Under fire from his hometown paper, Mayor Eric Garcetti says he will work on a plan for every Los Angeles community to agree to accept housing for the homeless.
The mayor spoke Wednesday at a packed luncheon of the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum at the Palm restaurant downtown.
He has been criticized in strong editorials in the Los Angeles Times for lacking leadership on the homeless issue, including these words jibing at the possibility he will run for president: "The mayor, who is said to be contemplating his next career steps, has an opportunity to repair the long-standing perception that he is unwilling to take on tough public battles. Surely he must be aware that his mayoralty will ultimately be judged on how he handles this crisis."
He said he is meeting with representatives of the United Way March 9 to launch a campaign to persuade reluctant neighborhoods to accept the construction of new apartments for the homeless.
"We will be looking at how every community can make the same sort of pledge that we saw in the city council last week." he said.
City Council President Herb Wesson and other council members introduced a resolution calling on each council member to back approval of at least 222 units of homeless housing in his or her district before next July 1. With more than 34,000 homeless in Los Angeles, that would amount to 3,330 units, less than 10 percent of those without shelter. In addition, the resolution, which must be approved by council committees, is not binding and some members, under pressure from NIMBY constituents, may not go along.
Garcetti was hopeful. He said his wife, Amy Wakeland, spoke at an upscale civic club in mid-Wilshire and she reported to him that audience members said, "we want homeless housing in our neighborhood." Garcetti said "there has been a shift in our hearts, learning what we have to sacrifice and give..."
He conceded that the government bureaucracy has slowed progress in homeless housing. But he said he hopes new laws will speed things up and permit use of hotels and motels for temporary housing. He said he also told city building officials to speed up plans for innovative temporary housing in parking lots and other places so people can be moved from encampments. He also wants the state to ease environmental restrictions. "I don't mind speeding up and cutting through local deliberations," he said. "If not now, when?"