Unfortunately, working for the city of Los Angeles rarely makes it possible to live within city limits. As the participants in the December 6th Fix LA Alliance rally in Echo Park explained, many of their members must regularly commute several hours to get to work, with some sleeping in their cars to beat traffic.
This is why the Fix LA coalition, which includes SEIU 721 member Felipe Caceres, Mighty3090, United Methodist Church Pastor Frank Wulf, and ACT-LA’s Campaigns Director Scarlett De Leon, are working to transform underused city parking lots into affordable and social housing. During the rally, they addressed the potential of the surface parking lot behind the Edendale Branch Library adjacent to Alvarado Street.
“We know with the help of the library and the city, we can put up to 120 units of affording housing here,” Pastor Wulf explained, noting that the United Methodist Church is working with the city to donate its portion of the parking lot. As the rally marched from Echo Park Lake to Alvarado Street, the evidence of homelessness—which has only been increasing in the neighborhood in tandem with gentrification—was clearly visible.
Scarlett De Leon said that social housing, in which cities invest in housing that remains affordable from generation to generation, tends to provide benefits for the municipality at large. She explained that in 1919 in Vienna, Austria, social housing “started in a moment like this where people lived in the streets, where folks were living on top of each other.” According to the New York Times, Vienna now has one of the most affordable rental markets in the world, with some tenants paying only 3.5% of their wages for two and three bedroom apartments.
All the rally attendees agreed that city workers, who provide vital services including 911 emergency assistance, should not have to pay over half of their salary in rent. As De Leon said, “our city needs to do a deep investment in buying public land, and ensuring that public land goes for housing.”