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Supervisors Endorse $5B State Budget Proposal on Homelessness

Homeless encampment. Photo by Mayra Vasquez/Los Angeles County

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors expressed support for a California State Senate budget proposal that would allocate $5 billion over four years to increase the construction of affordable housing and fund immediate and long-term solutions to homelessness.

“While the Governor’s May Revise sets aside a portion of funds for emergency grants, bolder action and more systemic intervention are needed,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “A new Senate budget proposal is a step in the right direction.”

The 2018-2019 Senate Affordable Housing and Homelessness Proposal was approved on May 16th by a Senate Budget and Fiscal Review subcommittee, and is supported by Senate President Toni Atkins.

The Senate budget proposal includes roughly $2 billion for affordable housing construction, and another $2 billion in funding for programs and housing to address short- and long-term homelessness. It also includes $1 billion over four years for grants to applicant counties to fund interim housing options, rental assistance, capital and operating subsidies.

Even though California’s economy is now the fifth largest in the world, it has an estimated nightly homeless count of 134,278 people, or a quarter of the United States’ homeless population.

California’s crisis of homelessness is occurring against the backdrop of a worsening affordable housing crisis. Governor Jerry Brown’s elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2012 dealt a severe blow to the production of affordable housing statewide. According to the latest Housing Need Report by the California Housing Partnership, the state has a deficit of 1.5 million affordable rental homes – nearly 570,000 in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County confronted its local homeless crisis by implementing Measure H, a quarter-cent special sales tax over 10 years that voters approved in March 2017 to end and prevent homelessness. It is expected to generate approximately $355 million annually to help 45,000 families and individuals escape homelessness within five years and prevent homelessness for 30,000 others.

The County has also strived to address the housing shortfall by setting aside its own General Funds, and leveraging other public funds, to construct affordable and special needs housing through the County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Clearing the Way for New Development at Vermont and Manchester

Rendering of the proposed development at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard (Killefer Flammang Architects).

Los Angeles County crews demolished the last remaining structure at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard to make way for new development projects on a site that sustained extensive damage in the 1992 Civil Unrest and remained mostly vacant ever since.

“We are sweeping away the vestiges of the past and creating a promising future at Vermont and Manchester,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

After a Superior Court judge approved its use of eminent domain, the County took possession of the four-acre property on May 7th and began the process of developing one of the largest tracts of vacant land in South LA to benefit the surrounding community.

On May 21st, the County started to demolish the burnt hulk of a building that used to be shopping center. Once that is completed, crews will clear weeds on the lot, and install new fencing around the property.

The County’s next step is to encourage robust community engagement in conceptualizing interim uses for the site, as well as the development projects.

In partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the County is looking to build the first boarding academy in the state that will focus on preparing youth for careers in the transportation sector. It also has plans for 180 units of affordable housing, as well as 50,000 sq. ft. of retail and various transit-related amenities.

The County sued in December to condemn the property on the east side of the 8400 and 8500 blocks of South Vermont Avenue from longtime owner Eli Sasson. In his ruling, issued April 26th, LA Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy wrote, “The Court finds that (the County’s) needs override any hardship suffered by (Sasson).” He added, “(Sasson) will not lose rents and (Sasson has) sat idly on the project without development for years.”

By law, the property owner will receive fair and just compensation for his land.

Supervisors Create First LA County Arts Department

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to create the first Los Angeles County Arts Department. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Sheila Kuehl coauthored the motion with broad support from arts funders, creators and institutions.

“With a new arts department, we can further elevate the impact of the arts on our community, culture, and economy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The importance of the creative industries cannot be overstated, particularly in Los Angeles. Creativity is one of our most essential economic assets.”

According to the 2017 Otis Report on the Creative Economy, the total creative output generated by industries within the region’s creative economy was $190 billion in 2015. It also employed 759,000 people, which accounted for 1 in 8, or about 15 percent, of all private wage and salary workers in the region.

“Los Angeles County contains an unparalleled wealth of arts and culture. It makes sense that we establish a County department to support arts and culture. With this motion, we will provide the capacity for a robust department that can strengthen the arts and expand our commitment to cultural equity and inclusion,” said Supervisor Kuehl.

“This is a historic moment in the arts for this region,” said LA County Arts Commission Executive Director Kristin Sakoda. “It is world-class and community-based and there is still more to come!”

The LA County Arts Commission was initially established in 1947. It has grown in the last 70 years since from solely supporting local music performances to supporting hundreds of nonprofit organizations and functioning as a full-service local arts agency.

Throughout the decades, the Commission’s role has expanded to include innovative and meaningful programs including working with school districts throughout the County to develop and implement a strategic plan to integrate arts into K-12 public schools. It also administers the Civic Art program, where artists are aligned with capital projects to bring aesthetics and programming to the community in which the project is located.

It also oversees the iconic Arts Internship Program. To date, more than 2,000 college and university students participate in a paid internship for ten weeks during the summer in arts organizations and venues throughout the County.

“A County Department can make a deep impact in providing workforce training and advancing cultural equity and inclusion efforts,” said Stacy Lieberman, Deputy Director of The Broad.

The new County Department will retain the Arts Commission as an advisory body and will begin its transition by July 1, 2018.

LA County Makes $402M Investment in Fight Against Homelessness

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors — Kathryn Barger, Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl, Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas — with County CEO Sachi Hamai at a press conference to update the public on the significant progress that has been made in the fight against homelessness. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors.

Year 2 Measure H spending plan funds expansion of housing and outreach

Building on an array of promising successes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $402-million spending plan for 2018-2019 to widen and intensify its fight against homelessness.

The five-member Board unanimously adopted dozens of recommendations for the second-year budget of Measure H, the voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax dedicated exclusively to providing services and programs to combat the homelessness crisis.

Jamal Dunn, a resident of the Fiesta apartments in the San Fernando Valley, credits Measure H with helping him out of homelessness.

The newly adopted budget targets a number of critical strategies in the County’s comprehensive Homeless Action Plan. It includes $120 million for shelter and interim housing, $73 million for rapid rehousing, $49 million for permanent supportive housing, and $30 million for outreach.

The plan expands on spending priorities adopted by the supervisors for Measure H’s first year, but provides greater flexibility to meet emerging challenges and trends, such as the growing number of encampments throughout the county.

“Today’s vote was an important milestone in continuing the difficult and essential work of bringing help and hope to our homeless neighbors,” said Board Chair Sheila Kuehl. “The Measure H spending plan approved today by the Board builds on proven strategies and puts resources where they’re needed most.

“As we enter the second year of this unprecedented effort,” she added, “it’s encouraging to see this collaborative process going forward in ways that are literally saving lives.”

Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said the new Measure H spending plan offers hope for the “tens of thousands of Angelenos who live on the streets, in their cars, or in the homes of friends or family.”

“Today’s passage of Measure H funding expands our effort to make a positive impact in the lives of many of our homeless friends and neighbors,” Solis said. “We will continue to do everything in our power to address the homelessness crisis through collaboration and innovative solutions that help lift up our most vulnerable residents.”

The Board of Supervisors stand together in front of a sculpture of a massive door that is the logo of the “Everyone In” campaign aimed at engaging the public in the fight against homelessnes

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas emphasized the importance of prevention and support.

“Thanks to Measure H, we are expanding and recharging our crisis response to homelessness while, at the same time, funding programs to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place,” he said. “Measure H is funding everything you need to move people into housing, and all that it takes to make sure they stay in housing and thrive.

“We must work together,” he said, “to make sure every person who calls L.A. County home is able to live a life of dignity and purpose.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn praised the County’s progress since voters passed Measure H but cautioned that “we recognize we have a long way to go.”

“We are building new partnerships, we are adapting to new problems, and we are doubling down in our groundbreaking efforts to get people off of the streets and into housing,” Hahn said.

Added Supervisor Kathryn Barger: “We are seeing despair transition to hope. From housing to mental health care, I look forward to continuing our efforts to address every facet of the homelessness crisis.”

Supervisors hold a joint press conference at the Hall of Administration.

Measure H was passed by voters in March 2017, with services beginning the following July. In the nine months between then and March 2018, thousands of individuals and families have been helped.

The County is on track to meet the initial five-year goal of Measure H—to provide permanent housing for 45,000 families and individuals, while preventing an additional 30,000 from falling into homelessness.

Among the most important successes so far:

  • 10,330 people entered crisis, bridge and interim housing funded in whole or in part by Measure H.
  • 5,239 homeless families and individuals secured permanent housing due specifically to funding from Measure H.
  • 2,195 clients were linked to new Intensive Case Management Services slots for permanent supportive housing, 1,108 clients received federal rental subsidies and 808 clients received local rental subsidies.
  • The L.A. County Housing Authority provided $880,686 in incentives to landlords to help secure 403 housing units for disabled homeless adults/families with a federal rental subsidy.
  • In growing numbers, multidisciplinary outreach teams have worked across the County to address the immediate needs of homeless residents and link them to programs and services.
  • Countywide Benefits Entitlement Services Teams helped 5,703 disabled individuals with applications for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Disability Benefits.
  • Homeless service providers added more than 1,000 new jobs across the region to bolster the delivery system. The County is supporting this rapid expansion through an online hub linking job seekers to non-profits at JobsCombattingHomelessness.org.
  • For more information on the county’s Homeless Initiative and Measure H, please visit homeless.lacounty.gov.

 

Laying the Groundwork for Development in Vermont Manchester

Proposed Vermont Manchester project (All renderings by Killefer Flammang Architects)

To cheers from residents, Los Angeles County on May 7th took possession of a four-acre property at the corner of Vermont and Manchester that has been dilapidated since the 1992 Civil Unrest, and began preparing it for development that would serve the community.

“It’s a big moment because the blight goes away,” said Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corp. “The County and the people have spoken, a judge has ruled in our favor, and now we’re going to get some economic development – it’s very promising.”

“I’m just very happy this is happening. It gives hope,” said Joy Fantroy, chair of the 90th Street Block Club. “It’s the answer to our prayers,” added Lillie Benbow Jackson, known in the community as Reverend Mother.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors voted to take the first steps necessary to secure the site and prepare it for development, including installing perimeter fencing and demolishing the only remaining structure – the burnt ruins of a shopping center.

“We now have an opportunity to create a bright future,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We see this is as a location for a development that can provide tremendous community benefits, including the first boarding academy in the state that will focus on preparing youth for careers in the transportation sector; 180 units of affordable housing; 50,000 sq. ft. of retail; and various transit-related amenities.”

“Now that we have site control, our focus will be to design all of this with community engagement, including identifying immediate opportunities to activate the site,” he said. “Two separate solicitation process are underway to identify operators and developers for both the boarding school and mixed-use components of the project.”

The County sued in December to condemn the property on the east side of the 8400 and 8500 blocks of South Vermont Avenue from owner Eli Sasson, who had left it largely undeveloped for 26 years. The two blocks have been subject to more than 35 notices of building code violations over that period.

In his ruling, issued April 26, LA Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy wrote, “The Court finds that (the County’s) needs override any hardship suffered by (Sasson).” He added, “(Sasson) will not lose rents and (Sasson has) sat idly on the project without development for years.”

By law, the property owner will receive fair and just compensation for his land.