L.A. Leaders Celebrate Passage of A.B. 1197 to Speed Homeless Housing
“If we can do it for billionaires building big stadiums, then we can do it for people living on the street,” proclaimed State Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) in describing his bill to streamline homeless housing processes.
Santiago was addressing a crowd of about fifty gathered to celebrate the passage of A.B. 1197, which streamlines housing construction in the city of Los Angeles. Specifically, A.B. 1197 exempts emergency homeless shelters and supportive housing from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A.B. 1197 applies only to Los Angeles. It is currently in effect, and will sunset in 2025.
The A.B. 1197 event took place in front of the backdrop of a Skid Row Housing Trust construction site on Seventh Street in downtown Los Angeles. Skid Row Housing Trust CEO Lee Raagas praised the bill for making it possible for organizations like hers to “spend less time on the CEQA process and funnel more resources into building housing.” Santiago stated that A.B. 1197 streamlining will shave between a year and eighteen months off housing project timelines, which could save $2 billion through 2025.
Los Angeles is experiencing record levels of homelessness, which County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called “the defining moral issue of our time.” The city of Los Angeles is already building bridge housing and permanent supportive housing, using a variety of funding sources including $1.2 billion in voter-approved Measure HHH bonds.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said that, regarding spending voter-approved housing monies, he often hears the question, “Why can’t we do this quicker?” One of the problems, as Garcetti describes it, is that “often one or two loud voices can trip up a project.” In some cases, housing opponents use CEQA lawsuits to block and delay new housing.
Garcetti praised A.B. 1197 for cutting red tape and preventing lawsuits. He also noted that the bill opens up possibilities for the city to streamline its own processes, such as allowing for by-right conversions of hotels to supportive housing.
A.B. 1197 was authored by Assemblymember Santiago, whose district includes Skid Row. Santiago praised the broad coalition – including state and local elected officials, foundations and nonprofits – that got the bill passed. State Senate votes were shepherded by Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who was able to secure approval for an urgency clause to have the law take effect immediately. The bill was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom last week.