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Bass removes commission chairman after panel delays vote on Westside homeless shelter

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

Eric Eisenberg confirmed Monday that he received a letter from Bass informing him that he had been removed from the city’s Transportation Commission, of which he was chairman. Eisenberg was reappointed by Bass in August for a third term on the commission.

Bass’ office did not immediately comment on Eisenberg’s dismissal.

His ouster follows a unanimous decision by the commission last week to delay a vote on a proposed homeless shelter at Pico Boulevard and Midvale Avenue in Rancho Park. Several opponents of the shelter spoke at the meeting, saying they feared it would be built next to residential homes.

Eisenberg and his colleagues questioned why a specialized transportation committee was being asked to approve an environmental review exception for the refuge. Commissioners requested that a representative from the city’s Bureau of Engineering appear at their next meeting so they could better understand their role in the development.

Eisenberg, who previously served on the Port Area Planning Commission and works as a developer, told the Times that no one from the mayor’s office contacted him after the vote. But he said he believed he was removed from office because of his role in delaying the vote.

The Transportation Commission, like most municipal commissions, is made up of unpaid volunteers.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Eisenberg said. “It sends the message: ‘Do what we tell you or we will cut you.’ This is the wrong message. This is not the message we want to send when we are in a democracy.”

Eisenberg’s withdrawal is likely to fuel controversy over the proposed 33-bed temporary homeless shelter at 2377 Midvale Avenue. Opponents released a statement Monday denouncing Eisenberg’s ouster and calling the shelter “ill-conceived.”

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

Bass has made reducing homelessness his number one issue. Her Inside Safe initiative aims to quickly move unhoused Angelenos into motels and hotels, and she has ordered city departments to speed up construction of affordable housing and shelters.

The shelter project, which would be built on a city-owned parking lot, is expected to return to the Transportation Commission for another vote at a special meeting Thursday and could be heard by the City Council as early as Friday.

Backers, including Bass and Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, emphasize the critical need for shelter in Municipal District 5. The shelter would serve the area’s homeless population. 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, ongoing housing search assistance, employment assistance and 24-hour security would be available.

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

Century Glen Homeowners Association. also asked the city to consider other locations, including a site on Cotner Avenue.

In August, Yaroslavsky and Bass held a community meeting about the project that turned into chaos. Opponents jeered the two politicians and Yaroslavsky struggled to speak on certain points, with some participants chanting “Recall”.

“I know people are upset. I understand that,” Bass told the crowd. The mayor also praised Yaroslavsky’s “courageous” stance on development and threatened to suspend the meeting altogether if people did not want to listen to him.

Some locals support the project. Resident Toby Muresianu told council members at a recent shelter committee meeting that he encountered a homeless person on Pico Boulevard.

“He was just a regular guy from Los Angeles who wanted a place to live,” Muresianu said. “And then about a month later, it rained for three days and he died of pneumonia. It would have saved his life. I think that should outweigh other concerns.

Times staff writer Julia Wick contributed to this report.

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