How to Vote in LA's March 5th Primary if Homelessness is Your Top Issue

How to Vote in LA's March 5th Primary if Homelessness is Your Top Issue

Relevant News

By  Brianna Lee

Published Feb 5, 2024 5:00 AM

Decide where you stand

You need to know where you stand before you choose a candidate based on their platform. The biggest differences between candidates usually fall along these few questions:

  • What do you believe are the main reasons homelessness has been rising in your district?
  • There are many reasons homelessness is rising across Southern California: not enough affordable housing, not enough renters’ protections, the availability of drugs, lack of mental health support, and more. Knowing what a candidate considers the main drivers of homelessness is crucial to understanding how they’ll approach the problem.
  • Do you support new housing or shelter beds in your neighborhood?
  • How much? Where would they go?
  • What role do you think police should play in addressing homelessness?
  • Should they act as first responders when unhoused people have a mental health crisis? Should our laws allow police to arrest people who are camped out in public areas?

If you need more context on the homelessness crisis to figure out your own views, start here.

The offices that matter most on the 2024 ballot

The county Board of Supervisors and City Council most directly affect homelessness issues in L.A. They decide which homeless services and housing to fund and pass laws for the city and county. Recent examples include allowing rent increases of up to 6% in rent-controlled units, and cracking down on “vanlords” who sell or rent RVs for unhoused people to live in.

They have some specialized powers, too:

  • City council members decide how much new housing is allowed in their district, including emergency shelters and supportive housing. Under L.A. city law, people aren’t allowed to sit, lie or sleep outside within 500 feet of a school, public library or public park. But it’s up to each councilmember whether to enforce this law, Municipal Code 41.18, in their district. They also determine if any additional areas are considered unsafe or unhealthy for people to camp in and can allow arrests in those locations.
  • The L.A. County Board of Supervisors decides how much funding the county Department of Mental Health gets, and for what services. It also decides how to spend money raised from Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax to fund homeless services that brought in $609 million for the 2023-2024 budget. Supervisors also appoint half the commission that governs the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority (LAHSA), the main agency in charge of homelessness services for L.A. County. The commission decides who leads LAHSA and sets agency policy and budget. (L.A. Mayor Karen Bass appoints the remaining members, and appointed herself to the commission.) Two supervisors, Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger, also sit on the commission.

Here are our guides for the L.A. City Council and L.A. County Board of Supervisors races.

If you have a city mayor on your ballot this year, they decide how to allocate city spending on homelessness, and can declare states of emergency to galvanize energy around the issue (as Bass has done). Their relationships with local officials who get elected this year will make a big difference on how much they’ll be able to get done.

Your state assemblymember, state senator and U.S. senator influence what kind of state and federal funding go to homelessness, health and housing programs in your area. The county district attorney could decide what kind of homelessness-related criminal cases to pursue, and how to prosecute them.

Ballot measures

Proposition 1 is a measure on the March ballot that would shift much of California’s millionaires tax for mental health services towards housing for people with mental illness. It approves a $6.4 billion bond to add more beds in psychiatric facilities as well as supportive housing, which is housing for formerly unhoused people that comes with mental health and other government services onsite.

It would also require counties to spend certain tax money they already collect toward housing programs, especially for those living in encampments or who have experienced homelessness for a long time.

Here’s our guide to Proposition 1.