Joe Buscaino
Joe Buscaino. Photo by John Schreiber.

Homeless encampments would be banned, development of temporary emergency shelters would be prioritized and the salaries of elected officials who failed to meet those goals would be reduced under a ballot measure introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor.

The language for proposal was submitted to the Los Angeles City Clerk on Friday, according to the Safer Streets L.A. campaign. The City Clerk and the City Attorney will review it before organizers are given the green light to collect the required 65,000 signatures to place it on the November ballot.

The ballot measure calls for the mayor to submit a plan to achieve functional zero homelessness within three years, and if goals are not met, the salaries of the mayor, city attorney and Los Angeles City Council members would be reduced, according to the Safer Streets L.A. campaign.

Once adequate levels of temporary emergency shelter are produced by the city, the ballot measure, if approved, would ban camping in all public areas. In the interim, camping would be banned within a 1,000-foot radius of temporary shelter locations.

“We have an emergency situation playing out on our streets, and this ballot measure offers an all-of-the-above approach to addressing it,” Buscaino said. “Built from my experience on the City Council, where my district has few-to-zero encampments as we have tirelessly pursued shelter for residents experiencing homelessness, this ballot measure connects people in need to services and ensures a roof over their heads. I have a vision for a safer, more humane L.A. — and a plan that has overwhelming support for achieving it. We look forward to taking this ballot measure directly to the voters.”

Buscaino is seeking a petition to get the measure on the November ballot after the council rejected his motion to get a ballot measure banning encampments and prioritizing temporary shelter.

Several council members voiced their opposition to the idea before voting on Nov. 19.

Councilman Mike Bonin said he believes the ballot measure would be solely focused on the problem of the presence of homeless encampments, and not on actually solving the homelessness crisis.

“If we do this measure, if we make enforcement the imperative, if we make enforcement the thing that drives our decisions about what to provide, what type of housing to provide, what type of shelter to provide, it is a guarantee that Los Angeles will provide the lowest common denominator stuff in order to get to enforcement as quickly as possible … and that’s going to be wrong,” Bonin said.

Mayoral candidate and chair of the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, Councilman Kevin de León, who was absent from that meeting, said in November that he thought a ballot measure would be the wrong approach.

“Since the City Council is actively moving forward policies to address homeless encampments through strategic outreach and housing for people in need, a ballot measure seems the wrong approach. The fact is that a ballot measure would be extremely costly to taxpayers and would likely result in a continuation of the litigation merry-go-round that’s kept the city from implementing real solutions,” he told City News Service in November.

While Buscaino’s ballot measure would look to temporary emergency shelters to reduce homelessness, a coalition of labor unions and organizations are working on a ballot measure to create a tax on multi-million dollar property sales to fund solutions to homelessness, particularly permanent housing.

If that measure makes it to the ballot and is approved by a majority of voters, the measure would create a 4% tax on properties sold for more than $5 million, and a 5.5% tax on properties sold for more than $10 million.

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