Homelessness occupies LA leaders' discussion at 'State of the Valley' luncheon

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Dealing with the rising homeless population in Los Angeles is a major problem, but having businesses open their parking lots at night so people can sleep in cars and tents is not a practical way to deal with the issue, four City Council members told San Fernando Valley chamber of commerce members on Thursday.

Their remarks came during the third annual State of the Valley Luncheon, established by the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. All six valley council members are invited to the event and address various issues in a question-and-answer format.

About 190 people attended the event at the Airtel Plaza hotel at Van Nuys Airport.

The council is looking at the idea of allowing the homeless to temporarily use parking lots for shelter but has not yet taken any action.

During the session, moderator Leron Grubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, asked 6th District Councilwoman Nury Martinez about the idea and wondered if she would support the city doing the same thing.

“I do not support that,” she said. “It doesn’t provide a long-term solution, a dignified solution to the homeless housing problem.”

Her district has the biggest homeless populations in the Valley, she said.

(But) “we need to look at all the districts in the city,” Martinez noted.

Third District Councilman Bob Blumenfield, whose area includes Reseda and Winnetka — both communities with homeless problems — said that there are bigger populations in other parts of Los Angeles.

“In terms of numbers in the Valley it’s much smaller,” he said. “But last year it went up 30 percent in the San Fernando Valley and 20 percent in the city.”

There are now an estimated 27,000 homeless people in the city and 47,000 in Los Angeles County, Blumenfield said.

Some help could come in the November election because Mayor Eric Garceti is urging support for Proposition HHH, which would raise $1.2 billion through property tax bonds to build housing units for the homeless.

Also getting attention Thursday were two other ballot measures, county Measure M, which would add one half cent to the sales tax to fund future transportation projects, and city Measure JJJ, which deals with planning reform.

Fourth District Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes parts of Van Nuys, said the transportation measure is critical to the Valley because the money will help pay for converting the popular Orange Line to a light rail.

It could mean $4.2 billion for the Valley, he said.

“I totally support this ballot measure and it can’t fail,” he said. “If it fails do we have a backup plan?”

Ryu also said he is “fighting” to make sure the Valley gets its fair share of transit funds.

Fifth District Councilman Paul Koretz, whose area includes parts of Sherman Oaks, also likes the transportation measure.

“I think with Measure M we have the opportunity to exponentially improve our (transportation) system,” he said, adding that it could also provide funds for a rapid-transit link between the Valley and West Side.



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