The County of Los Angeles, under the direction of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose Third District includes Woodland Hills, is in negotiations to buy the 818 Hotel at Ventura and Winnetka.
Plans are to turn the hotel, which is directly across from Taft High School, into homeless housing.
The 818 Hotel was one of 19 sites identified by the County last year as possible permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
Kuehl has applied to the state for the funding to purchase the hotel, which should be approved and allocated this March.
The original owners of the hotel have died, and their heirs reportedly designated that the hotel be sold and used for homeless housing.
The news of the negotiations, announced just this past Tuesday, came as something of a surprise to Woodland Hills Councilman Bob Blumenfield and Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization President John Walker.
Blumenfield stated that he did know the hotel had made the short list of 19, but that was some time ago and he had heard no further updates.
He has stated that when he heard the final disposition he pushed to have the 818 turned into housing for homeless families, which he defined as any grouping that includes children. He said that this would mitigate the problems that plague other homeless shelters, including drug use, mental health issues and more.
Blumenfield addressed the Woodland Hills Homeowners Wednesday night on the subject, and fielded questions from primarily angry residents about having a homeless shelter directly across from Taft High School.
Many residents felt blindsided that these negotiations had moved so far forward without any neighborhood input.
Walker also was upset about the lack of communication between the City and the County Board of Supervisors, and the lack of outreach from Kuehl’s office to the community in general, and pushed Blumenfield on how he was going to protect the community and the high school students across the street.
Blumenfield told the attendees this could be an upgrade for the community by invoking Measure 4118, which prohibits homeless encampments within 1,000 feet of facilities opened after January 1, 2018 that provide shelter, safe sleep, secure parking or homeless navigation.
The area, specifically the underpass at Winnetka, has for years been the location of ongoing homeless encampments.
Blumenfield emphatically stated, “I did not pick this location. This is private property and the hotel owners chose to do this.”
He estimated, based on the last homeless count, that there are approximately 104 homeless families within the third district. There are 100 rooms at the 818 Hotel.
“There’s a lot of need in Woodland Hills,” he said, “as evidenced by the food pantry at Prince of Peace. My goal all along is to get people off the streets. Having a family shelter is the best solution you can have.”