California should push cities to achieve a 90 percent reduction in the state’s homeless population by 2029 and hold local governments accountable for meeting the goal, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors said Tuesday.
After years of not seeing the local homeless population decline, the board voted unanimously to back Assemblymember David Chiu’s bill (AB-816), which is up for a key vote in Sacramento Thursday. The bill would require local jurisdictions to draft plans by July 1, 2023 on how they could achieve the 90 percent reduction by Dec. 31, 2029, based on the 2019 point-in-time homeless count.
Chiu’s measure first requires analysis of what the state and local jurisdictions are doing now and the resources it would take to achieve the reduction. The state would also create a Housing and Homelessness Inspector General that could take legal action against local governments and the state for failing to comply with the effort.
It comes as California cities continue to struggle to provide adequate shelter and housing for those living on the streets. Last year, 248,130 unhoused people accessed some form of homeless services statewide, according to the California’s Homeless Data Integration System. Thirty-seven percent, or 91,626 people, moved into permanent housing at some point last year. Meanwhile, 47% remained waiting for housing and 16% were lost track of by the system.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who introduced the resolution putting the board on record backing it, said the bill would help San Francisco tackle the issue by forcing other communities who may not be doing as much to step up. Local jurisdictions would need to submit annual progress reports.
“It would help San Francisco to have some accountability metrics from the state, but I think it would really help San Francisco to have all local jurisdictions (use) accountability metrics and have the state government actually holding itself accountable, which has not happened,” Mandelman said.
Chiu told the Examiner Tuesday he was “hopeful” about the passage of the bill, which he introduced in February. It would need to clear the assembly by the first week of June, when it would go to the senate. Conversations are ongoing as it comes up for a vote Thursday before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“This bill is about coming up with meaningful strategies at the state and local level to address homelessness and then making sure that everyone follows through on those plans,” Chiu said. “Homelessness is the moral crisis of the day. It is a long-term problem that has needed long-term plans and continued sustained attention and investment to solve.”
Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said, “Many municipalities across the state are not addressing homelessness at all, so forcing them to plan is important, but will only work if they have the resources to comprehensively address the humanitarian crisis.”
Chiu’s bill does not include funding. But supporters of the bill, like John Elberling, executive director of Todco, an affordable housing developer based in the South of Market area, said once the analysis and plans are done it will tell “the truth of what it’s going to cost.”
“We can’t make the case for what it’s going to take until somebody puts it on paper,” Elberling said. “You got to face facts. That is the starting point. I believe that would help secure the funds eventually.”
Elberling said the bill would “get the ball rolling” to “face up to it and find a decent, safe and healthy place for everybody.”
“It’s not good for the city, it’s not good for the community and it’s definitely terrible for the homeless,” he said. “We’ve got to fix this.”
“I’m 77 years old. I’ve watched this stalemate on homelessness and what to do go on for over 30 years of my life,” Elberling said. “And here we are and it’s never been worse. It’s time to end the stalemate and just deal with it.”
Mandelman said he believed a 90% reduction within the decade was possible.
“If everybody was making investments including the state government on a par with Prop. C, I think we could do this,” Mandelman said, referring to San Francisco’s voter-approved Proposition C homeless tax.
In the current and next two fiscal years alone, Prop. C is expected to result in $1.11 billion for housing the homeless and other services.
Chiu’s proposal has drawn some opposition including from the California State Association of Counties. Among their requested amendments is that the goal for the reduction not be set until only after the plans are submitted.
“AB-816 prematurely prescribes the solution without a full understanding of the needs and gaps at the state and local levels,” said a letter the group signed.
Chiu said the state needs to have a “tangible goal.”
“Everyone talks about ending homelessness, but unless you say we need to end it by a certain level by a certain time, the conversation has been literally meaningless,” Chiu said. “We thought this was a reasonable timeframe.”