Tue, Dec

Garcetti’s Plan for the Homeless: Line Developer’s Pockets


VIEW FROM HERE--One person who is not naive about Garcetti’s faux $1 Billion plan to help the homeless is Rev. Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, who reportedly said:

“We have to move away from this slow-to-develop, very expensive units,” Bales said. “This plan to spend a huge amount of money per person is going to cause thousands upon thousands of people to die on the streets. And, in these very expensive units, alcohol and drugs have been flowing freely and, in my opinion, we need to move back to a more recovery model.”

Rev Bales’ observation may make him persona non grata at city hall, and my using his comments will not elevate his standing.  As Rev. Bales said, Garcetti will cause “thousands upon thousands more people to die on the streets.”  If now is not the time to speak up and risk ostracism, when is the time?

My Commentary on the Reverend Bales’ Comments:

(1) “slow-to-develop, very expensive units”

This refers to Garcetti’s plan to load up land already owned by his best buds in high density parts of town where property values are the highest so that his minions can make a fortune.  The history how Los Angeles ended up in this mess is long, obtuse and complex.

No Angeleno remembers the monster which Bunker Hill posed for early pueblo Los Angeles.  It was a looming nightmare blocking expansion to the west.  For decades there had been discussions and fights over how to obliterate, go around or go under the gargantuan hill. The first decent use came with the Victorian and Queen Anne mansions of the wealthy in the late 1880's.  By the Great Depression, the wealthy began moving westward to Beverly Hills and northward to Pasadena. Bunker Hill became home to transients and the setting for later Hollywood Noir films.

With the creation of the Community Redevelopment Agency -- LA (CRA) in 1948, disaster struck Los Angeles.  CRA transgressed the basic land use rule for Los Angeles set forth in the city’s 1915 Study of Traffic – do not concentrate density in core areas like Bunker Hill or along Transit Corridors (a term yet to be coined). Rather, all types of land use had to expand outward equally. For example, offices would be constructed in the Valley and not in or near DTLA.  In the 1910's through the 1930's, Angelenos knew the nightmare of traffic congestion which concentrating retail and offices in core areas like Bunker Hill would cause.

They also had learned the basic second principle: streets should not have incompatible uses, i.e., Rights of Way.  From personal experience, Angelenos knew that trolleys were a deadly menace and clogged vehicle traffic.  (There was no oil or Detroit conspiracy.) Mixing bicycles with vehicle traffic would have been risible.

Furthermore, since 1915 Angelenos had known that subways and above ground fixed rail transit were mathematically unworkable once the city’s radius was more than 5 miles.  Unlike NYC where the tracks remain equidistance from one end of the 2.5-mile-wide island to the other, in a huge circular city, fixed rails lines diverge. At the five-mile mark, the lines are too far apart to serve the population. People will not walk more than ½ mile to a subway station.

Developers knew that loading up Bunker Hill with huge office towers while making the San Fernando Valley into a bedroom community with virtually no offices would be a long-term disaster for Los Angeles. But, densification made billions of dollars for developers. Thus, the CRA turned Bunker Hill into a high-rise haven (which by the way, paid no property taxes except to the CRA which then gave the money to other developers)

The Rev. Bales decries the perpetuation of giving money for developers to construct expensive projects where the main purpose is to make the developers wealthy.  Garcetti’s Manhattanization targets rent controlled housing (RSO units) for destruction as they are the cheapest to buy and tear down to construct fancy new projects. RSO units house the poorest of the poor. When they lose their homes, many cannot afford another apartment. Hence, they become homeless.  As Manhattanization destroys more RSO units, rents at the lower end increase, thereby accelerating the increase in homelessness.  The failure to construct Afford Housing did not cause homelessness.  If LA had not torn down well over 25,000 RSO units, there would be no homeless crisis. 

(2) “thousands upon thousands of people to die on the streets”

To use a provocative but applicable term, Los Angeles’ death rate of the homeless due to their being homeless reached “quasi-mini-genocidal” portions years before the Covid-19 pandemic.  Again, the causation is not simple.

When we calculated the number of homeless people who die from homelessness itself as opposed to the total number of homeless who die, we found that about 30% of the homeless deaths per year were due to being homeless independent of other factors such as ill health or drug overdoses.  In other words, the data showed that about 30% would not have died if they had had an apartment or house.  Applying that 30% to last year’s homeless deaths of 1,383 people, about 415 people died simply because they were homeless.

(3) As “alcohol and drugs have been flowing freely among the homeless, we need to move back to a more recovery model.” 

This aspect is particularly complex. Out of every 1,000 poor people who lose their rent-controlled homes, many will have emotional troubles, a significant number will have criminal records in addition to drug dependency.  This portion of the evicted will have an extra hard time finding a new apartment. Emotionally unstable people have bad credit histories or those with criminal histories have been blacklisted by apartment owners.  Over time, the composition of the homeless population becomes skewed towards more drug users, the emotional disabled and those with rap sheets.  To be clear, the destruction of their homes caused their homeless plight, but their addictions, etc. make it extra hard to find new places.  Also, being evicted is a significant stressor which causes marginally adjusted people to decompensate.  Our society victimizes those who are least able to recover.

Inside their RSO units, the poor have a haven. When they awake in the middle of the night to take leak, they’ve got somewhere to go. If they catch a cold, they can stumble, like the rest of us, to the medicine cabinet to get Coricidin.  In the morning, they can get a cup of coffee in their own kitchenette. When exhausted, they can fall asleep in front of the TV without worrying they will be knifed to death. When homeless, life is a struggle 24/7/365.

Step One to Stop Homelessness: Stop destroying poor people’s homes.

Step Two: Apply Rev. Bales emergency measures. 

A Non-Solution: Garcetti’s giving money to the developers who are causing the crisis. 

Judge Carter Update.  On April 20, 2021, federal Judge David O. Carter confiscated Garcetti’s $1 Billion developer slush funds (see page 107).


(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. The views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. You may email him at [email protected])