L.A. Councilmembers Urge the Governor to Declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness

They say the declaration could speed up solutions to the crisis

Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino introduced a motion on Wednesday urging Governor Gavin Newsom to declare the homeless crisis in California a state of emergency. Backed by six other councilmembers, the motion states that the “public safety of the residents, both housed and unhoused, will be in great danger unless immediate measures are taken,” and that an emergency declaration would afford governing bodies “certain legal immunities” that could help them to more efficiently address the situation.

The motion came a day after Buscaino, who represents the San Pedro area, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News describing how bureaucracy and red tape have caused solutions to the growing crisis to move at “an excruciatingly slow pace.”

“We need to give our dedicated civil servants the ability to respond to this emergency…and bypass the normal rules that add precious days, weeks, and months to contracting and construction timelines,” he wrote.

Buscaino told the Daily Breeze that the declaration could help speed up the process of building things like temporary shelters, or hospitals for individuals suffering from mental illness or drug addiction. “If we’re going to call homelessness an emergency, we’ve got to treat it as such,” he said.

Councilmember John Lee, a cosigner on the bill, said it might also allow developments to bypass state regulations like those implemented by the California Environmental Quality Act. Some have claimed that these restrictions have been used by anti-development “NIMBYs” to block shelters in their neighborhoods. Assembly Bill 1197, a recently passed state measure, will also exempt certain shelters and housing projects from CEQA restrictions.

At a tumultuous City Council meeting on Tuesday, dozens of homeless advocates showed up to protest a proposed rewrite of an ordinance that bans sitting and sleeping on the sidewalks in Los Angeles. During the meeting, several councilmembers took strong stances against the law, suggesting that the city should instead be exploring faster ways to build housing.

“We don’t have the luxury of dictating where tents can be when they are growing by the thousands each year,” said Councilman David Ryu. “Let’s start talking about how we can start building faster, and in more locations, so we can get these encampments off our streets for good.”

This post was updated to reflect the signing of AB 1197.

RELATED: Protests Over Proposed Sidewalk Sleeping Law Bring City Council Meeting to a Halt

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