On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council voted to move forward with two major initiatives.

Creating a Department of Homelessness

First, the council took a major step in approving a move to create a Department of Homelessness that would operate separately from the Housing Department. The department would specifically oversee the efforts to reduce homelessness in the city.

The motion was originally introduced in March by Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. The Housing and Homelessness Committee previously approved the motion on April 17.

In a 13-0 vote, council members instructed staff to report back on how best to create the department. Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Katy Yaroslavsky were absent during the vote.

Before the vote, Rodriguez explained a key motivation for her motion.

“As Los Angeles continues to grapple with the growing numbers of homeless individuals,” said Rodriguez “We’ve seen repeated headlines reflecting millions of dollars unaccounted for born out of programs being managed by political offices or across multiple departments.”

Rodriguez added that with the tens of thousands of people living on the streets, in cars and RVs, it is time to create a centralized department with a singular focus that maximizes taxpayer dollars toward efforts to house Angelenos.

“Working with urgency shouldn’t equate to an abandonment of transparency, we must stretch our resources to aid the most people out of homelessness and clean up our city for Angelenos and business owners that are suffering with the consequences of our current environment,” Rodriguez said.

The report will include information on how funding is spent on sanitation, encampment resolution, and how potential sites for temporary and permanent housing are being identified and developed, data on homelessness, emergency response, and homelessness prevention services.

The department will report to Mayor Karen Bass and the City Council.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in the L.A. area continues to rise with Los Angeles currently having 33,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

New Ballot Measure to Redraw Boundaries

The L.A. City Council also approved amendments to a ballot measure to establish an independent redistricting commission tasked with redrawing council districts’ boundaries for future elections. The issue must be approved by voters due to the reform being a change to the city charter.

City Council members instructed the city attorney’s office to update the ballot measure to reflect changes that were previously approved by the Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Reform in early April.

The amendments cover different aspects of how the independent commission would work.

The Ad Hoc Committee previously recommended expanding the applicant pool to allow someone who is not a registered voter or even a citizen of the United States to serve on the commission. Another recommendation is to conduct a random drawing at a public meeting to select one person from eight geographic areas to serve.

Another recommendation was to provide live interpretation of commission meetings in English and Spanish, including translation of any documents. The recommendations also include providing redistricting training to the commission as well as workshops for the public.

During Tuesday’s meeting, City Council members also voted 12-0 in favor of recommendations to create an independent redistricting commission for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

A requirement of the LAUSD’s process would ensure that four of the commissioners be parents or guardians of students, and students who are at least 16 years old would also be allowed to apply to serve on the new commission.

Photo by Anne Czichos on Unsplash.com

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