Koreatown Activists Versus Council President Herb Wesson. Again.

EDITOR:  In an effort to confront the homeless crisis  Mayor Garcetti “declared an emergency shelter crisis and took advantage of a new state law that enables cities to construct homeless shelters on any land owned or leased by the city. To accelerate the construction of these shelters, the Mayor’s 2018-19 budget includes a $20 million fund to construct emergency shelters city-wide. Because there is a need for additional shelter beds across the city, these funds will be equally available to each council district. To receive the funds, each Council Member must identify a site or building adjacent to a high-density homeless population, and create an emergency shelter.”

Council President Herb Wesson was the first to jump in and picked Koreatown as the site for CD10.  Wesson is not known for making himself available for a lot of face-to-face discussions with constituents. He has eviscerated the Public Comment format at the City Council meetings he presides over and in the 10+ years he has represented CD10, how often have you seen him out and about in our community?  Business owners tell me he has never taken interest in them and "his office doesn't return calls" is a CD10 refrain. He has improved over his 10+ years and done what he can for some big ticket items and there are CD10 residents who swear by him, but in the case of Koreatown this weakness for not facing his constituents (unless it's a guaranteed friendly crowd, a formal occasion or to give out gifts) has resulted in a serious misstep on his part.  At the end of May over 2,000 people gathered for an angry protest of Council President Herb Wesson’s choice of Koreatown, as one of the first sites to install a temporary tent shelter. It wasn’t the shelter per se they railed against, everyone is concerned with homelessness, it was the complete lack of notification, community meetings and input prior to the choice, along with the less than transparent process, that had Koreatown residents up in arms.  The following is a letter penned by the founder of the Environmental Justice Collaborative, Grace Yoo. Comments bolded by the TNN editor. 


May 21, 2018

Dear Council President Herb Wesson:

As a responsible citizen who cares about all people, I am alarmed at your lack of respect in your treatment of the residents and stakeholders in Koreatown.  This issue about a Temporary Homeless Shelter in Koreatown could have been handled in a far different manner.  Had you sought input from the residents and other stakeholders, we could have been your best allies; instead you have attempted to bully the Koreatown community with the power of your office which is now backfiring on you.

After the press conference on May 2, 2018, announcing the 682 S. Vermont site as the first Temporary Homeless Shelter to go up per Mayor Garcetti, there has been a huge lack of communication, causing great confusion.  Back in March 2018, the City Council voted and decided to make the first Temporary Homeless Shelter at El Pueblo near Olvera Street, but I guess per the Mayor and yourself, the Koreatown Temporary Homeless Shelter will be the first under the new “A Bridge Home” plan.  

When asked by Korean Media how the 682 S. Vermont site was selected, you said it was because it was the only site in your district that was available.  When asked if there would be any public hearings, your response was verbatim "no, no, no, that is there is NOT going to be a public hearing where it relates to this, we are going to put a temporary facility here..."  (on my Facebook post, listen at 25 seconds). 

The reporters found other publicly owned sites in CD10, as the following:

5032003903    4023 MARLTON AVE


5061014900    4600 W WASHINGTON BLVD

5071025903    4601 W WASHINGTON BLVD

5502025900    601 S VERMONT AVE.

When the Korean Media came back to you with the information that there is other City-owned property available in your district, you changed your story and said it was because Koreatown had the highest concentration of homeless in your district, with 400 homeless.  Initially, I thought you are probably correct with that statement since Koreatown has the second highest population density in the United States after Manhattan, NY.  However, since there are 1,508 total homeless population in CD10 per 2017 LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), I see the possibility of Koreatown not having the highest concentration of homeless in CD10, and since honesty is not your strong suit, we demand to see the actual numbers and locations of the homeless within CD10.

Tonight, I write this letter to you in OBJECTION to a Temporary Homeless Shelter at 682 S. Vermont because you once again have not been truthful in regards to the number of homeless in Koreatown being around 400.  Your office provided us numbers from LAHSA, which I am attaching as a copy that says that there are 368, which can easily be rounded to 400.  HOWEVER,  after careful review of the map your office provided, I can see that the numbers for the Homeless are not all within CD10.  Your reason for selecting 682 S. Vermont is no longer seeming to hold any weight because you continue to give inaccurate information.

The Koreatown community DEMANDS your office provide accurate numbers.  We are tired of your antics of hide and divide.  The vast majority of the residents and stakeholders in Koreatown are not opposed to a Temporary Homeless Shelter.  We are opposed to your disrespect of the community and your thinking you can dictate whatever you want.  We are concerned that “A Bridge Home” has not been given the DEEP DIVE that it deserves.  We do not want another RecycLA fiasco, which you admitted could have been handled better.  We have lives at stake, the homeless as well as the residents and stakeholders and we need the City to have vetted all possible aspects so that we run an efficient and safe shelter for the homeless and their neighbors.  

Mayor Garcetti and you stating that there will be 24/7 LAPD presence at the temporary homeless shelters, rather than give comfort, concerns me as another statement that is not viable, nor the best use of our LAPD officers’ time.  I would think professionals who are best equipped to provide services for the homeless should be available 24/7, not police officers whom I think are better suited to protect and serve in a different capacity than watching over the temporary homeless shelters.

A Bridge Home sounds like a great idea, why must you RUSH and LIE to get it accomplished?  I understand that City Hall was given an idea to use retired cruise ships for temporary homeless shelters. What happened?  Sounds like a good idea for temporary homeless shelters, with beds and showers and toilets.

Your providing your constituents with data should not be difficult.  You are making the decisions of where to place the temporary homeless shelters based on facts and data sets, correct? If not, are they for arbitrary and capricious reasons that cannot be justified?

Do the RIGHT THING, share the data, and stop trying to hide!


Grace Yoo, Esq.
Co- Founder
Environmental Justice Collaborative

Photo from CBSLA


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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