El Sereno -- Councilman Kevin de León introduced a motion Tuesday that would direct the city of Los Angeles to negotiate leases and eventually purchase vacant homes owned by Caltrans as part of the abandoned 710 North Freeway Extension Project.
"It makes no sense that unhoused families in El Sereno are living in tents just a stone's throw away from abandoned homes that, with repairs, could provide shelter and help alleviate the city's homelessness crisis," de León said. "We must move quickly to return these parcels to the community and create a fair process by which El Sereno residents are prioritized for rehousing in these homes. As we work to reduce the number of people who live on our streets, every square inch of shelter counts."
Calls to Caltrans representatives seeking comment on de Leon's motion were not immediately returned.
Squatters were evicted and some were detained Thanksgiving morning by authorities after being removed from the Caltrans-owned homes.
The people occupying the homes said they had "reclaimed" the residences as the state wasn't using them. A video posted on YouTube purported to be from the group Reclaim and Rebuild Our Community includes a message to Gov. Gavin Newsom telling him that families who had been living in their cars had moved into several of the homes, where they were "sheltering in place."
Before 11 p.m. the night before Thanksgiving, officers formed a skirmish line along Sheffield Avenue as protesters stood nearby, some yelling at officers and some approaching the line before being pushed back.
Video posted online showed at least one California Highway Patrol team ramming open the door to one of the homes.
The CHP said last week that 62 people had been arrested over the two-day period, with 21 cited for trespassing and burglary, and 41 were cited and released for participating in an unlawful assembly.
The 710 North Freeway Extension Project has been a community issue in El Sereno for decades, posing an existential threat to the health and well-being of the residents of the area, de Leon said.
In order to build the freeway, Caltrans acquired hundreds of parcels along the corridor in preparation for the extension, but many of the houses have become dilapidated due to a lack of proper maintenance and have been deemed uninhabitable.
The councilman said the parcels present a unique opportunity to provide long-term affordable housing and community amenities to the residents of El Sereno.