Bass removes commission president after panel delays vote on Westside homeless project

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass on Monday abruptly removed a veteran city commissioner days after he led his colleagues in delaying a vote on a new Westside homeless facility backed by the mayor.

Eric Eisenberg confirmed Monday that he received a letter from Bass telling him that he had been removed from the city’s Transportation Commission, where he served as president. Eisenberg had been reappointed by Bass in August to serve a third term on the commission.

Bass’ office declined to comment on Eisenberg’s removal.

His ouster followed a unanimous decision by the commission last week to delay a vote on a proposed interim homeless housing facility at Pico Boulevard and Midvale Avenue in Rancho Park. Several opponents of the facility spoke at the meeting, saying they were concerned that it would rise next to residential homes.

Eisenberg and his colleagues questioned why a panel focused on transportation was being asked to approve an environmental review exception for the project. The commissioners asked for a representative of the city’s Bureau of Engineering to appear at their next meeting so they could better understand their role in the development.

Eisenberg, who previously served on the Harbor Area planning commission and works as a developer, told The Times that no one from the mayor’s office reached out to him following the meeting But he said he believes he was removed because of his role in delaying the vote.

The Transportation Commission, like most city commissions, consists of unpaid volunteers.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Eisenberg said. “It’s sending a message of ‘You do what we tell you or we’re going to cut you.’ That’s the wrong message. That’s not the message you want to send when you’re in a democracy.”

Eisenberg’s removal is likely to fuel controversy over the proposed 33-bed interim homeless housing project at 2377 Midvale Avenue. Opponents on Monday released a statement blasting Eisenberg’s ouster and calling the project “ill conceived.”

“This is very troubling,” said Barbara Broide, a local resident who wants the city to consider other locations for the project. “It demonstrates that citizen commissions under this administration are designed to be nothing more than rubber stamps.”

Bass has made reducing homelessness her top issue. Her Inside Safe initiative seeks to quickly move unhoused Angelenos into motels and hotels, and she has ordered city departments to hasten the construction of affordable housing and shelters.

The plan for the housing project, which would be built on a city-owned parking lot, is scheduled to return to the Transportation Commission for another vote at a special meeting on Wednesday and will be heard by the City Council on Friday.

Backers, who include Bass and City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, point to the critical need for interim homeless housing in Council District 5. There are no homeless shelters in the district and a limited number of interim housing units, Yaroslavsky said in an interview Tuesday.

The site would serve homeless people in the area. People could live with partners and pets at the facility, which would operate for up to 10 years, according to a city report.

Mental health and substance use disorder specialists, permanent housing navigation support, employment assistance and 24-hour security would be available.

Yaroslavsky said the facility would be different than a traditional shelter because every individual would have an assigned bed and be allowed to be at the facility during the day.

She declined to comment on Eisenberg’s removal, referring questions to the mayor’s office.

The Westside Neighborhood Council voted last week to oppose the project because of its proximity to homes and “struggling businesses recovering from the pandemic,” according to a statement. The group also expressed “dismay that other sites were not being evaluated as alternatives.”

The Century Glen Homeowners Assn. has also asked the city to consider alternative locations, including a site on Cotner Avenue.

In August, Yaroslavsky and Bass held a community meeting on the project that turned chaotic. Opponents jeered the two politicians, and Yaroslavsky struggled to speak at points, with some attendees chanting, “Recall.”

“I know that people are upset. I understand that,” Bass told the crowd. The mayor also praised Yaroslavsky’s “brave” stance on the development and threatened to shut down the meeting entirely if people weren’t willing to listen.

Some locals support the $4.3-million project. Resident Toby Muresianu told council members at a recent committee meeting on the site that he had met a person experiencing homelessness on Pico Boulevard.

“He was just a regular guy from L.A. who wanted housing,” said Muresianu. “And then about a month later, it rained for three days and he died of pneumonia. This would have saved his life. I think that should trump other concerns.”

Yaroslavsky said the city is looking at the Cotner Avenue site, in addition to Midvale Avenue.

She also noted that unhoused people are sleeping in the Midvale Avenue parking lot where the proposed project would rise.

“We need these beds. We absolutely need these beds, and I wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t need them,” she said.

Times staff writer Julia Wick contributed to this report.


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