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Wildlife Crossing Over 101 Freeway Receives Record $25 Million Annenberg Challenge Grant

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101 Freeway Wildlife Crossing
Photo Courtesy of the National Wildlife Federation

A record $25 million conservation challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation to the National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign to build a wildlife crossing in the Los Angeles area will help the landmark project break ground later this year.

The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon over the 101 Freeway — which will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world — will reconnect a long-fragmented ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot, and help protect the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The bridge is the first urban crossing of its scale – spanning 210 feet over ten lanes of highway and pavement, along with an access road – and is the first significantly funded through private donations along with public support. The #SaveLACougars campaign to build the crossing will serve as a model for urban wildlife conservation efforts across the globe. 

With this donation, the campaign has raised over $44 million to date, and needs to secure an estimated $35 million to unlock the Annenberg Challenge Grant and to break ground in November.

“This incredible conservation challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation — the largest ever received by the National Wildlife Federation — puts us closer to breaking ground this year. Wallis Annenberg’s grant will protect this global biodiversity hotspot  – recognized as one of only 36 biodiversity hotspots worldwide – and ensure that California’s iconic mountain lions and other wildlife can find the food and mates they need to survive by reconnecting the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills and beyond,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation in a statement. “Thank you also to the visionary leadership of the intrepid Beth Pratt as well as every donor who is making this transformative project a reality.” 

The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon will take place at the US-101 freeway where it runs through the city of Agoura Hills. The 101 freeway is a heavily travelled commuter route that serves the Greater Los Angeles area; connects Los Angeles and Ventura Counties; and acts as the primary access route to and from downtown Los Angeles, various residential communities, and tourist destinations in Los Angeles, as well as the central California coast. 

This location is a formidable and virtually impenetrable barrier for many wildlife species including mountain lions, bobcats, gray foxes, coyotes, and mule deer that inhabit and travel between the Santa Monica Mountains, the Simi Hills, and the Santa Susana Mountains – over 300,000 cars pass through this freeway site daily.

The wildlife crossing will feature robust engineering and an innovative landscape design that will blend the structure into the surrounding mountain habitat and will include vegetated barriers to reduce the impact of vehicle traffic noise and roadway light on wildlife movement.

As evidenced from decades of wildlife crossing projects across the world, such as the successful structures in Banff National Park, and the array of animals seen using an overpass in Utah in a recent viral video, wildlife crossings work. The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon responds to two decades of National Park Service research, and the need to create a vital connection for the endangered mountain lion population and other wildlife that make their home in the Santa Monica Mountains. As a major green infrastructure project for the state of California, construction for the crossing will generate jobs in the region and economic benefits into the future. 

To learn more about the #SaveLACougars campaign and its efforts to build the wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon visit here.

Community News

L.A. Mayor Signs Camping Ordinance Aimed At Restricting Homeless Encampments

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance on Friday aimed at restricting homeless encampments in certain areas of the city.

The ordinance, which is set to take effect 30 days from the signing date, bans camping near “sensitive” facilities including within 500 feet of schools, daycares, parks and libraries, according to the  L.A. City Council agenda.

In addition, the measure also restricts sitting, lying, or sleeping as well as storing, using, maintaining and placing personal property in any public right-of-way such as ramps, driveways or bike lanes, among others.

On Wednesday, the council voted 13-2 to approve the measure before Garcetti’s signature. 

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voiced opposition to the ordinance, with Bonin recalling his own struggle with housing.

“Some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep,” Bonin said. “I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said the measure helps regulate shared public spaces while “acting with compassion and purpose” to help people experiencing homelessness.

“This ordinance establishes fair and clearly defined rules for how sidewalks in Los Angeles are regulated — while linking those rules to a comprehensive, compassionate strategy for street engagement that will establish reasonable pathways to positive outcomes and, ultimately, permanent homes,” O’Farrell said.

In order to enforce the new order, the City Council has to take action through a resolution to designate a certain area for enforcement, according to the ordinance.

The city plans to send out “street engagement teams,” along with law enforcement, to assist those experiencing homelessness in the designated encampment by providing connection to services, including interim housing. 

Last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report outlining the number of shelter beds available across the county.

The number of homeless shelter beds in the L.A. region has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity, according to the agency.

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds — less than half of the estimated 66,000 people on the street countywide. 

The previous Homeless Count was conducted before the pandemic, with many housing experts and community members reporting an increase in the unhoused population in the past 18 months. 

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Community News

L.A. Homeless Shelter Capacity Up 57% In Three Years, Still Less Than Demand

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Tiny-Home-Village-Homeless-Shelter-North-Hollywood-Los-Angeles-1-1
Devon Miller / The Valley Post

The number of homeless shelter beds in Los Angeles has increased by over 50% in the past three years, however, demand still outpaces the capacity. 

The 2021 Housing Inventory Count and Shelter Count, released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) Wednesday, shows the nightly shelter capacity in the L.A. area has grown despite challenges faced by the pandemic. 

LAHSA found that the L.A. region’s shelter capacity on any given night was 24,616 beds, a 57% increase over the last three years. The agency also reported 33,592 permanent housing options, an increase of 16% over the same period.

Through “unprecedented coordination” and a critical influx of state and federal emergency funding, the L.A. region’s rehousing system’s response to COVID-19 saved lives, according to  Heidi Marston, executive director of LAHSA.

“We must build off of that momentum as we emerge from the pandemic to build the infrastructure necessary to address our homelessness crisis and collectively confront the conditions that continue to push people into homelessness,” Marston said in a statement. 

The Los Angeles region needs to build a more balanced system with more housing options. A balanced rehousing system has five permanent housing exits for each shelter bed; the Los Angeles system is closer to one-to-one, according to the executive director. 

The Housing Inventory Count is a census of all interim and permanent housing options in the homeless rehousing system at a given point-in-time. This year, the Housing Inventory Count occurred on Jan. 27.

LAHSA reported these results despite the global pandemic causing a considerable strain on its shelter supply. 

In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, all of Los Angeles County’s congregate shelters had to decrease their bed count through a process called decompression. 

However, strategic investments by the federal, state, and local governments through Project Roomkey and Project Homekey helped make up for the loss of capacity, according to the agency.

The Shelter Count revealed that there were 17,225 people in a shelter on the night of the count, which is virtually unchanged from the previous year. 

LAHSA cited that without the addition of 2,357 Project Roomkey beds and 497 Project Homekey beds, there could have been a more significant drop in the shelter count due to decompression.

Following the advice of public health officials, LAHSA did not conduct an Unsheltered Count in 2021 to protect the 8,000 volunteers needed to complete the Count each year from COVID-19. The agency is planning to resume the Unsheltered Count in 2022.

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Community News

Home Prices In San Fernando Valley Reach New High, Median Nearing $1 Million

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Los Angeles Homes

The median price of San Fernando Valley homes sold during June reached a record high while sales soared 56.9% and the number of properties listed for sale lingered at low levels.

The median price was $955,000, up 28.9% from June 2020, according to the Southland Regional Association of Realtors (SRAR).

June was the fourth consecutive month with the median above the $900,000 benchmark.

“Not long ago it would have been inconceivable that the San Fernando Valley would see the median home price inching toward $1 million,” said Diane Sydell, president of the association in a statement. “Now it seems inevitable, especially with today’s wealth of buyers, dearth of inventory, and heated competition over virtually every listing.”

The condominium median price for June was $519,000, up 12.8% from June 2020, but 3.9% below the record high $540,000 set this April.

A total of 554 single-family homes closed escrow during June, up 56.9% from a year ago and 11.5% ahead of May’s tally. It was the first month this year above 500 sales and the highest monthly total since June 2018.

The statistics for condominium sales were not as dramatic, in part because of the extremely limited supply of condominiums listed for sale, according to SRAR.

There were 725 active home and condominium listings at the end of June, the first month above 700 listings this year.

“The market has been overheated and buyer fatigue may be a factor going forward,” said Tim Johnson, the association’s chief executive officer. “Too many buyers are weary of competing with unseen competitors and losing to a higher bidder even when they come to the market fully prepared to buy. ”

That may translate in buyers being a bit more cautious, which when combined with the
reopening of the economy may yield a slowdown in sales and a few more listings.

Yet Johnson stressed that a “few more listings” doesn’t go far, even if some buyers are starting to take a bit longer to jump into the market.

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