By Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
December marked a milestone in Los Angeles’ homelessness efforts when City and civic leaders gathered to break ground on the first Proposition HHH housing project for the homeless. Approved in November 2016 by more than 76 percent of Angelenos, HHH authorized $1.2 billion over 10 years to construct 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing in the City of L.A.
In March 2017, voters again showed their urgency for solutions by approving Measure H, a county-wide quarter cent sales tax to bring in more than $300 million over 10 years for wrap-around supportive services for the homeless. The last count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), showed that homeless residents in the city exceed 34,000, and the county total exceeds 57,000.
It is now clear that finding funding for our homeless crisis may have been the easy part. We don’t just need money. We need policy changes, political will and neighborhood support.
To deliver on the promise of Proposition HHH to build 10,000 units of housing for the homeless in the City of L.A., advocates of HHH have proposed a Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance to remove unnecessary barriers and red tape in the approval process. The ordinance ensures that projects fit within the surrounding community and follow existing zoning requirements. By amending planning regulations to speed up the process and address the specific needs of PSH units (such as requiring fewer parking spots), this ordinance can save up to a million dollars on each project and enable more housing units to be built throughout the community.
Another less expensive and faster solution to house homeless individuals is the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, which would aid in the transition of motel rooms into temporary or permanent homes. According to a report by the Planning Department, there are approximately 10,259 guest rooms in 382 motels that could be eligible for conversion if the owners are interested in the program.
Both of these proposals passed the City Planning Commission in December. They were heard in the City’s Homeless & Housing Committee a couple weeks ago, where Councilmembers requested report backs on a number of technical issues and emphasized the need for geographic equity. We urge members of the City Council to move forward on both of these policies, and to actively support specific projects in their individual districts.
The 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count took place last week and we expect the total count to go up. It is no longer acceptable for any of us to say, “I support projects to house the homeless, just not THIS project in my neighborhood or community.” The only way to dramatically impact our homelessness crisis is for every neighborhood in the City of L.A. and every community in the County of L.A. to be part of the solution.