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Whether And How A ‘Right To Shelter’ Policy Would Work In California, And What The State Can Learn From New York City




Tents and belongings of the homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles, California on June 25, 2018.
Tents and belongings of the homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles, California on June 25, 2018.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Mayor and co-chair of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force Darrell Steinberg floats the idea that California should implement a “right to shelter” law in order to combat the affordable housing and homelessness crisis that has plagued the Golden State.

Under a policy like this, cities and counties would have to construct homeless shelters that would have enough space for any homeless person seeking shelter at any given time. For an example, Steinberg writes, Californians need look no further than New York City, which he says will spend more than $1.5 billion this year to shelter approximately 75,000 people. He says that New York’s system could be used as a model, and that an effective “right-to-shelter” policy in California would be coupled with a mandate that it be used, though he does not specify exactly how the state would enforce such a policy.

How would a “right to shelter” policy look here in California? Would it be implemented by lawmakers in Sacramento? Or Governor Newsom? Or would individual cities and municipalities have to draw up their own individual legislation? Where would the funding required to execute the plan come from? And how would neighborhood residents who have pushed back against affordable housing and homeless shelters being built in their neighborhoods be addressed?

Guests:

Darrell Steinberg, mayor of Sacramento and co-chair of Governor Newsom’s Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force; he tweets @Mayor_Steinberg

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the Second Supervisorial District, which encompasses a wide swath of South and West L.A., including the cities of Compton, Carson, Inglewood and Culver City and neighborhoods like the Crenshaw District and Miracle Mile; he is also co-chair of Governor Newsom’s Homeless and Supportive Housing Advisory Task Force; he tweets @mridleythomas