recreational uses that are open to the community. 

The recommendations were in response to a proposal by Councilman Mitch O'Farrell to build housing for the homeless on the site. O’Farrell’s office has favored the recreation area as a site for homeless housing because it is centrally located near major bus lines. 

The property is owned by the city but most of it has been leased to El Centro del Pueblo, a nonprofit that has offered recreation programs on the site's basketball and handball courts. Part of the site also includes a few public parking spaces.

El Centro, which is headquartered next door to the outdoor recreation area, has campaigned against O'Farrell's proposal, saying it would damage its programs for at-risk youth.  

"As an organization, we are committed to helping the city solve the homeless crisis," said El Centro on its website. "What we don't support is the City creating situations that pit communities against one another and creating conditions where at-risk kids lose vital sources."

The nonprofit is headed by Sandra Figueroa, a police commissioner and ally of Mayor Eric Garcetti. In fact, Garcetti made one of his first public appearances after being elected as mayor in 2013 at the El Centro playing courts.

The report and its recommendations have been approved by the city Municipal Facilities Committee. But it still must be reviewed by other committees before heading to the full city council for a vote. 

Meanwhile, El Centro del Pueblo is preparing an Aug. 14 rally at City Hall as part of its campaign to stop the housing proposal.

The Eastsider contacted officials at Council District 13 and El Centro del Pueblo for comment.

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