Local News West Edition

Shipping containers will house homeless in Watts

WATTS — The housing crunch remains a critical problem in Los Angeles as the city’s homeless population continues to grow.

One organization that is meeting the housing challenge is the design firm Studio One Eleven in Long Beach, which is working on several supportive housing developments that leverage one-time used shipping containers and converts them into studio apartments to house those experiencing homelessness in Watts and other parts of the city.

Watts Works, the first of these projects, was awarded funds through the Proposition HHH and No Place Like Home programs. The project is a joint venture between Daylight Community Development, Decro Corporation and the People Concern.

The team also was awarded $23.8 million in funds through the Proposition HHH Innovation Challenge to replicate their model on three additional sites. The platform will provide more than 135 units of supportive housing throughout the city.   

The stacked shipping containers will be converted into 24 3,240-square-foot studio apartments and one 480-square foot manager’s apartment.

Michael Bohn, who is an architect and senior principal at Studio One Eleven, said that there is a surplus of empty shipping containers at the Port of Long Beach that are sitting idle and are not being used.

“We buy the shipping containers from a broker for $2,500 each,” Bohn said.

He added that the architectural firm has previously used the storage containers to build restaurants in Bellflower and Garden Grove.

Each container is 9 feet high and 20 to 40 feet long. Each converted unit will contain a small kitchen, a closet, a combined living room and bedroom and a full bathroom containing a tub/shower combo, a sink and a toilet.

The development, located at 9502 Compton Ave., is being built near an aging avocado tree, considered one of the oldest in the region. The design will emphasize indoor/outdoor living and will feature a community room, a “tranquility garden,” patios, a rear barbecue area and a level-three amenity deck. The design and construction was created in partnership with modular manufacturer indie Dwell.

Bohn said that the state of California inspects the containers as they are prepared to meet all safety and code regulations.

“We are searching for three more sites to build more housing out of shipping containers on a bigger scale,” said Bohn, who added that 130 to 135 units will be built out of shipping containers in the near future.

In regards to leasing the studios, Greg Comanor, partner of Daylight Community Development, said that there is an online matching system that will connect the tenant with a unit based on availability, need and population.

“We will be housing chronically homeless individuals who require onsite supportive services in order to stabilize and thrive,” Comanor said. “The People Concern, our partner and service provider, is incredibly effective in serving these individuals through this ‘housing first’ model,” he said.

Not only will the homeless be provided housing, but each tenant also will be assigned to a case manager and a social worker.

The development is scheduled to open in December 2020.