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    Tensions Rise Between Newsom, Mayors Over homelessness

    By Emily Hoeven

    As voters cast ballots in the last few days leading up to California’s Nov. 8 election, who will they blame for the state’s persistent housing and homelessness crises?

    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s surprise Thursday announcement — that he’s withholding $1 billion in state homelessness funding until local governments and service providers come up with more ambitious plans to reduce the number of people living on the streets — seems to serve as an implicit reminder to Californians that he isn’t the only one responsible for the state’s ballooning homeless population, which grew by at least 22,500 during the pandemic.

    Newsom said the local plans would reduce street homelessness by just 2% statewide by 2024 — a figure that is “simply unacceptable.” He also slammed some regions for estimating their homeless populations would grow by double digits in four years, and said he plans to meet with local leaders in mid-November to review the state’s approach to homelessness and identify more effective strategies.

    • Newsom said in a statement: “Everyone has to do better — cities, counties and the state included. We are all in this together.”
    • But he was more pointed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: “Deliver damn results. … It’s a crisis. Act like it. Everybody step up. I’m not the mayor. You want me to come in? I’ll do the job. I’ll do it. Happily. I’ve been going into cities cleaning up encampments. Has anyone gotten the hint? If someone did that to me when I was mayor, I’d be like, ‘OK, I got it.’”

    Having heard the hint loud and clear, many of the mayors of California’s largest cities are pushing back:

    • San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: “We need to put down the megaphones and pick up the shovels. … Let’s bring all the solutions in, but it’s not going to happen at a photo op. It’s not going to happen with 90 people in a room. You’ve got to have a lot of conversations with technocratic experts at the table, to try and understand exactly how you can get it done. That’s much harder work.”
    • San Francisco Mayor London Breed told Politico: Newsom is “creating more hoops for local governments to jump through without any clear explanation of what’s required.”
    • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told the San Francisco Chronicle: I’m “perplexed how delaying (these) funds advances our shared goals.”

    The mayors also argued that their ability to address homelessness is constrained by a lack of ongoing state funding. Some have been calling on the state for years to create a multibillion-dollar permanent funding stream for homelessness, and have thrown their support behind Proposition 27 — a ballot measure that would legalize online sports betting and direct a sizable portion of tax revenue to homelessness and mental health services — for that reason. Newsom announced last week that he opposes Prop. 27.

    Graham Knaus, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, also called on the state to create a permanent funding stream to address homelessness. California’s 58 counties are tasked with implementing Newsom’s ambitious and controversial plan to force more people with severe mental illness into housing and treatment — even as questions abound as to whether the state has enough housing for the program to work.

    Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, criticized Newsom for failing to seriously consider their ideas to resolve homelessness. Last month, GOP legislators asked the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and Senate to declare a special legislative session devoted in part to homelessness, but they rejected the request and left no time for an appeal, Casey Dunn, a spokesperson for Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, told me Thursday.

    Liccardo told Manuela that California’s big city mayors plan to ask the state for more land on which to build homeless housing, to streamline the construction process and protect projects from lawsuits, and exempt more developments from CEQA — the state’s marquee and much-bemoaned environmental review law.

    But the state may first have to deal with a recent Superior Court decision that found state housing laws don’t apply to projects until after local agencies complete their environmental reviews under CEQA. This could allow a city to keep postponing its CEQA reviews and thus “impose an unreviewable death by delay on almost any housing project it wants to kill,” UC Davis law professor Chris Elmendorf argued in a Wednesday column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

    • Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco tweeted: “We must clarify CEQA doesn’t give the cities the power to ignore state housing law. Better yet, let’s remove infill housing from CEQA entirely.”



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    Mikey Likes It
    Mikey Likes It
    20 days ago

    It’s time to build tent treatment centers in the desert. Gather up all the drug addicted homeless, send them to the desert, get them off the drugs, offer them counseling. Keep it cheap, keep it consistent. Do it like Sheriff Arpiao did in Maricopa County with his bums. It worked.

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