State Awards Funding for The 818 Hotel in Woodland Hills Across the Street from Taft Charter High School
On Tuesday, to the surprise of no one who has been monitoring the development, Governor Newsom announced the State has awarded $150 Million towards homeless housing, which includes $33.8 million for The 818 Hotel in Woodland Hills.
Throughout my campaign to succeed Bob Blumenfield as District 3 Los Angeles City Councilmember, I have vowed to be everything the current Council Member is not. Namely, transparent, accountable, and proactive. As the funding has now been rubber-stamped for the hotel conversion by the State, and it is clear both our elected Supervisor, Sheila Kuehl, and City Councilmember, Bob Blumenfield are in full support of the 100-room facility, regardless of their constituent's strong objections, the issue becomes how we as a community unite together and push back against the project. As I have said all along, I am not opposed to homeless housing, but the size and scope of any project must be appropriate for an area to handle and it also must be necessary for the impacted community. This location does not meet either of those criteria.
Why did this happen at the 818 Hotel?
Don’t buy the untruth that the sellers wanted to “be a part of the homeless solution” and were willing to sell their property out of the goodness of their hearts. The owners of The 818 hotel have been looking to sell the property for many years and were unable to find a buyer at the price they were looking for. Then the City and County came knocking and the owners finally found their desperate buyer. As has been confirmed by homeless counts and all the agencies involved with the purchase of the hotel, there simply isn’t the need in our district for the purchase and conversion of The 818 Hotel. Our district will now be opening our doors and bringing in more homeless individuals from all over the “designated service area” which happens to be the entire San Fernando Valley. While it’s been reported that the hotel will be “families only,” many questions remain about how “family” is defined and no adequate answers have been provided. Because of my volunteer work for 20+ years on nonprofit boards, I know there are government programs that are available to families experiencing homelessness due to financial hardship, which includes housing them in the thousands of available empty units across the City. So why does Bob Blumenfield continue to fight to bring everyone from the entire San Fernando Valley here, and place them all in one location, across the street from Taft High School? The 818 project will do nothing to solve, or even address, the current crises that we see on our streets every day. The encampments, the drug addicts, the mentally ill individuals who are all suffering and who need immediate services and are unwilling to choose that path for themselves. It’s obvious to everyone that his only concern is building political capital for his next election and not what's best for the community he represents.
Why weren’t you informed about the situation?
Throughout his nine years in office, Councilmember Blumenfield has been a mostly invisible representative. Throughout my campaign, the vast majority of individuals I’ve spoken to from all over the district have never even heard of Bob Blumenfield. It’s the first question I ask when I’m doing community outreach. “Do you know who your current councilperson is?” Most do not. Those who do, know him as the person who ignores their calls and ignores their appeals for help. That’s just who Councilmember Blumenfield is. And after nine years in office, it should come as no surprise to anyone that The 818 project happened behind our backs. He even said, “there was no reason to let anyone know about it because the project hadn’t been funded yet.” He continues to believe the right time to do community outreach is AFTER a project has been funded and AFTER it’s too late to stop it. That is also why he has been silent about supporting the City of L.A. requesting a report seeking ways to make “temporary” homeless shelters permanent, and allowing homeless shelters to be established and opened in all single-family neighborhoods. Regardless of zoning and CEQA regulations. You can read about that here. Simply, the reason you weren’t informed about the hotel conversions on Ventura Blvd. is that Bluemnfield didn’t want you to know about it because he doesn’t want you to get in his way to stop it.
What would be different if I were in office now?
First, I would be much more proactive in our community so that no individuals live on the street due to financial insecurity. Because I have chaired and served on nonprofit boards in the Valley that provide services for families and children that are less fortunate, I know firsthand what is available to help them. And it would be a priority for my office to extend that help and provide those services to district families in need.
Second, one of the cornerstones of my campaign is to greatly increase workforce and affordable housing in the district so low-income tenants and young adults could afford to live here, where many were raised, and preventing homelessness from occurring in the first place for those that find themselves unhoused due to financial issues. One of the most well-deserved criticisms against Blumenfield is his pathetic record on creating affordable and workforce housing in our district. He has only pushed for 5% of the new units. If he really cared about solving homelessness, he would have been proactive and much more aggressive in pushing for more affordable and workforce housing within all the development going on in our district, which would prevent many lower-income families and individuals from falling into homelessness in the first place. Instead, Blumenfield was reactive and waited for the homeless problem to get out of control. Then he started to push through homeless housing projects at upwards of $700k per unit in “free” housing at the taxpayers’ expense. If you follow the money, it isn’t hard to see why. He is backed and funded by the deep pockets of the developers who require his approval to build in our community and he cannot afford to go against his benefactors. Blumenfield’s hypocrisy is astounding. Instead of requiring his developer friends to build more affordable units in our district in the first place, he sticks the taxpayers with the bill to fund more homeless housing. Then he tries to make anyone who pushes back feel guilty for not going along with his grand plan.
Third, I have a plan called M.O.R.E. which is an innovative services-first program that would rapidly house individuals in location appropriate areas. You can read the details of that plan here: https://www.electscottsilverstein.com/more-homelessness-program. This is a proactive program that can also be used for affordable and workforce housing. As it is a Services First program, treatment is the priority to help ensure that drug-addicted and mentally ill individuals don’t end up right back out on the streets to start the cycle all over again, solving nothing. My M.O.R.E. program is ready to go and could be implemented immediately. In fact, there is an in-district location in Warner Center that would be perfect for the M.O.R.E. program and could be used as an alternative to The 818 Hotel right now – TODAY!
Fourth, I won't remain silent. I would have pushed back against absent Supervisor Kuehl from the get-go. I would have coordinated with the neighborhood, Taft Charter High School’s administration and PTO groups and gotten a consensus. I would have called upon your other elected representatives to have them get involved, including State Senator Henry Stern, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, and School Board representative Nick Melvoin. None of these elected representatives, who also represent the district where The 818 Hotel and The Extended Stay America Hotel are located, have made a public statement about this issue. If I were your City Councilman today, I would have pressed State Senator Henry Stern and Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel to oppose the funding from coming through at the State level.
At a community meeting in February, Councilman Blumenfield didn’t even mention the Extended Stay America hotel was also on the list to be converted into a homeless facility by the City of L.A. even though he knew it was. When I found out about it, I immediately called him out for not disclosing it, and only then did he come clean and let the community know that it was also being purchased to become a homeless facility. It’s no wonder no one trusts him. Why should they? He has lost any goodwill he may have once had.
It is up to all of us to unite together if we want to take serious action on The 818 Hotel, The Extended Stay America Hotel and all other projects moving forward. It is clear that Councilman Blumenfield does not have the skillset, nor is he up for the challenge. Had he bothered to engage his community he would have realized that no one is fighting him on helping individuals and families who are financially distressed. He would have known that his community is upset by what’s happening daily on our streets. The encampments, the open drug use, the theft, the illegal acts. The fact that parents won’t let their children walk their neighborhood streets anymore out of fear. I have been contacted by many community members who have begged Councilman Blumenfield for help only to have been turned away by him. These are not wealthy so-called “NIMBY” homeowners in the district. These are hard-working people who are raising families and can’t get a moment’s peace because they have encampments outside their doorsteps. I recorded a video of one of the more gut-wrenching letters I received from a mom terrorized by the large encampment outside her apartment. That’s what I am trying to prevent and why the community is fighting The 818 project. The mom who sent me the letter told me her street is a warning of what’s to come if The 818 facility continues to move forward and the expected funding also goes through for the Extended Stay America hotel. Why would anyone expect otherwise when there’s no trust in the current leadership that Councilmember Blumenfield provides?
I promise to be your advocate. I promise to fight for what’s best in our community. I will work with you and not against you. After nine years of constituent neglect, I will go out of my way to ensure that the Council office is there to serve you and help you with your issues. It will be a night and day difference in the level of support you receive. You deserve this level of service and I plan to provide that for you. I believe that things can and will get better. Ballots have been delivered and I would be honored to have your vote.