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Hundreds Block Traffic To Protest Koreatown Homeless Shelter

KOREATOWN (CBSLA) – Hundreds of people took to the streets of Koreatown Thursday afternoon in yet another day of protests against a homeless shelter that city officials have proposed for the neighborhood.

Hundreds Block Traffic To Protest Koreatown Homeless Shelter
Hundreds of people protest against a proposed homeless shelter in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown. May 24, 2018. (CBS2)

The rally and march, which began around 11:30 a.m., completely shut down Wilshire Boulevard at Normandie Avenue.

This latest in a string of similar rallies comes after a Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday approved a temporary homeless shelter at a city-owned parking lot at 682 S. Vermont Ave.

"Wilshire and Vermont is one of the most expensive pieces of land in Los Angeles," demonstrator and Koreatown resident Myki Lee said Thursday. "Not only that, but there are more suitable pieces of land where we can spend $1.3 million to better build bigger facilities.

Those opposed to the proposal argue the location sits within a one-mile radius of eight schools and several businesses, adding the K-Town community was not involved in the decision. Signs and banners emblazoned with the phrase "No shelter without hearing" could be seen in the crowd.

"If it makes sense, we will support it," said Grace Yoo, an organizer with the Environmental Justice Collaborative. "We're not against the homeless. We are against (L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson) trying to ram things down our throat without listening to us."

The Koreatown site is among at least two dozen locations that have been proposed as possible sites for temporary shelters as part of a new citywide program crafted by Mayor Eric Garcetti. However, the Koreatown site has received the lion's share of the focus due to significant opposition that has arisen in the neighborhood since Garcetti and Wesson announced the site as a potential location during a May 2 news conference.

The overall shelter program was approved by the city council Monday when it finalized the city's proposed 2018-19 budget, which includes at least $20 million for Garcetti's "A Bridge Home" initiative, and a potential $10 million more that could be used in a variety of ways to support homeless programs.

On Thursday, Wesson choked up as he described this time as a defining moment for L.A.

"I have no problems in meeting with people," Wesson saide. "I'm asking for all Angelenos to search within themselves, so that we can find our inner angels."

The full City Council is expected to consider the site at an upcoming meeting.

At least 9,000 people have signed a petition opposing the proposed Koreatown shelter, and at least three protests against it have been held in the neighborhood.

The number of homeless in Los Angeles spiked in 2017 by 20 percent to over 34,000, according to the results of the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, although the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority recently said the numbers in the county were inflated by 2,746, and it is not yet clear how many of those were within the city of Los Angeles.

The 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found that 57,794 people are living on the streets of L.A. County, a 23 percent jump from the year before. Within the city of L.A., that number is more than 34,100.

The city has explored multiple options for dealing with its growing homeless population. In February, the council unanimously approved putting about 60 homeless people in trailers on a downtown lot at Arcadia and Alameda streets. The trailers, which contain bathrooms, showers and beds, are expected to cost about $2 million to build and another $1 million to operate.

In November 2016, L.A. voters passed Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund permanent housing for the homeless, but the units will take years to approve and build.

In March 2017, L.A. County voters adopted Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs. It is meant to generate $355 million annually for 10 years to fund a variety of programs to combat homelessness.

(©2018 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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