Supervisors Approve Ordinance Against Housing Discrimination

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with tenants at 127th Street Apartments and El Segundo Boulevard Apartments. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that would ban landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants who receive government-issued rental assistance, such as Section 8 vouchers.

Though the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, implementation of its guarantees has fallen short. A 2018 Housing and Urban Development survey found that prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers have a 76 percent denial rate when applying for housing in Los Angeles.

“Addressing pervasive housing discrimination is a critical part of our comprehensive strategy to stabilize and create more opportunity in our housing marketplace,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the motion that called for the ordinance. “The ordinance will not force landlords to rent to a voucher-holder, but simply prevent ruling them out as a tenant based solely on their source of income.”

“Implementation of the nation’s Fair Housing Act is 50 years overdue,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, lead author of the motion. “With today’s action, LA County is saying we will wait no longer. Discrimination in housing is exacerbating our housing and homelessness crisis by allowing landlords to discriminate and deny leases to families who want and can pay for housing.”

Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA) Executive Director Monique King-Viehland said in a letter to the Board, “In a County with less than a 3% vacancy rate and approximately 38,000 individuals/families on the County’s waiting list for Section 8 housing, this form of discrimination further limits the rental inventory for rental subsidy assisted families and is thereby effectively eliminating housing choice options.”

According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, the County has a shortage of about 517,000 affordable housing units.

The Board approved the ordinance after adopting a motion by Supervisors Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas in January that called for “Creating Solutions to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in Los Angeles County.” The motion directed County Counsel, in consultation with LACDA, to prepare an ordinance that would prevent landlord discrimination against housing applicants with government-provided rental assistance including, but not limited to, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, other federally-funded rental assistance programs, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool and rapid re-housing rental assistance.

The ordinance complements $5 million committed by the Board to fund a database for tracking evictions, a displacement study, incentives for landlords to take Section 8 tenants, and educational programs on housing rights.

The ordinance had been recommended by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. It is also among the policies that Board is seeking at the State level, along with preventing price gouging and tenant evictions without just cause.

Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective

Shortly after Governor Newsom’s resounding electoral victory, transition team “All-in California” Ambassadors, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and UC Regent Laphonza Butler, convened a coalition of African-American leaders to address urgent issues that African-Americans face throughout the state. This month marks the dividend of this convening – and numerous subsequent meetings – with the release of the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Gov. Newsom with the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective. Photo by Michael Short / Board of Supervisors

Embodying the ethos of the people powered approach Gov. Newsom sought in his selection of the duo as “All-in California” Ambassadors, wanting “respected leaders to help him search for innovative ideas and talent across the state”, the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective answers this call and more.

“As a community, we’ve been disproportionately impacted in so many areas of social well-being that animating the California ‘Dream for All’ in the face of this inexorable truth will take leadership, imagination, and an attentiveness to innovative and focused policy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This Agenda does just that through policy priorities that are achievable, scalable, and evidenced-based. It’s a rock solid foundation for Gov. Newsom’s Administration to build on.”

Edited by Dr. Ange Marie Alfaro-Hancock, a leading academic on intersectional theory, the Agenda delivers to Governor Newsom a sharp and interconnected perspective on five critical policy areas: early childhood education, ending child poverty, fighting homelessness, expanding access to healthcare, and improving redevelopment and economic development. Each section includes not just a diagnosis of challenges, but also provides high-impact solutions that will stem the tide in problem areas Californians face in their daily lives.

The initial gathering, held at SEIU2015 headquarters, included an array of participants from various sectors and industries. Academics, business leaders, philanthropic leaders, healthcare providers, artists, media managers, ecumenical and civil rights leaders, labor, educators, and many more shared their experiences and divided into daylong working groups. Using their respective areas of professional expertise, participants put forth a range of policy solutions to counteract the complex risk factors that originate in racism, sexism, poverty, and geographic inequities to empower Californians to seize the “Californian Dream”.

“I’m excited to have been a part of this special process focused on providing practical solutions to the unique systematic challenges that our community face”, said Dr. David Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, referencing the outgrowth of the work from that day. “This policy brief will provide an outstanding foundation for measurable concrete action and chart a path to a more prosperous and equitable future for the state of California.”

Click to download the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective

State Steps Up in Fight Against Homelessness

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on Governor Gavin Newsom’s Proposal to Double State Spending on Homelessness to $1 Billion

“Leadership matters. With initial data pouring in from across the State indicating that this crisis is getting worse, not better, it’s great to see that the Governor is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Combatting homelessness requires not just resolve but investment. Los Angeles County is building a robust safety net th‎rough Measure H, and these additional dollars will be a game changer in our mission to get Everyone In.”

Increasing Los Angeles County Bioscience Investment Through Bioscience Overlay Zones

In a concerted effort to increase bioscience development and local jobs generated by the bioscience industry in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to develop a Bioscience Overlay Zone plan that would streamline the entitlement process for bioscience companies looking to locate within the County.

The motion, authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, called for the Director of Regional Planning to draft an ordinance that would lead to the establishment of a Bioscience Overlay Zone in various communities throughout the County by the end of this year. Additionally, the Director must report back in 60 days, in consultation with the external stakeholders, including labor and community based organizations, on recommendations for the appropriate areas to apply the Overlay Zone within unincorporated areas of the County, and policies to avoid displacement of residents or business and ways to ensure communities benefit.

“When many bioscience business leaders are asked about ongoing concerns, land use restrictions and the entitlement process are identified as important issues to overcome,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Our intent with the Bioscience Overlay Zone is to make the entitlement process faster and simpler to navigate. It means time saved and more resources otherwise spent for investments and local job creation.”

“The bioscience industry, which provides higher paying jobs throughout the economic ladder, will offer opportunities for young and semi-skilled persons, as well as scientists and entrepreneurs,” said Supervisor Solis. “LA County is committed to an economic development approach that is responsible and in tune with what local residents want so that nearby communities can reap the benefits of development. This is why it’s of critical importance that we target industries like bioscience that are not susceptible to economic downturns, but do create a myriad of avenues for whole communities to prosper and thrive.”

The Board in an August 2018 motion requested a report back on the feasibility of developing land use or permitting tools that would streamline the entitlement process for companies looking to establish bioscience-related uses in unincorporated areas of the County. Six options were presented for the Board’s consideration, but ultimately “Bioscience Overlay Zones” proved to be the most appropriate tool given the County’s land use framework.

“These overlays are smart policy because they help create well-paying jobs that will lift communities by addressing the dire shortage of specialty spaces that bioscience businesses need. We also believe there will be job creation in the nearby businesses,” stated Carolyn Hull, vice president of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

Those in the bioscience industry have been very supportive of the measure. Melanie Cohn, Director of Regional Policy and Government Affairs for Biocom, California’s largest bio and life science advocacy group said, “Our members are excited to build in LA County, but the variability of land use rules can sometimes be a hindrance in the development process. We have seen the success of tools like these in other jurisdictions, and we are hopeful this will serve as a model to stimulate economic and job growth activity throughout the region.”

“One major challenge in the Los Angeles area is the lack of availability of high-quality lab space. Having tools that can streamline the entitlement and permitting process for bioscience development will address this issue and allow Los Angeles bioscience to thrive. For The Lundquist Institute in particular, such tools will allow us to create a truly full-service bioscience campus that will help retain growing firms and attract new ones. And these businesses will be a significant economic driver for the Los Angeles region,” said Keith Hoffman, vice president of the Lundquist Institute.

The Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, which recently opened in Torrance, will include a bioscience incubator to help bioscience startups. All photos by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Statement on the Passing of John Singleton

John Singleton & Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“I send my condolences to John Singleton’s family in this difficult time. I had the pleasure of knowing John for many years and most recently contributed to a project that he was working on. Like so many who crossed his path, and the millions who watched his unflinchingly honest films, his talent was palpable and you felt how much he cared for his community. He told stories with a cultural specificity that not only had an impact on society at-large, with its systems and structures, but inspired a whole generation of artist like him who were given the courage to chase the dreams that were in their hearts. In all his goodness John will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.”