Homeless encampments are a growing problem all over Southern California, and while some communities are clearing away tent cities, Culver City is taking a different, controversial approach: the city plans to use money to temporarily widen a sidewalk to make room for an encampment.
The homeless encampment on Washington Boulevard beneath the 405 Freeway may be small in comparison to others around LA County, but it has become one of Culver City’s most controversial issues.
Even though there are only a few tents, some people are afraid to get too close, so they walk out into the street.
Some even refuse to walk by on their way to Culver City High School, because their kids don't feel safe.
Mario, a resident who asked that we use only his first name, says navigating around the tents is a problem, but he’s not happy with the solution the city council came up with..
Instead of forcing the homeless people to move, like some other cities have done, the council voted 4 to 1 to spend up to $200,000 to widen the sidewalk so people don’t have to walk in the street.
Some worry by making more room for the encampment the city may entice more homeless people to come to that location.
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"Why should we be during $200,000 to build a build out and tell people - the unhoused - hey you can email on the street - it’s OK," Jeff Cooper said.
Cooper is a Culver City resident and former mayor. He thinks the plan is a waste of taxpayer money.
"Why not give them the money and have them get some kind of housing instead of wasting money?” he said.
The plan would eliminate 15 parking spaces on Washington Boulevard, which neighbors say would drive cars onto residential streets where there’s already not enough parking.
But Culver City’s mayor defends the plan, saying it’s cheaper than a lawsuit. It could cost millions if somebody sues the city for violating the American Disabilities Act because tents are blocking handicap access.
"This is just an interim step to make sure as we work to find solutions to homelessness. We also make sure our residents have safe passage on all of our thoroughfares and sidewalks," Mayor Daniel Lee said.
CalTrans has to sign off on widening the sidewalk because it sits beneath the 405 Freeway. Iif approved, the walkway will be expanded by the end of July, and in October the city will be able to offer housing when two motels are converted under the state-funded Project Room Key.
But, of course, there’s no guarantee the people living in the tents will accept the offer.