Activists from several housing and homeless advocacy groups set up a tent city in front of one of LA's ritziest malls this morning to motivate L.A. officials to do more to solve the housing crisis.
Honking cars expressed solidarity with protesters gathered along South Fairfax and 3rd Street in front of the Grove.
Some protesters pitched a line of tents, while others held up a large sign that says “Affordable Housing Now.” Harried shoppers stopped and stared.
But that’s exactly what protest organizer Mel Tillekeratne, the director of the homeless service organization Monday Night Mission, wanted to see.
"The whole reason we set up the tents here is this part of town is very immune to what homelessness is in L.A.," he said, gesturing around at the trendy eateries and shops just a few feet away.
Tillekeratne says homeless is rapidly increasing in Los Angeles. Last year there was a 23 percent increase in L.A. county, and the link between rising rent and rising homeless is no secret.
A report this year from the California Department of Housing and Community Development showed that in last 10 years, California has only built an average of 80,000 homes a year, far below the 180,000 homes needed a year to keep up with housing growth.
Noah Grynberg with the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action said the existing stock of local affordable housing is also being lost.
"Tenant protections haven't been expanded for years in Los Angeles County – and they need to be," he said. "Landlords, property owners and new investors are using a number of strategies and tactics to displace existing tenants - even those who are protected by rent control."
Dina Brown from L.A. L.O.V.E. – a nonprofit that provides clothes and personal hygiene items to homeless individuals – stood on the curb of South Fairfax with the tents behind her.
"It's really bleak," she said of the housing and homelessness crisis in L.A. "The money just isn't there."
And, she said, policies like the Ellis Act – a California law that allows landlords to evict residents as a way out of the rental business – give loopholes that allow developers to evict people from affordable housing units.
George Fain stood nearby watching the protestors wave their signs. He said he supports the cause, but he doesn't think there's even room in L.A. to house the estimated 40,000 homeless people here.
"So no matter how hard they try, I don’t think everyone is going to get housing, unfortunately," he said.
But he was shocked to hear from housing advocates today that in twenty years, L.A. could see as many as 100,000 homeless people on the streets.
"That's disgusting," he said. "I think they're going to have to get more innovative in helping the homeless."
Erin O'Grady watched as activists took to the mike to advocate for increased tenant protections and more money to house the homeless.
"It's such a tricky situation," she said, saying that both her parents work in real estate. "But housing is a right. People need houses, and the homelessness problem here is honestly insane to me considering the wealth we have in our city."
Housing advocates say if nothing is done, even affluent places like the Grove will look much different in a few years.