Mayor Victor Gordo recently visited a temporary housing site to be made of hundreds of small, so-called “pallet housing” units along Pasadena’s border near Eagle Rock and Highland Park.
The project, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council, has led to concerns among residents of West Pasadena and city officials.
“I am in touch with Councilmember (Kevin) De León in the city of Los Angeles,” Gordo told Pasadena Now on Tuesday. “It seems the tiny houses are the result of litigation. He assures me that there will be services for the residents of the tiny houses and that safety and security of the residents in and around the tiny home project will be of paramount importance.”
Gordo said he plans to stay in touch with De León and other officials in the city of Los Angeles.
The LA City Council called for city officials to begin the design process for temporary homeless housing sites at 7570 N. Figueroa St., as well as on an unused section of Arroyo Drive near Avenue 64.
A spokesperson for De León told the Boulevard Sentinel that the Eagle Rock site was intended to house up to 134 people, while the Highland Park site was expected to be able to support 224 people.
Although he has expressed concerns about the project, Gordo has reiterated his support for affordable housing and helping people experiencing homelessness.
“The thinking is that moving people to tiny homes will keep them off the street,” Gordo said. “I’m not 100% convinced that this is the best approach. I believe that there are other approaches that can be taken but this is outside of our jurisdiction. And so we will monitor it closely.
“It’s important to the people of Pasadena that the individuals that are going to be living at these homes receive the mental health services and other services that they need. Pasadena residents are very kind and understanding and want people to be housed. We want people to receive services. We just want to ensure that it’s done correctly for the benefit of the residents.”
Local residents living nearby have expressed concerns regarding the project, and elected officials have noted a lack of conversation with neighboring cities.
Gordo recalled an earlier instance when a similar project was initiated in downtown Los Angeles.
Once the site of a shantytown inhabited by people experiencing homelessness, Dome Village, The Washington Post reported, was created in 1993 by homeless advocate Ted Hayes.
The 20 polyester fiberglass domes, purchased for $10,000 each with funds provided by ARCO, were designed by architect Craig Chamberlain, a former student of Buckminster Fuller.
Hayes intended to create stability for the village’s 34 self-governing tenants. The village offered numerous programs for its residents, including workshops in computer literacy, job seeking, legal issues, and children’s theater, among others.
The village folded in 2006 when tenants, who paid $70 a month, were hit with a 700 percent rent hike that resulted in skyrocketing taxes and fees that ranged as high as $18,000-plus per month, according to a Los Angeles Daily News article.
“I am concerned,” Gordo said. “It did not work. We’re dealing with human lives here, and we’re dealing importantly with very fragile human lives that need intensive assistance.”
According to Gordo, that assistance could include addiction rehabilitation, as well as mental health issues
“The health challenges and the need for housing becomes a much more complicated issue than simply putting up tiny homes,” Gordo said. “Four walls, no matter the size, is not sufficient to help the demographic that we’re looking to help. It’s just not.”
Gordo said he has another meeting coming up on the matter. He plans to get more information and push for a meeting to explain the matter to residents of Eagle Rock and Pasadena.
“We all need socialization,” Gordo said. “We all need all of the different necessities addressed. The folks in Los Angeles tell me that they will be provided on site, and they’re going to get me more information in writing, so I can assure the residents of Pasadena that in fact is the case.
“I’ve spoken with members of the L.A. County housing authority, and people who are attempting to house veterans throughout the county, and they tell me, look, we’ve got apartments. But without the services that these vets need to heal their emotional wounds, their medical wounds, their addictions… Without the assistance to heal those wounds, they just leave,” Gordo said. “They house them and then 30 days later a caseworker comes back and the individual is gone. Storing people is not a solution to homelessness. Helping people by providing the requisite services and the housing is the approach that we need to take.”