A group called Friends of Waverly Inc. filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking an injunction against the temporary 100-bed shelter planned near the William Mulholland Memorial Fountain on Riverside Drive.
The suit claims when the City Council approved the shelter plans in December, there was “no official lawfully enacted emergency shelter declaration” needed to exempt the project from state-mandated environmental review. It also accuses the city of “abuse of discretion” by not holding a planning commission hearing on the plans.
In signing off on the plans, the City Council invoked a state law that says projects which are designed to prevent an emergency can skirt California’s often rigorous and lengthy environmental review process. The city’s engineering bureau had said that a “sudden and unexpected dramatic rise in the city’s already dangerously large homeless population” constituted an emergency.
The suit argues the homelessness crisis is not an emergency.
It wasn’t immediately known how many members belong to Friends of Waverly Inc., but court records state the group’s secretary is Victor Adjemian. Through a family trust, Adjemian owns multiple multi-family buildings in the area, property records show, along with a single-family residence near the fountain.
In a letter to Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu in September, Adjemian and his wife Aida spelled out nine reasons they oppose the project. Three emphasize how close they live to the site and their concerns about property values.
“Properties in communities with shelters are considered less desirable. Placing a shelter adjacent to our property would cause irreparable harm to property value both to our home and the areas homes [sic]. Causing such irreparable harm without due process is both illegal and unjust,” they wrote. “Although some cite to studies [sic] showing no impact to property value, these studies are based on shelters in disadvantaged communities and therefore are not material in showing impacts in a community like ours.”
But the Riverside Drive project has the support of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, and Friends of Griffith Park. The neighborhood councils vetted the plans in public meetings; the City Council’s homelessness and poverty committee also reviewed the plans in a public meeting.
In its statement of support, the Atwater Village called the area a “service desert,” noting that “the closest shelter beds that are available to residents are not in the City of Los Angeles.”
The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council said the site is perfect for a shelter, because it’s close to major roads and freeways and the Los Angeles River, “where a large portion of our homeless stakeholders currently reside.”
“A neighborhood isn’t defined by its topography or wealth, but by the character of the people who live there,” the statement reads. “Together, as one neighborhood, we can confront this terrible crisis and ensure that everyone in Los Feliz has a roof over their heads.”
A spokesperson for Ryu, who floated the project as part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “A Bridge Home” initiative, said the project would forge ahead until if and when a judge intervenes.
“It’s disappointing that in this crisis of homelessness, there are still those trying to slow solutions down,” the councilmember said in a statement.