L.A. Lets Developer Build Bridge to Avoid the Homeless

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A developer in downtown Los Angeles, faced with the uncomfortably close proximity of a homeless camp, received permission from the city to build a pedestrian bridge between his buildings to avoid having to deal with terrestrial problems.

The city council voted 11-0 Friday to let developer Geoffrey H. Palmer put a bridge across a main street near the 110 Freeway to link two sections of his 526-unit Da Vinci apartment complex. His attorney, Duncan Joseph Moore, had argued to the city that “the area surrounding the project site (and the tunnel under the 110 freeway) are often congregating places for homeless persons,” according to KPCC

That just won't do. It's not that homeless people are annoying and kinda yucky. It's a safety issue, he argued. “In addition, within a one-mile radius of the project site crimes are occurring at an average of three to four crimes per day,” Moore wrote. Wow. That's a lot of crime. In fact, that's a lot more crime than the city was aware of.

City planner Blake Lamb said back in February she could identify only 24 crimes that were reported within a 1,000 yards of Palmer's property. And all of that crime had occurred at other Palmer apartment projects nearby.

One altercation with the homeless camp that probably everyone was aware of occurred March 23 when actor Zac Efron and a friend got out of their vehicle there and engaged in a fight with street people. The actor, who has a history of substance abuse, said he and a friend ran out of gas while searching for a late-night restaurant and were unceremoniously set upon by ruffians before the cops arrived and broke it up. 

Despite the paperwork, City Councilman Jose Huisar, whose district includes the Da Vinci, denied the development had anything to do with the homeless. It was simply to give future tenants more convenient access to amenities, like shopping.  “It's simply for internal circulation amongst this development,” he said.

The Department of City Planning opposed it. And the city's Planning Commission, which is appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, rejected the bridge last month. They reasoned that a bridge was inconsistent with the city's effort to encourage development in some of downtown's dicier areas by getting people out and about in the neighborhood, not drifting safely above it.

Huisar disagreed and brought the matter to the council's Planning and Land Use Committee, which he chaired. The Los Angeles Times reported that Lamb told the committee her department did not believe you deal with the homeless problem through “the physical segregation of people.”

Business people and neighborhood residents, at least those not living on the street, agreed with the developer and Huisar. And so did his fellow council members.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

La City Council Approves Pedestrian Bridge for Downtown Development (by Alice Walton, KPCC)

Downtown Bridge That Would Let Tenants Bypass Homeless Approved (by David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times)

Proposal for Walkway Over Downtown L.A. Homeless Camp Stirs Debate (by David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times)

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