By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Pacific Palisades Community Council welcomed special guest Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin to speak and take questions at its May 27 board meeting, providing updates about topics ranging from homelessness to illegal dumping and food insecurity in the region.
“I’m really guided by what I call my three Ts: transparency, trust, transformation,” Galperin, who was elected in 2013 and again in 2017, explained near the start of the meeting.
He shared that one of his goals was to make the city more transparent when it comes to things like finances and operations. He reported that Los Angeles used to rank near the bottom of lists of most transparent cities, and today it is near the top.
Galperin explained that he believes a way to build trust between the public and government, and get better government overall, is to have the community involved. Transformation is related to the “break-neck speed” in which things have been changing.
“I really believe very strongly that the way that you get a more accountable government is to make sure that it’s there for everybody to see, warts and all,” he said. “It’s your money, you deserve to know exactly where it’s going.”
Galperin and his staff manage a website that displays a range of things related to the city of LA, including audits and reports, budgets, a COVID-19 dashboard, and more.
“A lot of people don’t know where their next bag of groceries is coming from, and interestingly, nobody had ever mapped all of the food banks and pantries in California,” Galperin explained of what he reported to be the number one feature of the website. “I’ve now mapped 1,800 of them.”
Another feature of the website is a map of illegal dumping, which Galperin explained has increased by 400% in LA, with data like how many service requests are received, how long they take to be handled, and how efficient the city has or has not been.
To help deter the growing instances of illegal dumping in the city, Galperin explained that he would like to see an increase in fines—which he reported are currently cheaper than legally dumping—additional cameras and an increase in the number of LA Sanitation workers.
When it comes to homelessness in Los Angeles, Galperin touched on Proposition HHH, which was approved in November 2016 and authorized city officials to issue up to $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds to partially subsidize developing up to 10,000 units of supportive housing. The proposition included the City Controller conducting a financial audit of the program each year bonds are “outstanding or proceeds remain unspent,” according to the website.
“Unless we completely streamline this process, I’m very concerned that we’re going to see HHH tremendously underperform when it has a lot of potential to be much, much better than it is,” Galperin said.
So far, Galperin said that about $362 million has been issued, which has equated to about 500 permanent supportive housing units. Some are under construction, and they take between three and six years to build, costing an average of $550,000 and up to $750,000 per door.
Speaking on Councilmember Mike Bonin’s recent motion to study the feasibility of housing people experiencing homelessness at locations across the Westside, including the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot, Galperin said he has “some very serious questions about that being an appropriate location.”
“While I believe that we should look at just about everything, I’m not sure that a place where there’s high winds with all sorts of things that could blow onto PCH is necessarily the most thoughtful place to put an encampment,” he said, adding that he believes there are a “number of places that we really do need to look at.”
Galperin’s auditors have composed a list of government entity-owned properties in the city of LA, which totals around 8,100 parcels. His team is getting ready to do site visits over the next couple of weeks to see which are “thoughtful options” to create locations to house people experiencing homelessness, as some are slivers of land or medians.
Galperin concluded the meeting by taking a series of questions from attendees, ending on one addressing the need for “regional collaboration” between the county and all cities/districts in LA to address homelessness.
“There is no way that the city can solve this by itself,” Galperin said. “There’s no way the county can solve it by itself. There’s no way the state can solve it by itself. Those three need to be working much more together and much more collaboratively.”
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