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CA cities should address homelessness or face lawsuits, task force says

Proposed constitutional amendment would be a first
Posted at 9:22 PM, Jan 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 00:22:54-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A task force assembled by Governor Gavin Newsom wants to impose a statewide mandate requiring local governments to address homelessness, and hold jurisdictions that fail to make measurable progress accountable with lawsuits.

The proposal by the 13-member Council of Regional Homeless Advisors would require an amendment to California’s constitution. If approved by voters, California would become the first state with such a mandate.

“A legally-enforceable obligation will sharpen focus. It will enhance a bias towards action and it will elevate this on the list of priorities,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, a member of the task force.

Although the specifics are still under negotiation, the task force outlined an example scenario where cities and counties would have one year to reduce their homeless populations by “tens of thousands.”

“These plans would include specific benchmarks and timelines that jurisdictions would have to meet for moving people into permanent housing through both services offered in interim interventions and creation of housing opportunities,” the Council said in its proposal letter.

“It won’t be enough to buy your way through with putting up a number of shelters to make the public think you’re taking action,” Fletcher said. “You will actually have to find a way to tackle the underlying problems.”

Supporters likened the proposal to California’s renewable energy mandate. It’s still unclear how much the housing mandate would cost.

“I would not be supportive of the state coming down on cities like San Diego and saying you have to change the way you do business, change the way you operate, and not give us any money to do that,” said San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate.

Cate said he would prefer to address homelessness with a system of incentives rather than mandates and punishments, but said he was reserving judgment on the plan until more details are released.

The Council of Regional Homeless Advisors wants to put the issue before voters on the November ballot. To do that, the California Legislature would need to vote by June 25 to send the topic to the ballot.