Homeless-services advocates on Wednesday cautiously celebrated the apparent victory of Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax increase that would fund housing and support for thousands of people currently living on the streets.
If the narrow two-thirds majority in favor holds up after all the late absentee votes and provisional ballots are counted, the victory will constitute a wave of generosity by city and county voters — giving homeless-services organizations the funds they say they need.
"Voters across L.A. County have made the historic decision that Measure H is a smart investment and the right thing to do for our fellow human beings," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office spearheaded the measure.
Los Angeles city voters set the stage in November by approving Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure to provide supplemental funding for 10,000 units of permanent housing for the chronically homeless.
Measure H is projected to add about $355 million annually for homeless programs over 10 years. The money would provide support services for the new housing in Los Angeles as well as rental subsidies and services for thousands more units around the county.
Even before the final tally was in, Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Janice Hahn introduced a motion Wednesday that would direct the county's chief executive officer to expedite the spending of that money.
The motion requires a report within 30 days on hiring of additional personnel, streamlining the flow of funds to contractors and building the data systems to measure the effects of Measure H funds. The motion is scheduled for a vote Tuesday.
Peter Lynn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and the authority's board chairwoman, Wendy Greuel, also claimed victory in a joint statement thanking voters.
"Through this decisive action, they have demonstrated their profound commitment to end homelessness across our communities," they said.
But with the sliver of doubt about the remaining votes, some homeless-services providers were holding their enthusiasm.
"I am not ready to celebrate the passage of H yet," said Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of A Community of Friends, a nonprofit that builds and manages housing projects for the chronically homeless. "I am thrilled it reached its hurdle of two-thirds vote by the end of the evening, but only by 4,000-plus votes."
Measure H has received 67.44% of the votes counted thus far.
But L.A. County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan estimated Wednesday afternoon that 295,000 ballots remained to be counted, including provisional ballots and absentee ballots received at polling places and by mail. More absentee ballots could be received by mail through Friday.
Conclusive results will likely not be available until next week or later. The vote has to be certified by March 31, a spokesman for the registrar said.
Steve Barkan, campaign strategist for Measure H, said he expects the uncounted ballots to be similar to those cast at polling places on election day, which came in more than 71% in favor of the initiative.
"We're still optimistic," Barkan said.
A Times analysis shows that the measure received its strongest support in the Los Angeles Basin, particularly on the Westside.
The yes vote topped 86% in West Hollywood, 76% in Santa Monica and 71% in Beverly Hills.
Voting was below the two-thirds threshold in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys and was mixed in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Only 40% voted for the measure in the city of Santa Clarita.
Gallo said she worried that voters who were willing to pay for homeless programs may not welcome large apartment buildings for the homeless going up in their neighborhoods.
"Yes, hurdles remain for community acceptance of permanent supportive housing," Gallo said, adding that groups like hers are counting on L.A.'s newly reelected leaders to maintain their commitment "as individual projects come up for approval."
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, said Phil Ansell, head of the county's Homeless Initiative.
The panel's first meeting is scheduled for March 23, 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.
Coupled with the half-cent sales tax increase voters approved in November for transportation projects, Measure H would increase the rate to 9.5% across most of the county.
Times staff writer Anthony Pesce contributed to this report.
6:00 p.m.: This article was updated with the total number of uncounted ballots.
3:10 p.m.: This article was updated with officials saying the measure's outcome was still not final pending a count of late ballots.