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Council President Responds to LAist LAHSA Story

Posted on 03/02/2024

LOS ANGELES (March 2, 2024) - Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian has released the following statement in response to a story that appeared on the LAist website and its associated radio station.

The recent LAist story on LAHSA’s “report” about Municipal Code section 41.18 is inaccurate in many respects, and highly misleading in total.  

The story claims that unnamed City officials have “hidden” or “kept from the public” LAHSA’s information, and that is flatly false.  LAHSA is not a City agency and is not under the City’s control. LAHSA has always been free to publish any data it wishes.  In fact, LAHSA’s refusal to make usable and reliable data available to the City and to the public has been a significant ongoing challenge for as long as I have served on the Council.  In this case, LAHSA failed to provide the “report” mentioned in the article to City analysts for over six months after the City Council requested it.

After it was finally sent, the City’s Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) was required to carry out its legally assigned duty to review and evaluate LAHSA’s information, as well as information from multiple City agencies, nonprofit service providers and advocates for the unhoused.  The CLA must synthesize all of this information before submitting the comprehensive, accurate and reliable report that was ordered by the Council.  Too often, half-baked information based on faulty data and assumptions has been the basis of bad policymaking and demagoguery, and the Council must demand information that the public can count on.   

The information LAHSA provided to the CLA, however, was clearly faulty and incomplete at best, and perhaps even deliberately misleading.  The CLA has asked LAHSA to clarify the many omissions, ambiguities and obvious inaccuracies in its work product.  To this moment, LAHSA has failed to respond to these basic questions.  It would be a gross disservice to the public for the CLA to produce a knowingly inaccurate report to the City Council based on obviously faulty information, especially when LAHSA continues to dodge its responsibility to respond to the CLA’s legitimate inquiries.

As one example, the Council asked the CLA to report on “the rate and extent of repopulation in areas covered by LAMC 41.18.”  LAHSA’s misleading responses on this subject considers an area to have been “repopulated” if even a single person was reported lying down in the area on a single day or night at any time during a two year span, even if the individual in question moved elsewhere the following day.  Considering that many of these sites had been continuously occupied by dozens of tents for months or even years before the amendments to 41.18, to suggest they have been “repopulated” in such circumstances is absurd.

The article betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what section 41.18 is intended to do and how it works.  The ordinance does not “criminalize homelessness,” and it is not an alternative to housing programs like Inside Safe.  It simply prohibits encampments in specified limited areas that are especially dangerous to the unhoused themselves, or that unreasonably impede the public’s use of the public right of way, or are adjacent to sensitive areas such as schools and child care centers.  In some circumstances, where a particular encampment has been a proven and documented threat to public safety because of recurring violent crimes, fires and other dangers, camping can be prohibited in that particular area for for a limited time, but only after extensive outreach, engagement and notice to the unhoused who are encamped there.

The article further simplistically conflates the LAHSA information with the report requested by Council.  They are two completely different things; the LAHSA information was merely one piece among many that would be needed in order to create the CLA report.  The article is false in asserting any report “has been kept under wraps.”  To the contrary, the report that was actually demanded by the Council is not yet complete because of LAHSA’s delayed and inaccurate information – the very same inaccurate information referenced by the article unquestioningly.  Whenever LAHSA answers the CLA’s inquiries, and the CLA can responsibly report accurate information to the Council, that report will be robustly debated and analyzed by the Council.  

Until then, it would be the height of irresponsibility to demagogue such a vitally important issue based on whatever incomplete data happens to help one particular viewpoint or another.  Advocacy groups and even reporters have that luxury, but the Council does not.  We will continue to hold LAHSA, city departments and service providers accountable to produce results that actually house people, and ensure that our public rights of way are safe and accessible for all.