February 14, 2023
By United Neighbors in Defense of Displacement (UNIDAD)
Dear Mayor Bass,
United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) is a coalition of residents and organizations in South Central Los Angeles dedicated to keeping families in their homes and improving the health and economic well-being of low-income communities of color through responsible development. We applaud your recent decision to issue an Executive Directive to inventory vacant, surplus, or underutilized city-owned property and assess its suitability for permanent or affordable housing. However, a luxury hotel development was approved for a vacant city-owned lot in South Los Angeles just days before you issued your directive.
For the past decade, UNIDAD has called for this site, which was once home to the Mary McLeod Bethune Public Library, to be prioritized for affordable housing. For years, the city assured the local community that it would be used for affordable housing and other community serving spaces. However, in 2019, the city began working with a developer to sell this land to build a Marriott hotel. The community was (and remains) strongly opposed to the hotel project, and both the City Zoning Administrator and the South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission voted to deny required permits. In spite of this, on February 3, 2023, the Los Angeles City Council voted to override these decisions and move the hotel development forward.
The Bethune site is “viable city-owned property” of exactly the type your Executive Directive is meant to identify. As we understand it, your directive was made in the spirit of preserving public land for public good. Los Angeles is facing a severe housing and homelessness crisis, and building a hotel on valuable public land will serve tourists who need short-term accommodations and not the thousands of Angelenos who need permanent affordable housing. We urge you to preserve the Bethune site for a community-serving purpose such as housing rather than one that serves narrow corporate and special interests and veto the city council’s decision to sell it to a hotel developer.
The UNIDAD Coalition