L.A. Considers Cutting Red Tape to House Homeless People Faster

Posted on February 20, 2018 at 7:15 pm

As Los Angeles politicians face mounting pressure to combat the homelessness crisis, the City Council is weighing two measures aimed at clearing obstacles to getting more people into housing.

One measure would allow permanent supportive housing projects to avoid a review process that can drag out a year or more and expose the projects to public battles with opponents.

The proposed law would slash parking requirements and allow homeless housing projects of up to 120 units in much of the city — and as large as 200 in downtown and some other areas — to avoid environmental review and public hearings as long as the projects meet certain requirements. Under current law, housing projects with 50 units or more have to go through a more exhaustive process.

Housing advocates say the measure would give a crucial boost to the city’s goal of building 10,000 new units for homeless residents in a decade, by easing the approval process and encouraging the construction of bigger buildings.

Council members are also considering a measure that could make it easier to temporarily convert motels into homeless housing, which has been touted as a more immediate way to get people off the streets. City officials hope that by removing zoning restrictions, they will encourage struggling motels to contract with county-funded programs to get people housed.

Even if the law passes, many other barriers, such as high costs for land and labor, would remain for groups trying to build homeless housing, said Laura Lake, co-president of the nonprofit Coalition for Veterans’ Land, which is trying to develop permanent supportive housing for female homeless veterans and their children.

Under one of the proposed ordinances, motels that are being temporarily converted into homeless housing would not have to be brought into line with the current zoning rules.

It would also allow the buildings to avoid any zoning problems if they are turned back into motels in the future. And the proposed law also allows refrigerators and other cooking facilities to be installed in guest rooms, which is now barred for buildings built after 1963.

To participate, motel owners have to agree to lease out their building for homeless tenants. City officials say the proposed rules are aimed at making it easier for motels to partner with nonprofits that are tapping an existing pool of county funds for rent subsidies.

It is unclear how many motels may be converted if the proposed rules are approved. There are nearly 400 motels with more than 10,000 guest rooms across the city, according to a city analysis of assessor data.

At one meeting in South Los Angeles, more than 100 people showed up to learn about motel conversions, city officials said.

Motel owners are sometimes reluctant to sell the buildings that have been their livelihoods, but leasing them to a nonprofit allows them to hold on to the property and get regular income, said Joe Patel, a motel owner and former president of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles.

Read the full article here, L.A. considers cutting through red tape to get homeless people housed faster.