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Homeless Problem a Council Dilemma

February 02, 1992

Santa Monica City Atty. Robert M. Myers and his opponents present a sorrowful spectacle of ideological impasse. One wonders if they really want to solve the homeless problem.

If a landlord had the unconscionable temerity to rent an apartment without plumbing, heat, electricity, walls, and without a roof, Myers could justifiably enforce all ordinances to correct such an injustice. However, Myers is not so much driven by ethics and justice as he is by ideology. His recent attack upon what he calls oppressive legislation reveals the ideologue rather than real human understanding.

Recent newspaper reports state that Myers and his staff will not write the law the City Council seeks to prevent people from living in parks. Myers does not realize that his ideological approach puts him in the same class as the landlord of unconscionable temerity!

The homeless, under the Myers dogma, are left to sleep and live in our parks without plumbing, heat, electricity, walls, and without a roof--the worst kind of oppression! To compound the oppression of landlord Myers' type of "open-air" tenancy, there must be added the fear of stabbings, robberies, rape and other criminal acts constantly confronting the homeless. The oppression of homelessness drags down not only the self-esteem of the homeless, but also that of the entire community.

Let me hasten to say that Myers' opponents chatter an ideology of even less human understanding. Like Myers, they cannot really get to work on viable alternatives to homelessness and joblessness. Without jobs and homes, people have to live somewhere. While Myers would let them live in the parks, his opponents would have them locked up for doing so. The latter approach fails to realize that all of our detention facilities are inhumanly overcrowded! We need better alternatives.

There are two very long, publicly owned corridors of land running from the Santa Monica Freeway and the old Exposition right of way. If we don't act promptly toward wise use of these two corridors, we will lose a golden opportunity to help the homeless out of their "oppressive" state.

The Exposition right of way is 14 miles of vacant land. We can put thousands of people to work building all kinds of housing on this vital land. UCLA is losing potential professors because the high price of housing in West Los Angeles prohibits them from moving here. That portion of the right of way that traverses West L.A. should be used for faculty/student housing. Building housing of all types means jobs, jobs, jobs!

Using the airspace over the Santa Monica Freeway for a truly rapid transit system would also create badly needed employment. Our aerospace and automobile workers can be put to work building the trains and equipment for such a necessary system. The freeway airspace is a better route for rapid transit, since it is uninterrupted and runs directly from Santa Monica right into downtown L.A.

Wisely using our publicly owned land corridors will create jobs, homes and give us the rapid transit system we urgently need. It will help end the oppression of homelessness.

ALEX COTA

Los Angeles

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