On Thursday evening, at the annual meeting of the Windsore Square Association, City Council Member David Ryu told Windsor Square residents that the city’s homeless crisis requires bold action. He said he planned to introduce a motion to declare a FEMA-style emergency response that would centralize decision-making and implementation of homelessness programs. Ryu made the announcement while participating in a panel discussion with La Brea Hancock HOA President and GWNC Homelessness Liaison Tammy Rosato and John Welborne, WSA Board member who served as moderator.
On Friday, Ryu’s office announced that he did introduce the motion to amend the City’s governing documents to centralize the identification, approval and development of homeless housing and resources within the Office of the Mayor. The motion, which requests a report back on ordinances and potential ballot measure language needed to effectuate the changes, also calls for the creation of a Homelessness Response Division to expedite all new homeless projects.
“We have long called homelessness the crisis of our time, but we have not delivered a crisis-level response,” Councilmember Ryu said in a press release. “I have spent time looking at what slows these needed solutions down, and it’s the structure of our City government itself. We need a central, citywide and FEMA-like response to the emergency of homelessness. That means reforming the way we build homeless housing in Los Angeles, and reforming our City’s governing documents to allow red tape to be swept away.”
This motion comes three years after the passage of Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond approved by 77% of voters to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing over 10 years. Since it was passed in 2016, zero HHH-funded permanent supportive housing units have been built, while more than 2,700 people have died while suffering homelessness.
Councilmember Ryu’s reform motion, seconded by Assistant Council President Pro Tem Joe Buscaino and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, would authorize the City Council to declare a Local Homelessness State of Emergency, vesting homelessness response authority to the Office of the Mayor. The Office of the Mayor would have the jurisdiction to identify homeless housing sites, re-zone parcels for the use of homeless housing, provide critical restroom and safe parking services, waive local code sections as needed to ensure expedited approval of any site, and command all the necessary agencies to work with one focus: build homeless housing.
Land use authority, including for homeless housing, is currently diffusely distributed amongst City boards, commissions, and the City Council, and land use decisions with each individual City Councilmember. Furthermore, each homeless housing project must win a long list of approvals from City boards, commissions, the City Council and various city agencies. Under this system, homeless housing projects can become bogged down under a myriad of approvals, overlapping agencies, and local backlash.
This reform would enable the Los Angeles City Council to delegate the temporary land use and public right-of-way authorities to the Office of the Mayor, in accordance with the other proposed powers. If the motion is approved by the City Council, portions of the reform would likely require voter approval to effectuate.
Finally, the motion also calls for the creation of a centralized and co-located Homelessness Response Division, with three principal tasks. The Division would handle all day-to-day encampment outreach and management, housing the already established Unified Homelessness Response Center (UHRC). Second, the Division would host staff from every relevant City agency to expedite and approve all homeless housing, restrooms and safe parking sites. Lastly, the Division would proactively research and propose policy changes for City Council consideration.
Councilmember Ryu also introduced a Resolution calling on the State to exempt all housing developments with 50% or more units dedicated to homeless housing, or housing with 100% affordable or supportive housing units, from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Find out more about Councilmember Ryu’s plan on homelessness here.
Other WSA Business
Following the panel discussion, WSA President Larry Guzin made brief remarks on the importance of becoming educated about SB50 and other state legislation that seeks to eliminate single-family-zoned neighborhoods.
Next, Guzin introduced Caroline Moser, chair of the WSA Block Captain’s Committee, and volunteer block captains in attendance.
Helen Hartung, Tree Canopy Chair, reported on the association’s plan to replace the trees on Larchmont Blvd.
The WSA also presented its annual Squeaky Wheel award to architect and resident Mary Pickhardt, for her twenty-five years of preservation leadership to the neighborhood.