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Site Found for Trailers to Shelter Homeless

December 08, 1988|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

After searching for a year and a half, Los Angeles officials have found a Westside location for some of the 102 mobile homes the city purchased as transitional housing for homeless families, and it appears that nearby homeowner groups will not oppose use of the property.

Mayor Tom Bradley announced Monday that 15 of the 2- and 3-bedroom trailers will be hauled out of storage in a maintenance yard near Torrance and placed on 2.1 acres of federal land near Wilshire and Sepulveda boulevards in West Los Angeles.

City and federal officials said they hope the first homeless families will move into the trailers before the end of the year. Fourteen of the trailers will be reserved for families of homeless veterans, while one will be set aside for use by a social services agency, probably the Salvation Army.

Community Support

"This is marvelous," said Sue Young, vice president of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., which opposed earlier plans to place some of the trailers near the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Sawtelle and Wilshire boulevards. "The community over here will be very much behind this."

Sandy Brown, of the nearby Friends of Westwood homeowners group, also praised the selection. "If you are looking for a place to put homeless on the Westside . . . it is a good place," she said. "You are right on the bus lines, near the freeway and schools and not far from a market."

The city has struggled since July, 1987, to find locations for the trailers after Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores balked at plans to place most of them at housing projects in her district, which stretches from Watts to San Pedro. Flores insisted that the burden of housing homeless families be shared citywide, and the mayor soon pledged to search for sites throughout the city, including the affluent Westside.

Flores said Tuesday that she hopes Bradley's selection of the Westside site marks a new effort by the city to spread out its programs for the poor and homeless.

"This is the first time that this kind of service has been provided . . . outside those areas of the city that traditionally take care of the homeless and other social problems," Flores said. "Maybe it will start a trend."

The city has placed 14 trailers in Flores' district, 10 on the Eastside, 8 in the San Fernando Valley and 8 in South Los Angeles--but until this week had been unable to find a Westside location. Neighborhood opposition grounded proposals to place 15 trailers at the Veterans Administration hospital and 7 trailers at Mar Vista Gardens, a housing project.

City officials said it has been difficult to find vacant land on the Westside that is well-suited for homeless families and available at no cost. Under the transitional housing program, families selected by social service agencies may spend up to six months in the trailers while the agencies help them find jobs and search for permanent housing.

Land in County

Ironically, the site selected by the city is not within the city limits. The West Los Angeles federal complex--including the Federal Building and the Veterans Administration hospital--lies in unincorporated county territory. Several years ago, the trailer site, which is owned by the U.S. General Services Administration, was used as a bus terminal for shuttles to Los Angeles International Airport.

An aide to Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the communities surrounding the federal property, said Yaroslavsky was not involved in negotiations for the site but had suggested the location when the city purchased the trailers.

"We are pleased that the mayor has finally been able to find a place to put the trailers," said Yaroslavsky's chief deputy Alisa Katz. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to help out homeless veterans and their families."

Beth Bergman, a Bradley aide overseeing placement of the trailers, said the city was interested in the former airport shuttle site in part because the San Diego Freeway and Wilshire and Sepulveda boulevards separate it from nearby residential neighborhoods.

"We wouldn't have looked at it if there were homes right around there," Bergman said. "We have a very careful eye."

The city first approached the General Services Administration about placing trailers on the property shortly after the $1.5-million trailer purchase. General Services Administration spokeswoman Mary Filippini said the proposal was rejected at that time because the property was locked in a legal dispute. The federal government put the property up for sale in March, 1986, but the highest bidder, developer Kaufman & Broad, has been unable to purchase the property because of a dispute over the government's right to sell it.

Filippini said her agency recently changed its mind about the trailers because it appears the property will be tied up in litigation for at least a year.

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