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The Cost Of Fixing LA, Not Just The Homeless Problem

818 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  klamedia
The cost of perfecting L.A.
$250 billion over 30 years may be a good down payment
Troy Anderson, Staff writer

As Los Angeles leaders last week lauded a $12 billion plan to end county homelessness in a decade, the move renewed debate over how much it would cost to solve all the region's problems and how to prioritize spending the limited funds available.
The release of the Bring L.A. Home report - a perfect world wish list of possible solutions - came even as the city and county grapple with gang violence, overcrowded jails, failing students, low-paying jobs, a crumbling infrastructure, an inadequate transportation system, a collapsing health system and the runaway costs of government salaries and benefits.
The cost of a perfect Los Angeles: A minimum of $250 billion and probably a lot more over the next 10 to 30 years, according to interviews and an informal Daily News review of the estimated price tags available through studies by various local agencies.

"We have lots of problems in the county that need to be looked at," said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. "And (homelessness) is just one of them.

"For many people, the homeless, except when you go downtown, are out of sight and out of mind, whereas all of us face traffic congestion every day.

"Part of the problem is that these problems can't just be solved by the county. It takes state and federal help. County taxpayers can't be asked to shoulder the whole burden, but county citizens should be asked to participate in discussions as to their priorities."

Despite the enormity of the costs to fix many problems that arguably affect more people than the county's nearly 90,000 estimated homeless, officials defended the plan.

"This isn't just liberal, do-good nice things we do for others," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "This is an investment, make no mistake. It's one we are willing to make, that we are going to make together. There are going to be problems. There are going to be conflicts. There are going to be tensions, but at the end of the day we are going to move to end homelessness in this city."
But Bruce Ackerman, president of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, said that while his heart goes out to homeless people, he wants to know if the plan will require increased taxes.

"We cannot do everything that we're being asked to do, not when we have rampant public pensions," Ackerman said.

"That's why our infrastructure is in the condition it's in. We have to put so much into the pension system and try to take care of the public employee sector that our roads, sewers and water delivery systems are starting to fail."

Arguing that homelessness should be a top funding priority, the plan unveiled last week calls for building up to 50,000 new units of affordable housing and increasing a variety of services to get people off the streets.

Report authors argue that the cost of not addressing the problem is actually more costly to taxpayers, noting that the county and city already spend $505 million annually on homeless services.

The Sheriff's Department estimates it spends $32 million annually on the homeless and the cost of jailing a homeless person is twice as expensive as housing him or her.

The report said the cost of hospitalizing the homeless is 49 times more costly than supportive housing. One month's stay in a mental hospital could pay for 20 months in supportive housing.

"Los Angeles County jails cannot be the solution for the homeless problem," Sheriff Lee Baca said. "And I don't believe this can be solved locally. It requires a national strategy.

"The wealthiest nation in the world cannot turn its back on its own homegrown citizens, no matter what their problems are."

To help address the rising number of homeless nationwide, Phillip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness in Washington, D.C., said President George W. Bush has increased the federal homeless budget by 7.5 percent to $4.1 billion.

"Every city has financial pressures right now," Mangano said. "But what mayors and county executives have come to realize is that the cost of the housing solution is actually less costly than chronically homeless people randomly ricocheting around very expensive health and law enforcement systems."

In recent months, momentum has been building to address homelessness.

Last June, the Board of Supervisors committed $25 million for shelter and services. In November, Villaraigosa committed $50 million for permanent housing and support for a $1 billion bond measure to



develop more affordable housing citywide.

Officials can also use funds from Proposition 63, which will provide the county with $300 million annually in funding to address mental illness, particularly for homeless people.

And earlier last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a $100 million plan to reduce the amount of homeless services on Skid Row by expanding existing homeless centers across the county.

Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness, said it's important to invest in the homeless - among all the problems facing the county - because "homeless people are part of all those problems."

"We've got 26,000 homeless students in the LAUSD and (Los Angeles County Office of Education)," Erlenbusch said. "The sheriff has 1,400 homeless people on any given night at Twin Towers.

"The same $40,000 it costs to keep someone in jail for a year could be spent to build permanent supportive housing and hopefully those people would become taxpayers and give back to the community."

To further help pay for the cost, officials said they plan to create a community trust fund that the county and cities, corporations, philanthropic organizations and residents could contribute to.

They also plan to seek more money from the state and federal governments, which now contribute about $50 million to $60 million annually for the county's homeless.

The city and county, combined, contributed $2 million five years ago, but now spend about $35 million.

Steven Frates, a senior fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College, is currently studying how much Los Angeles gets per capita to deal with homelessness compared to other counties.

The study is a few weeks from being completed but he said he has already found that Los Angeles lags most other counties in receiving resources for homelessness from the state and federal governments.

Still, political analysts say an obstacle to political leaders devising long-term solutions to society's problems is the short-term nature of their jobs.

"The basic problem is that big problems take decades to solve, but politicians have to run for re-election every two to four years," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "And constituents expect some results by the time you run for re-election.

"If spending money were the answer to social problems, we would've achieved Utopia a long time ago."

Staff Writer Harrison Sheppard contributed to this story

[email protected]

(213) 974-8985

County and city officials have estimated over the months that fixing various pressing problems throughout Los Angeles County would cost at least $250 billion over the next 10 to 30 years. Among some of the estimated price tags officials have proposed:

Highways, streets, mass transit, sewers and storm drains throughout the county over 10 years:

$100 billion

County's share of governor's infrastructure spending plan:

$74 billion

L.A. Community College projects:

$3 billion

L.A. County jails:

$500 million

L.A. County health system:

$1.1 billion

6. Gangs (proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase):

$3.25 billion

7. L.A. County's share of unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions and retiree health costs:

$50 billion to $60 billion

MTA Red Line extension through Westside:

$4.5 billion


$12 billion

LAPD police stations (estimates from 20-year master plan adopted in 1996):

$1.2 billion to $2 billion over 20 years

Source: Daily News research
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1 - 6 of 6 Posts
highway and mass transite for the love of god. what is the point of a nice city with good othere things when you cant move anywere in the daylight?
Seriously, if dt LA wants to attrack people, it should work on the homeless problem more that anything else. It is the key to dt LA sucess, I would hate to pay a whole load of money for a loft, and have pee and boose bottles outside my house. Everybody when they think of dt LA, they think of the homeless' pee odor in the callejones. Nobody thinks of it as the place to spend a nice saturday afternoon, and then hit a bar at night. Dt LA will not get anywhere without getting rid of the homeless problem. I'm not saying to remove the homeless from dt LA, but relocate them in brand new apartment housing, with pocket parks and small community centers. LA can do it.
It's difficult to choose because one seems to be related to the other. To end homelessness we need to educate people, provide health care (say mental health), strengthen our police force, etc. Same thing with gangs. We have to provide jobs, decent affordable housing and mass transit to move people and goods. We can't attract companies if we do not have an educated workforce and the workforce needs affordable housing, health care and transit...and round and round we's Catch 22 wouldn't you say?
thats why im not in politics...
For a better Los Angeles!
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