Sylmar residents have unloaded their anger on two proposed housing projects for homeless people because they say their community is being used to unfairly “dump” more homeless people here than in other LA Council and county district zones.
For resident Penny McMillan, all of this is simply too much.
“I think that Sylmar is willing to do its fair share to help the homeless housing crisis, as long as other communities are sharing the burden,” she told the Sylmar Neighborhood Council at its Feb. 28 meeting, where the projects were presented to attendees.
“Sylmar in the past year has seen 288 bed units opened or put in planning for bridge, affordable (Section 8) housing,” McMillan continued. “When I read Sylmar has more (units) in planning right now than any other community in CD7 (Council District 7) and indeed in the San Fernando Valley…as I said Sylmar is willing to do its share, but it should be a fair share, and the burden should definitely not be all on us.”
John G., another resident, said that all these developments are “big business, huge business,” and that developers have “sugarcoated very beautifully” this issue, but the reality is that these projects are “going to negatively impact” the city.
These projects are on top of the news last year that an armory in Sylmar, long used as an emergency winter shelter, would be converted into a year-round facility for homeless women.
This is not the first time Sylmar residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the number of homeless people in the area or said plans to shelter them.
In September 2016, several dozen residents calling themselves the Sylmar Advocacy Group held a town hall meeting following the stabbing death of a young security guard at the hands of a reported transient outside a shopping center at the corner of Hubbard Street and Glenoaks Boulevard, and held a march protesting what they said was the large number of indigents in the area.
One project is the Restorative Care Village at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center that would consist of five two-story modular buildings with 16 beds each, for a total of 80 beds.
The project — estimated at $12 million — would be part of the hospital campus, located at 14445 Olive View Drive in Sylmar. It will be discussed at length during a scheduled meeting on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Dr. Alex Kopelowicz, chief of Psychiatry at Olive View, noted that the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles “is an enormous one” and affects not only the Skid Row downtown area, but “all over, including the San Fernando Valley.”
Last year’s homeless count in Los Angeles county declined by 3 percent (53,195), but rose in the San Fernando Valley (7,773).
Kopelowicz said the Restorative Care Village “would help us address the problem of homelessness where it exists, which is in all of our neighborhoods.” He said the facility would provide physical, mental, and any other care needed for individuals to help them transition to permanent housing.
The project is similar to others being proposed at the LAC+USC Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos and in the Antelope Valley.
“Restorative Care Villages will better equip the county to care for our most vulnerable residents who are in need of holistic treatment and care,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on September 2018, when the board unanimously approved the proposals.
Eric Matos, health deputy for Barger — in whose district the facility would be built — said the Village would have four separate components: urgent care, residential treatment program, recuperative care and a wellness center.
Matos said if a patient is released from the hospital and is homeless, said patient would be placed in the Restorative Care Village.
“The idea is that this will reduce the amount of readmissions into the hospital and provide them with a sustainable level of care so that they can transition successfully back into housing,” Matos said.
The other project is called The Link, a permanent supportive housing development to be built at 12667 San Fernando Road in Sylmar that consists of 56 units: 53 studios and three one-bedroom units, of which 45 are for homeless and 10 are for low-income residents. All would have support services provided by LA Family Housing.
The nonprofit Meta Housing Corporation project developer, would build on a currently empty lot sandwiched between a motel and auto shops near the corner of Polk Street and San Fernando Road.
Paola Bassignana, planning deputy for LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, said that in the last year there were three permanent housing supportive housing projects in Council District 7:48 units in Lake View Terrace and a total of 93 in Sylmar.
But, she noted, that “we by no means are in the lead,” and added that Council District 6 (Van Nuys) has 91 units in planning and Council District 3 (West San Fernando Valley) has 13.
The Neighborhood Council voted to support the projects.