First a few words about the plan hatched by 14th District Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar and approved by his colleagues for an emergency homeless shelter at a warehouse at 1426 Paloma Street, on Downtown’s industrial edge.
City documents indicate that a nonprofit entity called Home at Last Community Development Corp. has been designated to operate the 115-bed shelter and plans to employ 60 full-time employees there.
I had this in mind when I attended a conference on “Rethinking Homelessness: Innovative Necessary Legal and Policy Tools to Solve a Public Health and Humanitarian Crisis,” presented by the Seminar Group, which specializes in continuing legal and professional education.
The day-long gathering drew a classroom full of lawyers, public officials and journalists to the Doubletree Hotel in Little Tokyo on March 8, with David Waite of Cox Castle Nicholson in Century City as co-chair. It covered a lot of ground with a lot of insights from experts.
One of the experts was Cynthia Nagendra, a San Francisco-based director of the Center for Capacity Building at the National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington, D.C.
I asked Nagendra about standard staffing levels for emergency homeless shelters. She said the levels can vary based on circumstances but didn’t hesitate to offer a view that one staffer per 25 beds over three daily shifts is a solid benchmark.
That would work out to about 15 staffers at the Paloma Street facility.
And that brings up some questions about the city’s plans to hand out a contract that calls for four times that number.
Shiny Object, Straight Talk
Now some words about shiny objects and straight talk – and how the former might be used to distract from the latter.
Perhaps that’s what the Central City Association of Los Angeles had in mind with its recent response to an inquiry about the group’s public support for the homeless shelter on Paloma Street.
Here’s the response from a representative of CCA, a leading advocate for property and business owners in the Downtown area and beyond:
We have been busy this week with the Mitchell v. City of Los Angeles case. Have you been following this case? Just want to make sure you have all the info …
There’s the shiny object: Skipping a response to the questions submitted about the homeless shelter and instead pointing to a case that limits what city officials can do when it comes to the seizure of property from homeless persons. A 2016 injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero makes it an important case, especially when it comes to official policies on managing homelessness.
CCA Chief Executive Jessica Lall has spent a good deal of time in recent months advocating for a trial to test Judge Otero’s restrictions in the Mitchell case. CCA has issued its own communications to the public and press, and Lall trekked to City Hall to weigh in publicly.
All of which, again, leads back to the need for some straight talk about the Paloma Street facility, which has to do with the establishment of shelter and other housing that would bring ways to get homeless folks off the street altogether. It’s a near universally accepted goal thanks to voters throughout the city and county who agreed by the required two-thirds margin to pay billions for such efforts through extra property taxes under Proposition HHH and additional sales taxes under Measure H.
Straight talk is needed because the city’s own documents seem to indicate that the lease rate on the space for the shelter on the very average-looking Paloma Street facility will be about twice the market average. And city documents and other research indicate that the city might have tapped a nonprofit with little experience and a bloated plan for staffing to run the shelter – those 60 full-timers.
Those circumstances bring reason to wonder if the millions of dollars designated for the Paloma Street shelter might be able to get many more homeless folks off the street – if only someone was looking out for the best interests of the street dwellers themselves as well as taxpayers throughout the city and county.
The CCA also supported the Paloma Street deal, but declined to answer basic questions that were sent along couple of weeks ago.
Here are the questions, for your consideration:
Does CCA have any knowledge or concerns about:
- The lease rate proposed for the facility?
- The record and/or status of the proposed service provider designated to run the facility?
- The fact that the service provider is expected to staff the 115-bed facility with 60 full-timers?
- Or the presence of a marijuana shop next door to the facility, which plans to offer counseling services for addiction?
Elected officials from Mayor Eric Garcetti to Huizar and a number of his colleagues on the City Council have declined to answer those questions – choosing silence over a chance to make a case for the Paloma Street facility for the benefit of the constituents who will pay for it.
Now so has the CCA – which instead offered up the shiny object of the Mitchell case.
Here’s some more straight talk from the outside looking in on the Paloma Street deal: Legitimate answers to the outstanding questions should fit onto a one-page briefing memo.
The stonewall erected by the elected of City Hall is understandable – a number of them are likely preoccupied with the calculus of political survival. The FBI and IRS have already conducted one raid at City Hall, after all, and the feds continue an investigation that raises red flags about corruption there.
The CCA ought to realize that its public support of the Paloma Street homeless shelter makes the organization part of the atmosphere at City Hall – and the inability or unwillingness to answer basic questions about terms of the deal raise a different sense of caution.
Some potential red flags can be found in a recent post the CCA published publicly, urging city officials to take the Mitchell case to trial. Here’s some lines from “CCA Reflects,” published online in August of last year:
Judge Otero also needs to hear about the tremendous progress the City has made on homelessness since the injunction was issued in 2016. We’ve passed Proposition HHH and Measure H, identified interim housing sites and opened a storage facility, sobering center and the Refresh spot. We also are waiting for the $85 million for interim housing from the State surplus budget that we fought for. $20 million of this will go to Downtown, and two sites have already been identified in Downtown. All of this progress is not recognized in Mitchell, and a trial would give the City the opportunity to stand up and showcase this work.
There’s no doubt that the members of the community of business that CCA represents have some worthy arguments to make about the Mitchell case – and the right to make them.
It’s also worth noting to CCA and its members that a desire to score points with the judge on the Mitchell case might have played right into the hands of a culture of corruption at City Hall, sending a questionable deal on Paloma Street through without the sort of rigorous questions that should accompany public spending.
It remains to be seen, in the meantime, whether the shelter on Paloma Street has caught the eyes of the federal investigators.
Let it Shine!
Sometimes it’s actually about the shiny object – that’s largely the case with the glossy metro magazines you’ll find in most urban markets.
Few folks have more experience shining a light on the high life of Orange County than Kedric Francis, who recently took on the mantle of top editor for Blue Door, a job that comes with the challenge of winning a place for the latest glossy entry there.
No small feat in OC’s crowded field, which already includes, among various others: Orange Coast – a sibling to Los Angeles magazine; Modern Luxury, which counts Angeleno and LA Confidential as sister publications; and Coast, which is published by the Orange County Register, part of the Southern California News Group, which includes the LA Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, the Daily Breeze in the South Bay, the Whittier Daily News and Pasadena Star News and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in its stable.
Blue Door stands alone in SoCal, with its closest sibling a publication in Sun Valley, Idaho – and both are backed by U.K.-born tech entrepreneur Justin Williams.
Francis of off to a good start at the helm – his first issue did what his competitors forgot to do by going big with photos to give readers an in-depth spread on Thom Mayne’s plans for the new Orange County Museum of Art at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts campus in Costa Mesa.
The second issue of Blue Door just came out, and Francis uses his column to explain the title, telling readers it is “evocative of the architecture, art, photography and real estate stories we include in each issue.”
Francis is a veteran of a number of metro titles who’s as comfortable at the 4th Street Market in Santa Ana as he is at the Water Grill in Costa Mesa – he knows how to keep the high-end focus interesting.
It will be even more interesting to see if Williams and Blue Door Publisher Maria Barnes find an interest in OC for a business model that gives advertisers the chance to buy in as “members,” setting the publication up as a mutual association of sorts.
Haddad, Horne Head North
Don’t expect FivePoint Holdings LLC boss Emile Haddad to talk much about the sort of shiny objects that distract from straight talk during the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.’s annual Economic Outlook at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on March 14.
Haddad will be joined for a panel discussion by Lew Horne, divisional president for CBRE’s operations in SoCal, Arizona and Hawaii; and Ravi Rajan, president of the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia.
Haddad is nothing if not laser-focused – he’s been known to tell advice seekers that a key to life in the digital age is to shut out the noise in favor of genuine insights.
It’s notable that Haddad – who also oversees the Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine and is in various stages of other major projects in the Bay Area – is set for a public appearance in the territory of the Newhall Ranch community FivePoint has set out to build after decades of delays there.
Kudos, by the way, to Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley EDC, for getting Haddad and Horne to head north for the panel. Bigger kudos for putting the two real estate heavyweights in a conversation with Rajan, whose position at the helm of an institution of higher education keyed on the arts should make the event well worth the drive.
Look for more from the event @SullivanSaysSC later this week, with a good chance of more still in next week’s column.
Leiweke’s Long-Term Effect
It’s a brief mention but gets bigger if you give some thought to the overall context of Sports Illustrated’s recent spread on the revival of Toronto Maple Leafs – perhaps the most interesting brand in sports.
The comeback story keys on team president and National Hockey League Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan, who does deserve plenty of credit.
A single line notes Tim Leiweke – who took over the Maple Leafs for a spell after he parted ways with Downtown-based AEG Worldwide and the LA Kings – as the guy who had the bright idea to bring Shanahan to Toronto.
Leiweke is back in the game these days as chief executive of Westwood-based Oak View Group, which has a hand in various stadium developments and other aspects of the live-entertainment business. Its portfolio includes the job of overhauling the Key Arena as the home of Seattle’s newly approved, yet unnamed National Hockey League franchise before it starts play in the fall of 2021.
Expect Leiweke to continue following the progress up there once the arena is ready, though. That’s because the Seattle club will count on another Leiweke to bring the sort of success he found in L.A. before preparing the ground for Toronto’s rise – Tim’s younger brother Tod is chief executive of the new team.
A Creek Runs Through It
Here’s something you don’t expect in Irvine, courtesy of the recent rains:
The rainstorms also have left SoCal’s flora looking nearly electrified with color compared with the washed-out tones of the drought years. This Bird of Paradise looks ready to fly.