Los Angeles votes to put $1.2 billion homeless measure on ballot

Posted at 9:20 PM, Jun 29, 2016

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to place a $1.2 billion bond measure before voters to raise money to fight homelessness.

The council voted 14-0 to put a measure on the November ballot to provide a decade's worth of money for shelters, permanent housing, drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services to the homeless. It also would provide affordable housing to poor people in danger of becoming homeless, ranging from the elderly to battered women and their children.

Los Angeles is struggling to deal with a surging homeless population, now estimated at 27,000.

"Every night in Los Angeles, tens of thousands of Angelenos - men, women, children, veterans, and seniors - sleep on our streets," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement praising the council decision. "This crisis is pervasive, it endangers public health and stifles economic prosperity."

"As we continue working on regional solutions with state and county officials, we must seize this moment - and we'll need everyone's help," the mayor said.

The cost of repaying the bonds would fall on property owners, who on average would pay an extra $40 to $80 a year in taxes, according to city estimates.

An alternative funding method would be to create a parcel tax on property improvements that could raise around $90 million a year over 10 years.

The City Council postponed, until at least Friday, a decision on whether to put that measure on the November ballot. The council hasn't decided which funding method to pursue and would have until Aug. 12 to pull one or the other off the ballot.

Both measures will face opposition from apartment building owners, said Dan Feller, president of the Los Angeles-based Apartment Owners Association of California.

"We're taxed to death already," he told City News Service. "The city of Los Angeles already puts a cap on our income with our rent control, harasses us with property inspections, and now they want to put more tax on us."

City officials have a 10-year plan to battle homelessness at a cost of nearly $2 billion but haven't nailed down the funding. In May, the City Council approved a budget plan that set aside $138 million to provide services and 600 units of housing.

However, part of that money would come from charging new fees to developers that haven't been approved.

The council's decision Wednesday came as dozens of media outlets in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle were saturating online, TV and print publications with stories about homelessness.

In San Francisco, several supervisors there are trying to place a measure on the November ballot that would create a 1.5 percent payroll tax on technology companies to pay for homeless and housing services.

The ordinance reflects a deep divide in a city where thousands of people have marched on city hall to halt evictions and decry spiraling rents they say is due to the growing number of newcomers to San Francisco.

Supervisors have until Aug. 2 to get the ordinance through the 11-member board.


Associated Press reporter Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.