Mayor Garcetti Launches “HIMBY” - His “Homeless In My Backyard” Plan

DEEGAN ON LA-Mayor Garcetti has finally backed up years of promises to help ease the intractable homeless problem by proposing several new initiatives using money from the HHH bond measure (November_2016) passed in November 2016.

With nearly unanimous support (a 14-0-1 vote), City Council has pledged to locate 220 units of supportive housing for the homeless in each of the 15 council districts by using those funds. Now Garcetti proposes an added layer of relief giving $1.3 million in additional city services to any council district that accepts temporary shelters for up to 100 people in each district. 

The Mayor’s new HIMBY initiative (Homeless in My Backyard) asks hundreds of neighborhoods and communities to shift from NIMBY to YIMBY and support having the homeless “in their backyards.” 

With promises of enhanced sanitation, police and outreach services to cooperating communities, the Mayor is acting like a corporate CEO -- applying capitalist principles to the problem by offering a performance bonus: do the job we ask you to do, and we will reward you. 

"I will give rewards to those communities that say yes first," Garcetti told the LA Timeswhen he announced his plan. "They'll get more help cleaning up. They'll get more funds. The first people to step up and say, 'We do want to solve this in our own neighborhood,' will see those funds flow first." 

For months prior to the Mayor’s announcement, Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) has been looking at converting a city owned property, once a library, into a women's bridge housing, and has engaged community support for the project. His spokesperson told CityWachthat “Councilmember Ryu applauds Mayor Garcetti's announcement and he looks forward to working with the Mayor's office to identity additional locations within Council District 4 that qualify for this important program.” 

When asked about the Mayor’s plan, Brent Gaisford, Director of Abundant Housing LA told CityWatch,The Mayor’s approach is a smart one. He’s looking at this in a different way, providing an incentive to change hearts and minds. We need long term solutions like this...more affordable, permanent, and market rate housing. I’m often confused when people object to having the homeless in their neighborhood -- they are already there. We basically have a pretty clear choice to make: have them stay on the street, or we can give them shelter. We need housing of all types to make LA a more affordable, vibrant city, including housing the homeless in all neighborhoods.”  

Asking communities to take ownership of the homeless recently backfired in a huge way with a Federal judge’s order to the Orange County Board of Supervisors to clear the homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River. The judge wanted the homeless living inthe riverbed site relocated to three large OC communities (Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel), but met with fierce community resistance that caused the Supervisors to nullify the plan. Heavily-Asian Irvine made the loudest noise about accepting the homeless into their community. Some told the LA Timesit was the first time they had engaged in a mass protest.  

Irvine is a planned community” that is set on what was once the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch. It’s not surprising that a normally conservative community that was never planned” to shelter the homeless would erupt as it did. Since Los Angeles is far more diversified and bluer than Irvine and Orange County, Mayor Garcetti may not have the type of headache Judge David Carter of the U.S. District Court suffered when his well-intended plan to help the homeless collapsed. 

It’s too early to tell if the Garcetti HIMBY plan will igniteprotest from neighborhoods that may be getting new neighbors they do not want. The Mayor and the Federal judge could compare notes and see that neither a federal judicial order nor a mayor’s cash-for-cooperation incentive is a guarantee of success. 

Mayor Garcetti has jawboned the homeless issue for years and is now facing communities across the city that are looking for a solution. He may also need to impress an electorate who will vote in upcoming primaries and caucuses – local and national constituencies he may eventually need to show results to in order to win his next job. Being a federal judge is a lifetime appointment, so Judge Carter doesn't have to please the voters as Mayor Garcetti must. However, the judge still faces as difficult a problem with the homeless as the mayor does. 

For now, early in the game with the City Council still needing to weigh in on the HIMBY proposal, it’s advantage Garcetti in the match against communities to replace NIMBYism with HIMBYism. His play-and-get-paid offer to the council districts expires in January 2019.


(Tim Deegan, is a civic activist whose DEEGAN ON LA weekly column about city planning, new urbanism, the environment, and the homeless appear in CityWatch. Tim can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.