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Sacramento, 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.
“Last year, the state took major steps to address the statewide crisis of homelessness,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who leads the Big City Mayors. “Now is the time to build on that success and to continue to invest in solutions that offer hope for millions of adults and families that have been left behind by a lack of access to quality affordable housing.”
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.
Quotes from mayors:
“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.”
“Our state’s housing crisis presents us with a generation-defining moment,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “As Big City Mayors, we stand with legislative leadership and the governor to push for the scale of solutions required to address this crisis.”
“Homelessness is an issue that affects all of us, which is why it is so important that we work with our fellow Big City Mayors and state partners to invest in creating more housing, building more navigation centers and shelters, and helping people who suffer from mental health and addiction issues get the care they need,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “No one should be forced to sleep on the street, and I am encouraged by the steps we are taking to cut through the bureaucracy and increase resources to address this problem.”
“This bipartisan effort has already achieved significant results, but we can’t stop there,” Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said. “It is imperative that we continue to advocate for our residents, present our proposals, and make sure our cities have the proper resources to help people at any stage of vulnerability find affordable housing.”
“Housing and homelessness are the biggest issues facing California today. They go hand in hand and we cannot fix one without the other,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “Long Beach is committed to finding solutions that will alleviate California’s housing crisis. We look forward to working with the Administration and state Legislature on realistic housing reforms while leveraging state funds and local resources to expand homeless services, including the creation of a new year-round shelter for our community. I am proud that as Big City Mayors, we are continuing to push for more solutions to this statewide crisis.”
“No one city can solve a problem like homelessness on its own,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “But when we work together, as a bipartisan coalition like the Big City Mayors, we show residents that we can make big progress on some of our biggest challenges.”
“Efforts to overcome critical statewide issues, such as homelessness and affordable housing creation, can be accelerated by providing cities with necessary tools and resources to implement localized solutions,” said Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh. “I look forward to uniting with my fellow Big City Mayors to advocate for continued state investment in the Homeless Emergency Aid Program and to inform the creation of additional initiatives that will improve the lives of Californians by empowering our cities.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Stockton has been greatly impacted by the challenges of homelessness and housing, at one point being home to the highest number of foreclosures in the nation and, more recently, facing the highest rent increases in the state,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. “We cannot solve these issues alone. I am proud that collectively the Big City Mayors and the State of California are coming together to ensure that every resident can afford a place to call home.”