Golden Motel development for homeless in San Gabriel won't happen

At the moment, families and individuals on the verge of homelessness reside in the motel.
At the moment, families and individuals on the verge of homelessness reside in the motel.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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A controversial proposal to turn an old motel near Temple City into housing for homeless will not go through. 

Mercy Housing, a nonprofit developer, had planned on converting the Golden Motel on Rosemead Blvd. into apartments for the homeless. But on Monday the developer withdrew its proposal from L.A. County's Regional Planning Commission. 

According to Ed Holder, regional vice president of real estate development, the motel's owners were not willing to wait out Mercy's efforts to gain neighborhood support for the project and county approval, and decided to go with a different buyer.

“While I am deeply disappointed that the Golden Motel project will not happen, the unfortunate reality of the Southern California real estate market is that every property for sale, even those as troubled as the Golden Motel, has multiple offers to purchase," Holder said in a statement. "We see the impact on rents, the rising affordability gap, and the increase in homelessness.”

A man who answered the phone at the Golden Motel's office declined to comment. 

The failure of the Golden Motel project comes at a time when the City and County of Los Angeles are looking to massively expand construction of housing for homeless. Old motels like this one, largely inhabited by people who are homeless or on the verge, had been seen as a logical target for redevelopment in a region that's struggled to place services and homes for homeless outside of Skid Row. 

"It's so clear that these are serving as less effective solutions to homelessness than what would replace them," said Chris Ko, director of homeless programs for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. "But we learned that this is an emotional issue and we need community education."

The Golden Motel proposal drew considerable, vocal opposition — and some support — from neighbors, a group of which formed to fight the project.

"The reality is they had great intentions, but they really didn't do it right," said Lucy Liou, a Temple City resident who opposed the redevelopment. She said the proposed project was too large, situated in too residential an area, close to too many schools, and without enough public safety services nearby.

Liou said she wasn't confident housing homeless in a development with services was enough of a guarantee they'd succeed and not disrupt or impact the quality of life or safety of neighbors. She was also concerned they wouldn't be encouraged to become self-sufficient.

Mostly, she said, residents didn't feel included in the planning process.

"These developments need to happen, [and] if you want them to happen in bedroom communities, all the more reason to involve the community," she said. 

Now, she said, she's waiting to see who ends up buying the motel and what they do with it.

Ko said advocates will continue pushing for more services and housing in the San Gabriel Valley. The United Way pledged to start campaign to help developers with community relations around their proposed homeless housing projects.

"We can all take part in something pretty transformational for our homeless residents and our communities," Ko said.