Homelessness and Strange Bedfellows

Posted by Mike Michalski on Tuesday, September 17th, 2019.

Politics makes strange bedfellows.
 ̴ Charles Dudley Warner

We've been gone a while, pre-occupied with our day job (If anyone cares, we were busy closing our listing at 1812 Elm Avenue in the Manhattan Beach Tree section and brought out our new listing at 2400 John Street, also in the Tree section).

So did we miss anything?

Just kidding.  When it hit the news that President Trump had directed his aides to launch a major crackdown on homeless camps in California and that they were discussing moving the homeless to government-backed facilities, we here at Real Estate Edge applauded, at least at first.  Shawn Steel, Republican national committee member for California, was even quoted as saying using vacant government buildings "shows good common sense."

However, our applause quickly turned to boos when we heard one of the facilities being targeted was an empty government office building at 15000 Aviation Boulevard, corner of Aviation and Marine (pictured above and below, when the grass was greener) that once housed the local offices of the Federal Aviation Administration.  
Suddenly, we found ourselves siding with the anti-Trumpers (talk about strange political bedfellows).  Not because we contracted Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) which causes one to reflexively oppose anything that President Trump proposes.  And not because, as one writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer absurdly opined while channeling his inner AOC, moving the homeless off the streets would be akin to a “police-state roundup” and a Trump “concentration-camp scheme.” (Q:  Why is a Philadelphia columnist even concerning himself with LA homeless issues?  Oh right, TDS again).

Rather, it’s because there could not be a worse location for a massive homeless shelter, where the homeless are not confined, ie, they can leave of their own volition and wander into and take up “residence” in nearby parks and neighborhoods.

Right across Aviation from the glassy structure are Little League and soccer fields used by families, many from Manhattan Beach.  And within a few hundred feet is the Manhattan Beach residential neighborhood of Liberty Village (not to mention two gated Hawthorne communities – Fusion and Marine Village – that are immediately adjacent to the building).

Some of us were even envisioning a veritable conga line of the homeless (excuse me, our "unhoused neighbors") filing single file out of 15000 Aviation and down Marine Avenue and/or Manhattan Beach Boulevard to the beach.

Of course, this could create the possibility of injury and liability.  The supposed new homeless campus is bounded on two sides by major thoroughfares, Marine and Aviation, and one could anticipate that at least some of the homeless choosing to leave the facility -  as is their right - might opt to cross those streets mid-block and without regard to the traffic signals and crosswalks.  

At least as to that problem, I think we've got the answer - a caution sign that can be placed on both sides of both streets near the facility.

Of course, the reality is not a laughing matter. 

The good news?  It doesn’t appear that a homeless center will ever come to fruition at that location.

For one thing, there is a contract of sale where the building has been purchased by Worthe Real Estate Group, with the sale set to close December 2.  Worthe, with an accepted offer of $55 million, is planning to develop the building for office space and says the idea of a homeless shelter was news to them.

However, the concept of using empty Federal buildings for homeless services isn't new; in fact, it's enshrined in Federal law - the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (signed by Reagan).  Title V of the Act imposes requirements on federal agencies to identify and make available surplus federal property, such as buildings and land, for use by states, local governments, and nonprofit agencies to assist homeless people. 

This particular building, located within the city of Hawthorne, is known as the Hawthorne Federal Building.  It was listed as eligible for use to shelter providers in 2016.  However, two requests from homeless services organizations to use the facility were denied. 

A clue to the denials might be found in the on-line description of the building posted by HUD which identified the building as "Suitable/Unavailable" for homeless services but stated the landholding agency (presumably the General Services Administration, the name on the 'For Sale' sign which is still posted on site)  "has decided the property cannot be declared excess or made available for use to assist the homeless, and the property will not be available."

Why?

For one thing, the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of the classic mid-century architecture of designers Cesar Pelli and Anthony Lumsden.  However, this in itself may not be a barrier as the idea of repurposing architecturally significant structures for homeless shelters is gaining traction.

However, the HUD description also notes "serious deficiencies - urgent seismic upgrades, outdated building systems, and environmental concerns."  Maybe that's why the GSA decided to put it up for sale.

Some on Council have already been in touch with Hawthorne's Mayor Vargas to make sure that Manhattan Beach is kept in the loop so kudos to Council for taking that initiative.  Hawthorne council members are already on record as opposing the homeless shelter idea at that location.

Bottom line, I would say all this speculation is unwarranted given the extremely low probability of this facility ever being available for conversion to a homeless shelter. 

At present, the building is under contract to be sold.  But were something to happen to derail the sale and talk of a homeless shelter is renewed, count us as part of the Trump "resistance."  

Like we said, strange bedfellows.

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This entry was posted under Manhattan Beach, and Smell The Coffee.