LOS ANGELES — Though Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti covered a myriad of topics including job creation, a growing light rail network, and international trade in his State of the City speech, he said the homelessness crisis remains “the issue” in the city.
The mayor’s budget slated to be released Thursday includes $430 million to “take this crisis on,” he said, compared to the $20 million included in the budget four years ago.
The voters gave the city “a mandate to end homeless over the next decade,” Garcetti said, when they approved Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond measure, in November 2016.
Los Angeles County voters also approved Measure H in March 2017, a quarter cent sales tax that is expected to bring in $355 million annually to support programs to combat homelessness. The county and city have been working together to tackle the issue. The focus of the county measure is on providing services, while Measure HHH is aimed at creating permanent housing.
“Now that Measure H dollars are flowing, we can finally bring relief to people where they are,” Garcetti said. “It’s time for the tents to come down in our neighborhoods."
The city will spend more than $238 million of Measure HHH dollars this year to build 1,500 new housing units across 24 different projects, the mayor said.
Los Angeles County Executive Sachi Hamai also deemed the housing crisis the top priority when she unveiled the county’s $30.8 billion budget last week.
The city's budget also includes $20 million dollars from the General Fund to be divided among all 15 Council Districts to create shelters and open beds for homeless people.
The money will also help fund teams to clean up places where tents once stood, but the money can only be used when homeless people have somewhere to go, he said.
“We are not going to wash down sidewalks only to see an encampment return a few days later,” Garcetti said. “That doesn’t help a single person get off the street – and it doesn’t help clean up the neighborhood for good.”
The city has doubled the number of homeless people it houses by 30,000 over the past four years, including 8,400 veterans, he said.
Despite those efforts, the city’s homeless population had grown 20% to 34,000, according to numbers released in May.
Garcetti and 11 other mayors held a second press conference last week in support of Assembly Bill 3171, a measure that would use $1.5 billion of the state’s surplus to provide shelter for homeless people. Garcetti said Los Angeles would receive $646 million of that money if the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown approve the measure during this year’s budget process. The governor had said in January when he unveiled his budget that he wanted the state’s multi-billion surplus to go into reserve funds.
The City Council also approved an ordinance last week in which motel owners can sign a decade-long contract with the city to use their rooms to house homeless people.
The mayor took potshots at Washington D.C. “where leaders clap their hands when immigrants are forced into the shadows,” while describing L.A. as an exceptional city that is thriving.
“Washington can’t keep cutting back programs that help people hold onto affordable homes,” Garcetti said. “In California – homelessness isn’t an issue – it is the issue.”
In Washington D.C., they “cut taxes on corporations and are talking about raising tariffs on our allies around the world, while we set records,” Garcetti said.
Trade out of Los Angeles World Airport and the Port of Los Angeles reached an all-time high of $400 billion dollars last year, he said.
The mayor also announced that the city had approved a plan for SpaceX to start production development of the Big Falcon Rocket at the port.
Garcetti also ticked off investments in infrastructure, which include paving 11,000 miles of roads in the city. He pointed to Measure M, a quarter cent sales tax approved by voters in November 2016 that will generate $120 billion to build and expand 15 rapid transit lines and fix the freeways.
The city also has a proposal called 28 by ’28 to finish that number of projects by the year the city hosts the Olympics.
“After 40 years of dreaming, and talking about bringing public transportation into LAX, we are finally getting the job done,” Garcetti said.
LAX announced two weeks ago it had approved a $4.9 billion, 30-year contract, with LAX Integrated Express Solutions to build the people mover, an elevated train that will move ferry people about the airport, and connect to light rail.