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Council sends boardinghouse rules back to committee

Photo: Jaiden Pratt is a resident at Jovenes Inc., a Boyle Heights nonprofit boarding home that provides housing and counseling for 18- to 25-year-old homeless men. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles City Council opted not to decide Wednesday on a controversial housing ordinance aimed at cracking down on group homes and boardinghouses.

After more than two hours of public comment and discussion, the council agreed to form a committee that will revise the Community Care Facilities Ordinance over the next three months.

“This ordinance is not ready for prime time,” council member Richard Alarcon told a standing-room only crowd in the council chambers. He triggered applause and cheers when he mentioned three “poison pills” in the current draft that he said would make it more difficult for nonprofits and group homes to care for the needy.

Advocates formed a line more than a block long outside City Hall on Wednesday morning. Many wore red T-shirts that read “Shared Housing = Fair Housing.” Some chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, CCFO’s got to go.” 

Finding a solution to illegal, overcrowded group homes in residential areas gained new urgency last month after four people were fatally shot at an unlicensed boardinghouse in Northridge. Council member Mitchell Englander, whose district includes Northridge, proposed the legislation the next week.

Critics say the ordinance would make housing veterans, alcoholics and the homeless more difficult, and cite the same obstacles that Alarcon mentioned. One clause would make it illegal for more than four people to live in the same house or apartment without sharing expenses, chores and living spaces. Another would make it illegal for more than three people on probation or parole to live in the same apartment or hotel room unless landlords obtain a special permit.

More than 150 organizations, including nonprofits and labor groups, have joined forces to fight the proposal. Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the “unprecedented partnership” showed the gravity of the situation.

“We are deeply concerned,” Durazo said. “Veterans who go off and protect our country deserve a way to come home and pull their lives together.”

Supporters of the regulation, including multiple neighborhood councils, stressed the need to make boarding houses and the neighborhoods that surround them safer. One neighborhood representative mentioned a home of parolees across the street from an elementary school. Another brought up a fire at a San Pedro residential hotel that killed a man last week.

“How many more assaults, fires and murders do we need to have before we get serious?” said Edward Headington of the Granada North Hills Neighborhood Council. 

Inside the council chambers, Councilman Bill Rosendahl put on his veteran’s cap to speak out against the ordinance. At one point, he asked those in the audience who opposed the ordinance to stand. Nearly everyone did.

“As many of you know, I don’t wear my veteran’s hat unless I need to,” Rosendahl said. “Today, I need to.”


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-- Laura J. Nelson at Los Angeles City Hall

Follow Laura  on Twitter or Google Plus.

Photo: Jaiden Pratt is a resident at Jovenes Inc., a Boyle Heights nonprofit boarding home that provides housing and counseling for 18- to 25-year-old homeless men. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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