The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors followed recently elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ lead and declared a state of emergency over homelessness in the County.
County supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger introduced the motion that was unanimously approved Tuesday by the five-member elected board.
“This emergency proclamation boils down to cutting red tape,” Barger said.
“It’s the county’s job to provide the critical mental health, substance abuse treatment, and case management services that make a world of difference in helping people experiencing homelessness get off our streets and back on their feet,” Barger said. “Our efforts have been persistently hampered by a lack of personnel and bureaucratic processes that slow down our ability to hire, fill positions, and contract for services.”
The housing crisis and homelessness have been at center stage in California politics and policy in recent years. The state and many big cities and counties have approved and sold billions of dollars of bonds to fund affordable housing.
California’s housing crisis has been mentioned in rating discussions for the state and its major cities for the past several years, though it hasn’t been linked to any rating action.
Gov. Gavin Newsom became quite heated while introducing his proposed budget Tuesday when he discussed the billions state government has provided local governments to tackle the housing crisis, and the likelihood lawmakers will introduce legislation this session to increase accountability around how that money is spent. He included another $750 million toward such efforts in his $297 billion fiscal year 2023-24 proposed budget.
“There is going to have to be consequences for bad behavior and not performing, the most critical and essential element that government needs to do,” Newsom said. “All the money we have invested in housing. It’s about accountability, and driving private investment.”
The state had been requiring local governments to include housing for its poorest residents and homeless people in their housing plans if they want to receive money from the state for such efforts. Newsom has not targeted Los Angeles’ efforts specifically with his critiques.
Former Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin had criticized Los Angeles’ spending on housing for homeless individuals in an audit of the $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016.
Bass declared her state of emergency around homelessness in December, on her first official day in office. The City Council approved the declaration shortly after.
Bass’ emergency declaration gives her the power to lift rules and regulations that slow or prevent the building of permanent and temporary housing for the unhoused; to expedite contracts that prioritize bringing unhoused Angelenos inside; and to allow the city to acquire rooms, properties and land for housing for Angelenos in need, according to the mayor.
“I want to thank Supervisor Horvath, Supervisor Barger and the entire Board of Supervisors for unanimously locking arms with the county and the city by declaring an emergency on the homelessness crisis,” Bass said in a statement.
The county supervisors said they are also working closely with Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson to make sure the region has a cohesive plan to tackle the issue. With 466,000 residents, Long Beach is the second-most-populous city in the county, after Los Angeles at 3.9 million.
The emergency declaration directs county departments to streamline and accelerate contracting, procurement, and hiring. It also asks county departments to accelerate timelines for the creation of licensed beds, interim housing, and permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness, while speeding up access to other county services.
Additionally, the declaration directs Chief Executive Director Fesia Davenport to identify existing and additional funding streams, and requires countywide communications to develop and implement a communication plan to interact with the public and all regional partners on the progress being made.
“This critical motion ensures that the county is efficiently using every single resource at our disposal to treat this crisis with the attention it deserves,” Horvath said in a statement.