To the editor: The ordinances discussed by The Times Editorial Board are vital tools to address Los Angeles' housing shortage and related homelessness crisis. But unless City Hall shows leadership by easing fears and dispelling myths about affordable housing, progress will be slower and more limited than we need. ("Cut the red tape already and start building supportive housing for the homeless," editorial, Jan. 8)
Fear of the unknown drives communities to conjure up images of housing projects that bring an influx of crime and push down property values. This fear prompts fierce neighborhood opposition that can scale back or even kill responsible affordable housing developments. Too often, council members capitulate to their constituents' fears and let good projects die, instead of challenging assumptions and encouraging residents to step out of their comfort zone.
Several studies and countless examples have shown that when you develop affordable housing correctly, the feared negative effects do not materialize.
Local leaders need to ask their constituents if they would rather have affordable housing or homeless encampments. They must pass ordinances to speed affordable housing development, but they must also use their bully pulpits to emphasize the importance of siting new projects — not just so our most vulnerable people can have a place to sleep, but also for the long-term health of Los Angeles.
Adam Bierman, Los Angeles
To the editor: The eloquent photograph of a homeless camp under the 4th Street bridge by the Los Angeles Times' Robert Gauthier on the front page of Monday's California section was a sad echo of Baroque painter Giacometti Ceruti, who painted Italian peasants.
Or does it remind me of the photographs of New York's or London's slums, of migrant mothers during the Dust Bowl, of indigenous people lined up in front of missions staring into the camera?
We have voted for large sums of public money in the past few years to address this complex issue. Where is the progress? Are city leaders in endless committee meetings? Do they have no beginning point? Can no one agree on first steps? What is happening?
The photo is a haunting reminder of the problem, but surely progress is being made, right? Why don't we hear about it?
Janice Segall, Pasadena
To the editor: Certainly your idea of converting motels to housing for homeless people is better than tents on the sidewalks. But I have an even better idea.
Why doesn't the state construct large housing complexes for homeless people on park-like grounds and staff the sites with doctors, nurses and guards to ensure good health and community safety? Doesn't that sound like a better solution? Or does it resemble too much the institutions we had in the past?
Most of these people are not just homeless; unfortunately they're mentally unwell. And sticking them in motel rooms with kitchens isn't going to make the problem go away.
James Johnson, New York
To the editor: Czars, change agents, disruptors, rainmakers — none are needed to address homelessness. What we need is for our elected leaders to lead.
But effective action is unlikely, because some of the most dedicated voters are adherents of NIMBYism. As a result, the desire to provide additional housing takes a back seat to the desire to maintain property values and lifestyles.
Phrases like "neighborhood character" are used, but ultimately this translates to "we just don't care that much."
Ed Salisbury, Santa Monica