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Shipping container apartments with rooftop gardens will house the homeless in South LA

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Right off the 110 Freeway

A rendering of Isla Intersections.
Rendering courtesy of Clifford Beers Housing.

Construction is getting underway on a new $34 million permanent supportive housing complex for homeless Angelenos on a vacant lot on the corner of Imperial Highway and Broadway Avenue in South LA.

Named Isla Intersections, the shipping container complex will put South LA “in the center of the fight to end homelessness in Los Angeles,” says Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

It will also be an example, he says, of “stunning design” combined with “environmental mitigations.”

Developed by Clifford Beers Housing and American Family Housing and designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, the complex will have 54 one-bedroom units each constructed out of three modular containers. They will be “stacked and arranged into 16 towers” connected by walkways with communal rooms and two commercial spaces reserved for local businesses. The complex will be topped with rooftop terraces and gardens.

“Our aim was to create something that was compartmental but solid... but porous enough to engage the residents... with outdoor activities and places to work and socialize,” Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects writes in a project portfolio.

Staggering the shipping containers in a “serpentine manner” will help maximize the triangular-shaped lot and minimize sound from the freeway, according to Cristian Ahumada, executive director of Clifford Beers Housing.

A curved “shared” street for cars and people on foot and bikes will run between the apartments and the 110 and 105 freeway interchange. Designed to serve as a central hub for street fairs, farmers markets, and entertainment, Annenberg Paseo will be planted with vines and Camphor and California bay laurel trees to provide shade and buffer and filter pollution from the freeway.

Ahumada says they wanted to create a “living lung” on the property, a landscape with a tree canopy in “a neighborhood that is highly impacted by climate change and high heat.”

When it opens in November 2020, residents will have access to onsite services, like job training, mental health services, counseling, and life skills workshops.

At a groundbreaking event Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called it an “amazing project.” Isla brings the total number of Measure HHH-funded projects under construction to 21, says Garcetti. There’s nearly 150 supportive housing projects in construction or already funded, he says.

“That is unprecedented in our city’s history,” he says.

The $34 million Isla Intersection project budget includes $12 million in “soft” costs, such as interest on the loans, furnishings, the gray water system, and recreation areas.