Mak­ing a hous­ing vow

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Emily Alpert Reyes

A group of Los An­ge­les law­mak­ers pledged Wed­nes­day to avoid not-in-my­back­yard bat­tles over where des­ti­tute res­i­dents should be housed, promis­ing to back a min­i­mum num­ber of new sup­port­ive hous­ing units for home­less peo­ple in the dis­tricts they rep­re­sent.

The City Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion would not be bind­ing, but law­mak­ers em­pha­sized that they were mak­ing a pub­lic com­mit­ment — and throw­ing down the gaunt­let for oth­ers on the coun­cil to do the same.

“We have to build this hous­ing ev­ery­where in the city of Los An­ge­les,” City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Herb Wes­son said at a news con­fer­ence out­side the New Ge­n­e­sis Apart­ments on Main Street. “And we feel as though the coun­cil should make a com­mit­ment that we’re all go­ing to do that.”

The res­o­lu­tion calls on each coun­cil mem­ber to back the ap­proval of least 222 units of sup­port­ive hous­ing in his or her dis­trict be­fore July 1, 2020, in­clud­ing any units ap­proved since last July.

Home­less ad­vo­cates say

that if all 15 mem­bers of the coun­cil do so, it would put the city on track to reach its goal of cre­at­ing 10,000 units of per­ma­nent sup­port­ive hous­ing in a decade.

The pro­posal was in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day by Wes­son and coun­cil mem­bers Nury Martinez, Mar­queece Har­ris-Daw­son and Jose Huizar. Coun­cil­men Mike Bonin, Paul Kreko­rian and David Ryu sec­onded the res­o­lu­tion, which will now head to a coun­cil com­mit­tee for fur­ther re­view.

“We see too much fear­ful­ness by elected of­fi­cials and neigh­bor­hood lead­ers and oth­ers that if you pro­vide ser­vices to the home­less, if you build hous­ing for the home­less, some­how that’s go­ing to cre­ate ad­di­tional prob­lems for the neigh­bor­hood,” Kreko­rian, whose dis­trict stretches from Stu­dio City to Sun Val­ley, said at the news con­fer­ence. “I’m here to say, this is the so­lu­tion to prob­lems in the neigh­bor­hood.”

Los An­ge­les vot­ers over­whelm­ingly backed a $1.2bil­lion bond more than a year ago to build new hous­ing — Propo­si­tion HHH — and later voted for a coun­ty­wide tax to fund ser­vices. But as that money has started to flow in, the home­less pop­u­la­tion has grown much more quickly than the sup­ply of new hous­ing, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from the re­gional home­less­ness agency.

Faced with swelling frus­tra­tion over a cri­sis felt from Chatsworth to San Pe­dro, L.A. law­mak­ers are al­ready vet­ting new or­di­nances meant to speed up city ap­proval for new hous­ing equipped with sup­port­ive ser­vices and make it eas­ier to tem­po­rar­ily turn mo­tels into home­less hous­ing.

The pledge an­nounced Wed­nes­day is meant to help break down an­other pos­si­ble bar­rier: Coun­cil mem­bers some­times face pres­sure to turn down home­less hous­ing projects in their dis­tricts. Such projects must get a let­ter of ac­knowl­edg­ment from the lo­cal law­maker be­fore they can se­cure Propo­si­tion HHH funds from the hous­ing depart­ment.

Bonin, who rep­re­sents coastal ar­eas, said he was ap­proached at the re­cent Women’s March by two res­i­dents — one up­set about home­less en­camp­ments on Venice streets, the other con­cerned about pro­pos­als for home­less hous­ing in Venice. He said he told them that it was an “ei­ther-or sit­u­a­tion,” and “we ei­ther have en­camp­ments or we have hous­ing.”

Bonin added that the sec­ond res­i­dent raised con­cerns that Venice was be­ing sin­gled out for such hous­ing. Har­ris-Daw­son said he had heard sim­i­lar con­cerns from South L.A. res­i­dents who told him: “It’s right to build hous­ing for the home­less, but you know that they’re go­ing to try to build ev­ery one of those units in our neigh­bor­hood.”

Har­ris-Daw­son said that en­sur­ing some “geo­graphic eq­uity” could ease pres­sure on coun­cil mem­bers. “I think all of us would get a lot of re­lief if our con­stituents could pick up the pa­per and say, ‘Oh, this is hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where!’ as op­posed to, ‘Why here?’ ” he said in an ear­lier in­ter­view.

In Los An­ge­les, home­less hous­ing has been dis­pro­por­tion­ately con­cen­trated in some coun­cil dis­tricts that cover down­town, Hol­ly­wood and some parts of the San Fer­nando Val­ley, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by the United Way of Greater Los An­ge­les.

The group cau­tioned that the anal­y­sis does not in­clude all kinds of sup­port­ive hous­ing for home­less res­i­dents, but said it had ex­am­ined de­vel­op­ments that were funded through the city hous­ing depart­ment or a county de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sion.

Huizar, whose down­town dis­trict in­cludes skid row, de­scribed the pledge as a key step to “roll back the con­tain­ment pol­icy” that had in ef­fect restricted home­less ser­vices to cer­tain ar­eas. Martinez lamented that the United Way anal­y­sis showed that nearly three-quar­ters of ex­ist­ing sup­port­ive hous­ing is lo­cated in just five of the 15 coun­cil dis­tricts.

The pledge will not erase all neigh­bor­hood con­cerns about where such hous­ing is lo­cated: Chris­tian Wrede, a co-founder of the com­mu­nity group Venice Vi­sion, said that the res­o­lu­tion was a good step but that the city also needs to en­sure that neigh­bor­hoods within each coun­cil dis­trict have their “fair share” of sup­port­ive hous­ing.

Do­ing so, he said, would also en­sure ac­count­abil­ity for law­mak­ers. “If they con­cen­trate ev­ery­thing in 5% of their coun­cil dis­trict, there’s no chance of elec­toral blow­back,” Wrede said.

Coun­cil mem­bers are also fac­ing grow­ing im­pa­tience from An­ge­lenos who backed the bond mea­sure and county tax to con­front the home­less­ness cri­sis.

The AIDS Health­care Foun­da­tion, a non­profit that has clashed with city lead­ers over real es­tate de­vel­op­ment, has erected bill­boards across Los An­ge­les that fea­ture the word “home­less” in the style of the Hol­ly­wood sign. The bill­boards di­rect peo­ple to a web­site with dire sta­tis­tics about home­less­ness where they can con­tact Mayor Eric Garcetti and other of­fi­cials. “It’s not even a drop in the bucket,” foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent Michael We­in­stein said of the pledged num­ber of new units in each dis­trict. “If Herb Wes­son and Eric Garcetti are se­ri­ous, they should de­clare a state of emer­gency. They should back a right to shel­ter. And they should come up with an emer­gency plan to of­fer a roof over ev­ery­one’s head this year.”

Ear­lier this week, Bonin and Har­ris-Daw­son called for such a plan, one that would pro­vide ev­ery­one liv­ing on L.A. streets with an al­ter­na­tive to en­camp­ments by the end of De­cem­ber.

They com­plained there was “no in­sti­tu­tional or or­ga­ni­za­tional sense of ur­gency” to pro­vide im­me­di­ate shel­ter for tens of thou­sands of peo­ple while hous­ing is un­der con­struc­tion, call­ing the sit­u­a­tion “un­ac­cept­able and in­tol­er­a­ble.” The two law­mak­ers also want a com­pre­hen­sive list of pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties that could legally be used as shel­ters, tem­po­rary hous­ing or “safe park­ing” ar­eas.

Huizar, in turn, has pressed city staff to come up with new rec­om­men­da­tions specif­i­cally for quickly get­ting peo­ple off the streets of skid row. At a meet­ing Wed­nes­day, a coun­cil com­mit­tee backed his pro­posal to ask staff to an­a­lyze the costs of fund­ing and man­ag­ing emer­gency shel­ters for its home­less pop­u­la­tion.

“The re­sult of the city’s poli­cies is that we are telling peo­ple to live on city side­walks,” Bonin said af­ter vot­ing to back that pro­posal. “We had, and have an op­por­tu­nity, to pro­vide shel­ter, and in­stead all we pro­vide is side­walks.”

Ir­fan Khan Los An­ge­les Times

SEV­ERAL L.A. coun­cil mem­bers pledged to pro­vide at least 222 units of sup­port­ive hous­ing in each of their dis­tricts for home­less peo­ple. Above, Kaleb Havens is on a hunger strike to raise aware­ness of home­less­ness on down­town’s skid row.

Ge­naro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

L.A. of­fi­cials are fac­ing grow­ing im­pa­tience from An­ge­lenos who backed a bond mea­sure and a county tax to con­front home­less­ness. Above, in Venice in 2017.


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