The Manhattan Beach City Council met August 21 and approved the "Five-Year Plan to Address Homelessness" which can be found in Item 14 of the August 21 Agenda (click here).
As noted in a previous blog post, "Shape of Things to Come?", the plan is part of a countywide effort stemming from the passage of Measure H, a sales tax increase which allocates $355 million towards cities working to reduce homelessness.
Manhattan Beach was one of 47 cities in the county given grants - $30,000 in Manhattan Beach's case - to develop a homeless plan. That money was used to hire three consultants who helped to draft the plan with community input from a series of public meetings.
At the August 21 Council meeting, numerous individuals (including yours truly) spoke out about the positives and negatives of the plan but, since the County was requiring cities to submit their plans the next day in order to qualify for the Measure H funds, the Manhattan Beach plan, despite a number of shortcomings, was passed 5-0 without modification.
Some takeaways from the Council meeting -
- Both Council members Steve Napolitano and Richard Montgomery indicated that enforcement of existing ordinances, such as the restriction on overnight camping - which, by the way, includes living out of one's car on public property - should be a priority (the plan itself seems to give short shrift to enforcement of city ordinances). Napolitano said, "As much as homelessness is not a crime, that doesn't mean you can break all the rules either so we're going to hold people accountable."
- The plan, to its credit, seeks to marshal other resources and service providers in order to get the homeless the assistance they need. Napolitano said, "A lot of this, for better and worse, in our city right now falls on law enforcement and what we need to do is broaden it out." One example is expanded availability of a mental health clinician, currently available only one day a week (statistics show some 30% of the homeless have mental health issues but MBPD Chief Abell thinks that percentage is higher).
- City Attorney Quinn Barrow indicated that many of the city ordinances, such as the anti-camping ordinance, were drafted years ago to address other issues than homelessness, which was not nearly the problem it is today. He is currently drafting a state-of-the-art anti-camping ordinance, broader than the current one, that will be presented at the next Council meeting (September 4). This new and improved ordinance will address camping and storage of personal property in all public areas, including the civic center and the library, thereby allowing for more effective law enforcement.
- City Manager Bruce Moe affirmed, along with several city council members, that the plan can be modified, that it is a 'living' document and that it can and should be responsive to further community input. A citizen task force was suggested by both Napolitano and Mayor Amy Howorth to provide that input.
In the end, while a flawed plan was approved in order to meet the county deadline to apply for Measure H funding, there was certainly a sense among some on the council that enforcement of city ordinances (hopefully, soon to be new and improved) will be important moving forward, in addition to the directing of local and county resources to the Manhattan Beach homeless population.
Council member Montgomery said it best, "I don't want us to become the next Santa Monica or the next Venice or Santa Ana, Anaheim or, god forbid, LA."