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What makes progress hard in Los Angeles?

A homeless encampment in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 15. (Luis Sinco / LAT)

  • It’s not the cost of real estate that gets in the way of building more housing

  • It’s not the mashup of jurisdictions involved

  • It’s not race that differentiates

Here’s what makes progress hard in Los Angeles:

No one’s in charge. No government or agency has the authority or mandate to assert leadership, set priorities and take decisive action in dealing with homelessness. Unlike Houston, Los Angeles has a weak-mayor system, no top-elected official in the county and no executive position with a comparable agenda-setting power. The many local bureaucracies involved are a confused tangle of mismatched authorities, responsibilities and resources.

L.A.’s compassion is conflicted: Proposition HHH is designed to create a large but well-groomed and well-mannered street population: dedicated parking lots, storage facilities for possessions, portable toilets, and drop-in and hygiene centers.

Every step that makes street homelessness a little less uncomfortable has the unintended consequence of drawing more people into the streets.

About a thousand of the 10,000 affordable units promised by Proposition HHH, passed in 2016, have been opened — at astronomical costs.


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