Councilman Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion Tuesday to develop comprehensive protocols for how and when to open “smoke relief” centers and expand accessibility to them across Los Angeles.

Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic and excessive heat, heavy toxic smoke from the Bobcat and El Dorado fires is affecting local residents, leaving unhoused people and other vulnerable Angelenos with no place to seek refuge, Blumenfield said.

“If public health officials are telling people to stay home because the air is too dangerous, we need to step up to help the over 36,000 homeless people on the streets of L.A. with nowhere to safely breathe,” the councilman said.

When temperatures become too extreme, cooling centers are opened, but a similar protocol does not exist for when air quality is dangerous. Even with cooling centers, there are not enough and often they are too far away to be fully useful, Blumenfield said.

On Sept. 6, when temperatures surged in Woodland Hills to 121 degrees, there was only one city cooling center open in the West Valley with space for 10 people, the councilman said. That left 700 homeless people in the district to suffer in the extreme elements.

Tens of thousands of housed Los Angeles residents of all ages and health histories don’t have or can’t afford to use air conditioning or air filtrations systems, he added.

Blumenfield’s motion specifically instructs the Emergency Management Department, Department of Recreation and Parks and the General Services Department to prepare a plan and protocols to open certain city facilities during times of dangerous air quality. The plan would include staffing, facility and outreach needs.

Blumenfield also requested those departments along with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to draft a report on what additional city-owned sites could be open during emergencies that would better serve the unhoused population and whether hours could be expanded. He also requested that city officials explore private partnerships to further address the issue.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *