The Los Angeles City Council’s Homeless and Poverty Committee Thursday unanimously rejected an effort to rescind Proposition HHH funding for a homeless housing project in Councilman John Lee’s district.
In his motion to rescind funding from the proposed 55-unit Topanga Apartments project, to be located at 10243 N. Topanga Blvd. in Chatsworth, Lee cited the high costs of Proposition HHH-funded projects. According to a September 2020 report by Controller Ron Galperin, the median cost of Proposition HHH projects is $531,000.
When the proposition to set aside $1.2 billion for homeless housing was passed by voters in 2016, the city anticipated that each unit of supportive housing would cost between $350,000 and $414,000. More than 1,000 planned units cost more than $600,000, and one project was more than $700,000 per unit, Galperin reported.
Lee, who does not sit on the committee, argued in his motion that “the finite amount of public money provided through Prop HHH would be better used in ways that provide more immediate relief,” noting that some projects take up to six years to complete.
Lee said he sought to rescind the funding from the Topanga Apartments project and instead fund a permanent supportive housing project that would be cheaper, have a quicker timeline and be in a different location within his district.
“I am not here to block a project. I am here to ask the city to support us in building a better one,” he told the five-member committee.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the panel, responded that the city must “appreciate commitments and investments that are already underway.”
While ground hasn’t been broken yet, the developer Affirmed Housing told the Los Angeles Times in April that the property was purchased, permits were being processed, additional funding was lined up and the groundbreaking was planned for later in the year.
Ridley-Thomas added that funding has already been awarded from the state to house veterans at the site and “it’s tough to figure out how to be in a position of turning back state dollars.”
“I don’t know how you reconcile saying to the state, `the situation in Los Angeles is dire, the circumstances in which we find ourselves are unprecedented’ … and we take an action to return those resources, push back on HHH,” he said.
Councilman Kevin de Leon, who had seconded Lee’s motion, proposed delaying the committee vote for 60 days to give Lee and his staff time to develop an alternative project, but Ridley-Thomas said “time is of the essence.”
“Renegotiating projects is hugely problematic when time is not our friend,” he said. “We simply have to be clear that marching forward is the order of the day.”
The motion will now go before the City Council, with the committee’s recommendation that it be voted down.