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Measure H rebounds from early deficit, reaches two-thirds majority

A quarter-cent sales tax increase in Los Angeles County to fund anti-homelessness measures appeared to earn the two-thirds majority needed for passage early Wednesday, with 100% of county precincts reporting.

Measure H would generate about $355 million annually for homeless programs over 10 years, backers say. The tax increase would raise the sales tax rate to 9% across most of Los Angeles County and up to 10% in a few communities.

It would be the second phase of a two-step fundraising strategy developed by the city and county. Los Angeles city voters approved a $1.2-billion bond measure in November to provide supplemental funding for 10,000 units of permanent housing with support services for the chronically homeless.

The new sales tax revenue would pay for services attached to those units and provide rental subsidies and services for thousands more units across the county.

Around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder reported that the yes vote stood at 67%, up from less than 63% early Tuesday night. It was just enough to squeak by the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

On election night, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and county Supervisor Janice Hahn all said they were optimistic.

"Every new report that has been received since the first one is trending in the direction we want," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Earlier Tuesday evening, Hahn had said that if the sales tax increase failed she would try again on a future ballot.

"Win or lose, I'm going to have homelessness at the top of my priorities as a supervisor," said Hahn, who was elected to the board in November.

Advertising for the measure promised it would move an estimated 45,000 families and individuals from homelessness into permanent housing during the first five years, while preventing 30,000 more families and individuals from becoming homeless.

“Measure H revenue will enable the most comprehensive plan to combat homelessness in the history of Los Angeles County,” said Phil Ansell, head of the county’s Homeless Initiative.

The complex and still-evolving spending plan includes rent to house thousands of people in existing apartments and services for those units, and an additional 10,000 units to be built over a decade with help from the homeless housing bond approved by Los Angeles city voters in November.

County officials have outlined the basic strategies that would be funded, but they have not yet issued a budget showing the proportions each would receive. Those decisions would be sorted out by a panel of 50 people appointed from county government, cities and the nonprofit world, Ansell said.

The panel would consider six main categories: subsidized housing, coordinated outreach and shelters, case management and services, homelessness prevention, income support and preservation of existing housing.

More than 250 business, nonprofit, labor, government and religious organizations endorsed Measure H, which faced no organized opposition.

A $3.5-million campaign received contributions from real estate and investment firms, labor organizations, philanthropists and other groups with ties to Los Angeles. Those donors include Disney Worldwide Services Inc., USC, former DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and the Los Angeles Chargers. The campaign sent about 4 million mailers and advertised in Los Angeles County newspapers.

The county Board of Supervisors added $1 million for a campaign including television spots.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles also committed $200,000 for community engagement activities in support of the measure.

Awaiting late returns, Hahn called Measure H “the most inspiring and moving campaign I've ever been a part of,” adding that it was “about helping people most of us will never meet."

doug.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATDoug

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UPDATES:

1:30 a.m.: This article was updated with later vote totals.

12:20 a.m. March 8: This article was updated with later vote totals.

11:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Measure H supporters.

10:15 p.m.: This article was updated with a comment from county Supervisor Janice Hahn.

8:25 p.m.: This article was updated with early returns.

This article was first posted at 6:20 p.m. March 7.

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