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Riverside: Southern California Big City Mayors To Address Homelessness

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Riverside, CA – The mayors of California’s largest cities announced that in 2019 they would push for more money to address homelessness, the restoration of tax-increment financing for affordable housing and for state leaders to analyze what changes in law can be made to make building and planning housing easier throughout the state. The Big City Mayors, who lead the state’s 13 most populous municipalities, spelled out their priorities in letters sent to legislative leaders.

“With children, the disabled and veterans sleeping on streets across California, we have a moral imperative to aggressively pursue all avenues available to expand housing and support services for our neighbors without homes,” said Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey. “We commend the Governor and legislative leadership for prioritizing funding and streamlining building processes to provide relief to our communities and to our neighbors without homes. We won’t solve homelessness without housing.”

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In 2018, the then-Big 11 Mayors successfully advocated for the state to create the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), allocating $500 million of flexible resources directly to local governments to build shelters, fund outreach workers and provide rental subsidies and other short-term solutions to move people off the streets and ultimately into permanent housing. The most recent statewide count found more than 134,000 people were homeless in California, with the highest concentrations in major cities.

In addition to advocating for more resources to address homelessness, the Big City Mayors also called on state leaders to reestablish tax-increment financing, specifically to tackle the state’s affordable housing crisis. Citing the correlation between the end of redevelopment and the increase in statewide homelessness, the Mayors are advocating for this vital tool to be reconstituted, complete with robust state oversight and protections for existing tenants.

Following recent state reports that local governments are falling well short of the planning and climate targets laid out in SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008), the Mayors also called on the legislature and governor to analyze what changes in state law can be made to make planning and building housing easier throughout the state. While affirming their strong support for the principal of local control, the mayors also stated they would be open to supporting state efforts to increase the production of affordable housing – especially in cities that are not meeting their fair share of state housing goals.

Big City Mayors, formerly the Big 11, is a coalition of mayors across California’s 13 largest cities. Members include mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Riverside and Stockton.

“When our cities joined forces last year to confront homelessness, we not only secured critical investments from Sacramento, we did what mayors do best — we went to work right away to provide shelter beds, services, and support for our neighbors living on the streets,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “With a former big city mayor now in the governor’s office, we know we can take the next step forward for California’s families, with more funding to build affordable units, shrink the housing shortage, and end homelessness once and for all.”

“Cities are on the frontlines of our state’s homeless and housing crisis, and we have shown that when California’s mayors speak in one voice we can begin to enact the change our communities need,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “There are more steps our state leaders can take this year to make it easier to build homes and help Californians move off the streets. I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow mayors to make sure our cities have a strong voice in the state capitol.”

“Homelessness requires not just one solution, but many compassionate solutions,” Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said. “Shelters we have opened are literally changing lives and restoring public spaces for everyone, thanks in part to the collective work of California’s mayors. But shelters are just the beginning. We need to look at innovative ways to encourage and expand projects that may bring lasting, stable housing within the reach of many.”

“Like much of California, the City of Santa Ana has found itself challenged with the rise in homelessness in recent years,” said Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido. “In 2018, the City took large strides in addressing homelessness including opening a 200-bed interim homeless shelter in just 28 days and is actively working on the opening of a 600-bed permanent shelter, a direct result of the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funds. In 2019, the Big City Mayors have united again; now, we are hoping to continue this momentum to expand housing opportunities for all. Santa Ana is proud to be a part of this coalition, committed to improving the Quality of Life for all its residents.”

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