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Los Angeles approves incentives for developers of homeless housing

April 16, 2013|By Catherine Saillant
  • Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry at an event earlier this year.
Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry at an event earlier this year. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday made it easier for developers of housing for the homeless to get access to millions of dollars in city funds when they agree to include public storage, toilets and laundry facilities for people who remain on the streets.

The policy passed unanimously after council members rejected a proposal  by Councilwoman Jan Perry that would have stripped out some of the incentives for housing intended to serve those who have been chronically homeless.

Perry said the incentives tied to the extra amenities would make projects more costly for developers and subject them to greater neighborhood scrutiny. It could also create an infrastructure that could encourage, rather than discourage, homeless encampments, she said.

“It’s bad public policy to offer these services…where formerly homeless people are being stabilized,’’ she said. “This type of policy does not support smart development.”

But on an 8-5 vote, the council rejected her approach. Members said the incentives are optional and that each council district could decide whether or not to support projects that include facilities for the homeless.

“If we remove the bonus points…we are removing what makes supportive housing so successful,’’ said Councilman Jose Huizar, whose downtown Los Angeles district includes skid row.

The issue brought the council to a halt last week when Councilman Richard Alarcon abruptly left the  chambers so he wouldn’t have to vote on Perry’s amendment. With only nine of the 14 council members left in the room, the body lacked the required quorum to vote on the $18-million housing fund and had to cancel the meeting.

Alarcon apologized Tuesday, saying he had never before in his 20-year political career intentionally broken a quorum. But the councilman, who recently revealed that his adult son is mentally ill and homeless, said he is a passionate about the need for public bathrooms and storage for street people.

Los Angeles has been successfully sued over its policy of confiscating and destroying the property of homeless people left on public streets. The city has appealed a court’s order to stop that practice and is attempting to work out a settlement. 

“It’s a need throughout the city of L.A.,’’ Alarcon said. “We should not discourage, we should encourage" the addition of such supportive services.

Mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti was again absent from Tuesday’s meeting. He has been criticized by rival Wendy Greuel, the city’s controller, for missing a number of meetings as he campaigns for the mayor’s post in the May 21 runoff.

Garcetti’s absence, in part, contributed to the lack of a quorum at last week’s meeting.


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