Activists in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch effort to halt the pending demolition of the city’s defunct former police headquarters, Parker Center. Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the new suit, the latest effort in a long-running battle to save the vacant, 300,000-square-foot, International Style complex. The organizations have filed a suit to stop the building’s demolition and to compel the City of Los Angeles to instead convert the structure into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter. The debate began last year as efforts to landmark the structure took off against a backdrop of fierce community opposition to saving the tower. The complex was considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status but the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of razing the structure instead, choosing to make space for a new office tower being planned in conjunction with a new masterplan for the surrounding Civic Center area. The Parker Center complex was designed by architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1955 as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department and was used as a backdrop in the television series Dragnet, a police procedural drama from the 1950s focused on the intricacies of police detective work. The organizations filing suit allege that the City has misrepresented the costs associated with converting the building into a shelter relative to its demolition costs. Further, the group accuses the City of using gassed up figures in its feasibility determination. The City of L.A.’s estimates put the shelter conversion at over $295 million, while an estimate commissioned by AHF indicates that a conversion would cost roughly $102 million. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF sad, “City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear it down.” Weinstein added, “It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated.” The replacement 27-story “luxury office tower” being proposed would cost at least $900 million to build, making it the most expensive municipal office building in the country if constructed. The question of whether to save Parker Center has exposed old, unhealed wounds among several local constituencies, especially for the residents of the surrounding Little Tokyo neighborhood, some of whom saw their properties and businesses taken by force when officials were originally planning and consolidating the Civic Center district in the 1950s. Members of L.A.’s African American and Latino communities detest the building, as well, and see its existence as an extension of the city’s traumatic legacy of racist policing tactics. A judge has yet to hear the case, but current plans called for demolition on the tower to begin as early as August 20. It is unclear if that timeline is still on track.
Posts tagged with "Homeless Shelters":
AEC Cares seeking volunteers for its annual blitz build day just before the AIA Conference on Architecture
Non-profit AEC Cares will once again be putting on its annual blitz build in Orlando before the 2017 AIA Conference on Architecture. AEC Cares will work with their longtime partners, ConstructConnect, AIA, and Hanley Wood Media, to rejuvenate the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida’s (CFH) Center for Women and Families (CWF). CFH is the largest provider of homeless services in Central Florida and, on average, serves over 600 people a night, 63 percent of whom are women, children, and families. AEC Cares hopes to brighten up the Center and provide much-needed improvements to the facility to help CFH better serve its community. “With the help of 125+ volunteers, sponsors, architects, contractors and manufacturers, AEC Cares will perform a ‘facelift’ for the CFH, renovating the lobby, the living quarters and the TV room,” said Laura Marlow, ConstructConnect vice president of business development and AEC Cares executive director, in a press release. “Working together, we can leave Orlando better than we found it.” AEC Cares has been sponsoring this one-day blitz build for seven years now, utilizing the annual AIA Conference on Architecture to gather architects, engineers, contractors, and other industry professionals and volunteers to make a difference in the host city. When founded in 2011, AEC Cares helped rebuild five homes demolished or damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Since then, they have helped revitalize, refurbish and renovate homes for homeless teens, facilities for disabled veterans and homeless adults, and shelters for youths in crisis, among many other projects. During last year’s blitz build, AEC Cares, with the help of 150 volunteers, rehabilitated the Philadelphia Athletic Recreation Center in Sharswood, a renovation project valued at $330,000. The center provides children with after-school sports programs and was in need of an upgrade. The volunteers painted four rooms, overhauled the kitchen and arts and crafts room, replaced 3,000 square feet of vinyl, and repaired the auditorium. This year’s project (named projectOrlando) will once again take place the day before the AIA Conference on Architecture, April 26, and AEC Cares is currently seeking volunteers. If you are interested in participating, visit their website here.
At a press conference last Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan to fight homelessness, aiming to decrease by 45% the number of hotels and cluster apartments being used to temporarily house the homeless over the next five years. (The latter are apartments rented by the city to house the homeless). As part of a more community-based approach, the city aims to create new neighborhood-specific shelters to help manage the transition. According to a representative from the Mayor’s Office, these new, larger shelters will keep the city’s overall homeless shelter capacity constant. New York City’s homeless population is at an all-time high, with about 60,000 people living in shelters, cluster apartments, and hotels around the city. The Mayor stated that rent has increased in the city by 19 percent since the economic recession while the average household income has decreased by 6.3 percent, leaving many families in a bind. These displaced families make up for 70 percent of people living in shelters, according to de Blasio. Because of the city’s legal obligation to house anyone who asks for shelter, it has been forced to move people into cluster apartments and even hotels, racking up a bill of $400,000 a day, according to The New York Times. These statistics are a large part of why the de Blasio administration has struggled to combat homelessness and income inequality; related tactics have included rent stabilization initiatives and rental assistance to those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The city currently has 647 buildings operating to accommodate the homeless, and de Blasio proposes to vacate a majority of those sites, predominantly cluster housing and hotels, within the next five years. The end goal is to have 364 total sites operating in the city. In order to do this, the system will become more dependent on shelters, adding 90 new shelters and expanding on 30 existing sites to accommodate for the shift. A representative from the Mayor’s press office said that 18 to 20 new shelters will be completed each year, several of which would be purpose-built new construction, over the same five-year span. The remainder will be existing buildings, and in some cases, empty cluster housing sites that will be repurposed and renovated to become new shelters. On top of the goal to decrease the number of shelter sites, the city also hopes to decrease the number of homeless in shelters by 2,500 in the next five years. The representative emphasized that despite the decrease in sites, the city is not decreasing its capacity to house the homeless, just reallocating it. The city also plans to refurbish existing shelters in poor condition. “We’re going to do a comprehensive effort around the city to bring all shelters to a better standard of quality,” said de Blasio. These renovations will create more appropriate spaces for the shelter’s occupants to stay during the day to participate in training and education programs. The city hopes this will keep residents off of the streets, a benefit for the community, and help get them back on their feet faster. Another major crux of de Blasio’s new strategy is to keep the homeless in their communities, where they are closer to their jobs, schools, and houses of worship. This community-based shelter system would place new shelters in neighborhoods with a high number of homeless currently in the system. The first of those facilities will open this April in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is home to 132 families currently in shelters and scattered throughout the city. de Blasio plans to continue pushing for more affordable housing, with 200,000 new and preserved affordable apartments on the way, providing options for seniors, veterans, and low-income families. The city would also increase supportive housing initiatives, which provide on-site support for substance abuse and mental illness, to help the homeless regain independence. The Mayor reiterated that these strategies are long term and iterative and that this process is something that will require patience. “We will be at this a long time,” said the Mayor. “We will make progress, but it will be incremental. It will be slow, and I hope and I believe it will be steady.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in Honolulu, Hawaii State Senator Josh Green introduced a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe housing to homeless patients that suffer from mental illness and addiction. In a study quoted by The Guardian, research has shown that healthcare spending for homeless patients, particularly those struggling with mental illness and addiction, decreases by 43 percent when they become housed and are provided with supportive services. These new initiatives suggest a change in the way governments are viewing and treating homelessness and, hopefully, will open the conversation to new and innovative solutions. To read more about Mayor de Blasio’s plan, click here.
Construction is well underway at Golden Girls star Bea Arthur's namesake residence for homeless LGBT youth in the East Village. Lower East Side housing preservation nonprofit Cooper Square Committee has partnered with the Ali Forney Center to finance and build the home, which will begin accepting residents shortly after its anticipated February 2017 completion. The Bea Arthur Residence, at 222 East 13th Street, broke ground in July 2015 and is designed by Magnusson Architecture & Planning (MAP). The New York–based firm works on affordable housing and urban renewal projects in the city and metropolitan area. Arthur, the actor and gay icon who is best known for playing Dorothy Zbornak in The Golden Girls, the sitcom that aired from 1985 to 1992, left $300,000 towards the 18-bed center's construction after her death in 2009. When complete, the residence will contain three three-bedroom, two-bath apartments, facilities for on-site social services, a community room with a kitchenette, as well as an office for the Ali Forney Center. The entryway will be reconfigured to allow entrance at the ground floor; the original doorway will become a window for a second-floor bedroom. The 6,000-square-foot residence is approximately 40 percent complete, Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, told DNAinfo. The city-funded, $3.3 million conversion of the disused townhouse were delayed by Department of Buildings (DOB) violations that have since been cleared.
Taking a cue from a program in Houston, Dallas has decided to house 50 homeless people using low-cost cottages designed by bcWORKSHOP, short for Building Community Workshop. The small dwellings are expected to open to residents in late October. Each person will have his or her own 400-square-foot home complete with a compact kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. The homes also include access to a shared green recreational space as well as "on-site high-quality mental & medical healthcare and social services." Speaking to Dallas News Larry James, president and chief executive of CitySquare (who will also offer job training among other social services) said: “We found out that if we take the 200 most expensive people, the average person in the top 200 is costing taxpayers about $40,000 a year to keep them on the street.” This fits with the statement made by the executive director of Cottages at Hickory Crossing, Keith Ackerman, who told the Huffington Post that the program will reduce these costs to under $13,000 per person, saving the taxpayer an estimated $1.3million. The project has already received an AIA Dallas Design Award. It has taken six years to come to fruition running up a cost of $8.2 million, most of which has largely been fundraised. Meanwhile, the program has asked the public to help by purchasing furniture from Target via their gift registry. The move by Dallas is not new. Similar developments are cropping up across the country in what is becoming a national trend. Cities like Nashville, TN, has its own group of micro houses, part of the so-called "Infinity Village" which houses six homeless people.
New York City Mayor De Blasio and Cardinal Dolan working on plan for affordable housing on church properties
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had some face-to-face time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan this week, and among the topics the duo discussed was affordable housing. In a city of nosebleed-inducing housing prices, Dolan said creating and maintaining affordable housing was "God's work," according to AM New York. The city and the archdiocese are working out a plan to use the church's extensive real estate holdings in the city to provide affordable housing and shelters for the homeless. "We still got some meat and potatoes to work out, but I think it's a go," Dolan was quoted in the newspaper. "And if you ask me, I don't have a choice because Jesus told me to do this. I didn't need the mayor to tell me to do this." Dolan added that he and De Blasio report to the same constituency: "namely God's people, the people of this city." "Amen, beautifully said," the mayor replied.
Ocean Cities. It's been a year since Americans watched oil spew from the gusher in the gulf. Only limited regulatory reforms saw the light of day. Timothy Beatley thinks it was a missed opportunity. In Design Observer, the University of Virginia professor argues that the key to the ocean's future lies on land, with cities. Changes on land can have an enormous impact at sea, and Beatley thinks that cities have to the tools to make it happen. Gimme Shelter. The Board of Standards and Appeals shot down arguments from the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition to halt the Bowery Residents Committee from moving a new homeless shelter on to West 25th Street, reports Chelsea Now. With new digs good to go, the charity has already set their sites on Brooklyn where they plan to open a 200-bed shelter in Greenpoint. Gimme Signage. Since 1923 small signs guided tourists trough the lush curved roads of Beachwood Canyon to the Hollywood sign. The iconic vista was considered a boon to local real estate. But with property values firmly established, the WSJ reports that many owners don't want the hoi polli blocking their view and took the signs down, leaving the hapless tourists wandering the canyon. West Loop Tower. The Chicago Sun-Times says that the 48-story tower proposed to sit next to the Crowne Plaza at the corner of Madison and Halsted may soon become a reality. After a sluggish start, plans are moving forward to make it the tallest building in Greektown, writes Curbed Chicago.