In order to avoid losing state funding, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to cancel a policy that allows its members to veto proposed affordable and homeless housing projects by withholding a simple letter of support.
The policy had been disputed by a community group which filed a lawsuit in July trying to stop it, and Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed a bill to withhold state money or tax credits from any development that requires a “letter of acknowledgment” from a local official.
The council’s move comes as the city is undertaking a massive attempt to construct supportive and affordable housing through Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond passed by voters in 2016, to combat homelessness that has skyrocketed along with rising real estate prices.
Withholding the required letter, or a “pocket veto,” for HHH projects is an illegal procedure that gives City Council members unbalanced power to block projects without having to cite a reason, critics say.
“The LOA policy is a clear violation of California state laws, including laws prohibiting discrimination in housing based on race or disability and laws protecting supportive and affordable housing,” Jeffrey Bornstein, a partner at the law firm Rosen Bien Galvan and Grunfeld LLP, said in July.
Bornstein represents the plaintiffs who sued the city that month, along with Public Counsel and the Public Interest Law Project.
The pocket veto has only been used in a small number of instances for HHH projects, the Los Angeles Times reported after obtaining documents through public records requests. But according to the lawsuit, “the mere existence of the requirement deters many interested developers from even attempting to pursue supportive housing or affordable housing projects, especially in certain council districts where public hostility to such projects is well known.”
The motion to cancel the need for the “letter of acknowledgment” was approved on an 11-0 vote.
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