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Community Group Sues City of L.A. for Using Illegal Procedure to Block Supportive and Affordable Housing Projects for Homeless

We have the resources and the public will to solve homelessness in Los Angeles, so why is the City maintaining an illegal barrier that stands in the way of permanent housing solutions?


“The people of this City have stepped up and said that housing is the solution to our homelessness crisis. Yet the City has given individual councilmembers the power to secretly block that housing, effectively thwarting the will of the people and perpetuating the homelessness crisis in our city.” — Mark Rosenbaum, Director of Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law Project

On July 26, 2018, Public Counsel, Rosen Bien Galvan and Grunfeld LLP, and the Public Interest Law Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE Action) against the City of Los Angeles over an illegal city procedure deceptively labeled the Letter of Acknowledgement (LOA). The LOA is a controversial loophole that gives individual City Councilmembers unchecked power to secretly block, alter or delay supportive and affordable housing projects in their district for any reason or no reason at all. It is a requirement that applies only to supportive and affordable housing, and not to any other type of development in the City. And without an LOA, developers can’t be eligible for supportive and affordable housing funding from the City.

Despite overwhelming support from a majority of Angelenos who want more affordable and supportive housing projects, the City’s LOA policy tacitly empowers the small but loud NIMBY groups who have historically opposed such housing in their neighborhoods. Any efforts to solve LA’s homelessness crisis will fall short and perpetuate current patterns of residential segregation as long as the City maintains this unnecessary, arbitrary and illegal barrier.

The success of Proposition HHH in 2016 authorized $1.2 billion to fund the construction of 10,000 units of supportive and affordable housing citywide over the next decade. However, almost two years after its historic passage, there are still districts in LA where not a single unit of Proposition HHH housing has been approved by the City. And because there are no criteria for approving or denying an LOA, there is no paper trail and Councilmembers are not beholden to any sort of transparency or accountability. With taxpayer dollars on the line, Angelenos deserve to know where their money is going and why Councilmembers are not holding up their end of the bargain.

We know that supportive and affordable housing works. But with over 31,000 Angelenos, many of whom are children, seniors, veterans, individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and survivors of domestic violence, sleeping on the streets on any given night we need more, and we need that housing in every community. Every day that our elected officials delay, condition or outright reject affordable and supportive housing projects means another night on the streets for residents in desperate need of a place to call home.

Solving the homelessness crisis requires everybody, including City Council, to do their part. Nothing about the LOA serves any legitimate purpose. This lawsuit will remove an unnecessary barrier to building the housing we need, keep the City and City Council accountable, and ensure that we are truly doing everything in our power to solve the homelessness crisis.

For more in-depth information about the violations of law, plaintiff, and solutions, read the full complaint.