A growing number of state lawmakers has voiced strong support for a new, supportive housing development for people with disabilities in Los Angeles’ Pico Robertson neighborhood.
In late May, Sen. Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles), with support from Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), Sen. Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica), Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), and Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles), submitted a request to the California Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee to include funds in the upcoming California state budget to support the development of The Village, a 64-unit apartment community designed to serve individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Developed by Cornerstone Housing for Adults with Disabilities, The Village is set to break ground this fall on Pico Blvd. and will include eight units for low-income affordable housing.
Stern’s request will be considered by the budget committee later this month.
“The Village is the kind of inclusive, affordable, community-based housing we need more of in LA,” said Stern. “With ETTA’s partnership, I am working to ensure California supports housing like this as a tangible, livable form of justice we must pursue.”
The $55 million development is set to include what Cornerstone terms, “wrap-around services,” which include housing, transportation, job services, life skills, day programs, summer and recreational activities and case management. ETTA, a nonprofit organization that has been serving adults with special needs and their families in Los Angeles for nearly three decades, will be offered as one of the on-site service providers for residents.
“The Village will transform an old, commercial property, located in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, into a residential and retail site,” said Dr. Michael Held, executive director of ETTA and Cornerstone Housing. “The Village will empower residents who have intellectual and developmental differences to live active, independent, and enriched lives.”
California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) also publicly voiced his support for the Village. Bloom has a long personal history with one of The Village’s service providers, ETTA, which was co-founded by his parents, Aaron and Rickey Bloom.
“My personal connection to ETTA runs deep: my mom and dad were personal friends of Etta Israel and her developmentally disabled son, Lazar – whose passing inspired Etta to leave her modest estate to provide help to individuals like Lazar,” said Bloom. “As her executors, [my] mom and dad fulfilled Etta’s wishes by co-founding the non-profit when she passed.”
“Years later, ETTA is now a leading innovative organization serving the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. When it comes to solving our housing crisis, especially for society’s most vulnerable, we must think big and outside the box,” said Bloom.
He added that the Cornerstone project, “has my full support and I look forward to seeing its funding included in this year’s final budget.”
Cornerstone recognized that the number of Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities enter adulthood was increasing year after year, creating a vital need for supportive housing and wraparound services.
This growing problem was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on access to caregivers and medical services, combined with changing family dynamics amid physical distancing, led many people with disabilities to experience a loss of community. Research found that those with disabilities were at greater risk of experiencing depression and anxiety during the pandemic.
This challenge—building communities for people with disabilities to increase connection and thwart loneliness—extends well beyond the pandemic. Many people with disabilities are reliant upon their family for care. The Social Security Administration’s Disability Determination Services found that only 16 percent of people with disabilities live on their own, and only 35 percent have access to employment. Amid these challenges, many face an outsize risk of homelessness.
Cornerstone said that The Village is meant to be more than just a place to live. It is envisioned as a community hub for Angelenos with disabilities—as well as a proof of concept for developing new housing options for underserved populations in a region with limited housing supply.
“We believe The Village can serve as a pilot project, creating a new model for people with disabilities —and a blueprint to unite them with their communities—that can be replicated nationwide,” said Held.
Sen. Bob Herzberg (D-Van Nuys), Senate Majority Leader Emeritus, also voiced his enthusiasm for what he described as the Village’s pioneering approach to addressing the region’s housing challenges.
“I love innovative projects like this,” said Hertzberg. “Where else but California would policy leaders embrace a forward-thinking plan to help the developmentally disabled be near friends and family yet live independently? All at a cost they can afford, plus be near shopping and transportation. Talk about revolutionary.”