Last night at the City of Los Angeles Planning Department meeting supporters of First Baptist Church of Venice gathered to appeal a change of use from church to personal residence. The owner of Rolling Stone Magazine Jay Penske and his wife Elaine purchased the property with the intent of turning it into their personal residence. Several issues such as the legality of the sale and a pending historical status have citizens of Venice outraged at the proposed new use.
First Baptist Church is located in the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice at 7th & Westminster. The original church was built by African American architect Henry Williams, Sr in 1911. It is the oldest African American church in the Venice area. The building that stands on the property today was built in 1971.
At the heart of the dispute is the sale of the property by the pastor of the church Horace Allen and whether he had the right to sell the property which had been paid off at one time. It was found that pastor Allen had taken loans out on the property and was eventually forced to sell to pay off the loans. There is pending ligation on this issue
Jay Penske and his wife Elaine were present at the hearing on the change of use of the property. A spokesperson for the couple called the current site, “A spot for dumping old mattresses and termites.” Mrs. Penske spoke and told the commissioners she did some community outreach. A resident declared that she spoke to one of the people sent to do community outreach who did not know the property in question was a church.
Supporters of the church argued that the property is a sacred space and culturally meaningful to African Americans in the area. The preservation of the Jewish Synagogue Mishkon Tephilo was mentioned as an example of a religious space being declared a symbol of the Jewish faith.
Below Jay Penske looks on as opponents of the project speak.
The project was approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council. Supporters of First Baptist Church are upset that the architect of the project is on the council and was included in the vote.
At the end of the meeting, the commissioners debated the pertinent issues such as the fact that the Penske’s obtained title insurance on the property from Chicago Title Company, the proposed residence would be 11,000 square feet and would not be in line with the other residences located in that area, and the historical status of the church is still being decided. The commissioners voted on the appeal and the result was a tie. The final decision was postponed until August 15, 2018 when an additional commissioner will be available to vote on the issue.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing spending $20 million dollars on building emergency shelters in each of the 15 districts in Los Angeles and providing the city with more police and sanitation workers for homeless sweeps in the city’s A Bridge Home program. This proposal is not viable as a solution to the homeless crisis Los Angeles and will not work as a temporary fix.
The most important reason his solution will not work is that the numbers don’t match. Garcetti’s proposal to put a shelter in each district will not have enough beds to serve all of the homeless in those areas. For example, a proposed shelter in Korea Town would provide 65 beds to an area with 368 homeless. Where are the other 303 going to sleep? Providing a shelter with only 65 beds would put the other 303 people at risk for being arrested or being given tickets for sleeping on the sidewalk which they would not be able to pay. Possibly ending in incarceration for not paying a ticket. This creates a situation where housing and employment would be more difficult to find.
Shelters are not permanent housing, can be dangerous and have time limits for those staying in them. These time limits can be a couple of days weeks or months. If at the end of their stay in the shelter a person has not found permanent housing they are sent back to live in the street. Many people staying at shelters experience violence from others who are staying in them or sometimes from staff. The large numbers of people staying in a confined area make it hard to properly ensure personal safety. People down on their luck financially are mixed in with drug addicts and felons creating dangerous conditions.
There is no follow up from staff as to what happens to or where people end up living after leaving a shelter. Because of the time limitations very few people leaving a shelter end up with permanent housing, as permanent housing is not available. I personally was in a shelter where I was asked to leave one week prior to my having a place to stay. The staff at the shelter knew I had a place to stay in one week and made me leave anyway. This left me with nowhere to stay for a week. This shelter and its staff failed to keep me safe, took 30% of the income I was making and intentionally made me homeless again. I call this the circle of homelessness where one is given shelter for a short period of time and sent back out on the street. Being homeless is a barrier to employment as employers require workers to have an address, making it hard to get housing as most housing requires some type of income. This creates long periods of homelessness for many people.
The only solution to homelessness is permanent housing. The $20 that Mayor Garcetti wants to spend on temporary shelters and homeless sweeps by the police and sanitation workers would be better spent on permanent housing. The homeless do not need shampoo, backpacks or socks. The homeless need housing.