Petition launched to recall Mayor Garcetti over LA homeless crisis

Earlier this month, the results of a survey of the homeless in Los Angeles County found the numbers were up sharply, about 12% in the county and 16% in the city. Now a petition has been launched to recall Mayor Eric Garcetti over his handling of the crisis. The petition would need signatures from 10% of LA voters to move forward. That’s just over 300,000 people so the petition is seeking a total of 350,000 signatures to make sure it clears that hurdle.

Under intense pressure because of the spike in homelessness, Mayor Garcetti released a letter Wednesday which compared the crisis to major natural disasters in California’s history:

When the Great San Francisco Earthquake struck in 1906, it quickly became the worst disaster in California history. Overnight, more than 200,000 people became homeless.

Now, the most recent statewide data shows that California has 129,972 homeless residents, making our current homelessness crisis the second-worst disaster we’ve ever seen in the Golden State…

While we have housed more homeless Angelenos than ever before in our city’s history, it’s not enough. We must respond like it’s an earthquake – and do more, faster.

Garcetti goes on to say that the solution is more housing and touts his record of building new housing:

Working with the City Council, we have increased our homelessness budget to more than $460 million for housing and services – 25 times what it was just four years ago – and the County has contributed hundreds of millions more. Our expanded funding will open new bridge housing that can temporarily bring our homeless neighbors off the street, and supportive housing that gets people under a roof for good.

Since Proposition HHH passed, we have 109 homeless housing developments in the pipeline – more than 7,400 new units for our homeless neighbors.

Proposition HHH was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in 2016. It raised $1.2 billion dollars to speed up construction of affordable housing in the city. But 2 1/2 years later, the number of housing units completed so far stands at zero:

Today the ten-year goal to build 10,000 units of homeless housing is in serious jeopardy, beset by delays, losses in federal tax credit funding, and skyrocketing construction costs. Not a single HHH unit was completed by the end of 2018.

On January 16, two years and two months since the measure was approved, the Homelessness and Poverty Committee convened a sparsely attended meeting in council chambers at City Hall.

Pete White of L.A. Community Action Network, one of a handful of people who stood up to speak during public comment, referred obliquely to the FBI corruption probe of city officials including Councilmen José Huizar and Curren Price, who was there when White used the phrase “the stench of corruption clouding the corridors of City Hall.” L.A. CAN has demanded an aggressive audit of HHH funds.

The City Controller is now doing an audit of the HHH funds and gave an interview to an NBC affiliate recently about what he’d found:

So the city is 1/4 of the way through the 10-year plan and while there are several projects underway, the number completed remains at zero. Even if the currently scheduled projects go forward as planned only about 240 new units will be available by the end of 2019. Clearly, that’s not going to make a dent in a city of 4 million people. So it’s fair to say that there is a case to be made that the city has bungled the resources it has been given to deal with this problem.

But even if all 10,000 became available this year, it would not be much help to the mentally ill and drug addicted people living on the streets. One of the favorite tropes of homeless advocates, repeated recently in an editorial by the LA Times, is that only about 1/3 of the homeless have mental or drug problems. That’s true if you include a significant number of homeless people who are sleeping on couches temporarily or homeless for a period of a few weeks. These are not the chronic homeless living in Skid Row for years at a time. The homeless crisis that people want the city to address is the one that is visible on the streets. And a much higher percentage of these people are mentally ill or drug/alcohol addicts. Affordable housing is not going to help people who have little chance of holding down a job.

This week, ABC 7 offered an aerial view of the homeless problem in LA which is visible at nearly every overpass and onramp in the city. This is the problem people want to see addressed by Mayor Garcetti: