SanFrancisco.CBSlocal.com, Mar. 24, 2020
SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — As the coronavirus pandemic threatens to rapidly spread through homeless communities, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo urged state officials Tuesday to immediately remove existing regulatory barriers in order to rapidly build emergency housing. In a memo to be heard at a city council meeting Tuesday, Liccardo asked for the state to waive environmental regulations and state building codes for emergency construction of buildings with separate units or rooms for each resident to ensure physical separation in compliance with County Public Health mandates. Liccardo’s memo also asks for agencies such as CalTrans, utility districts and counties to “immediately identify and make available specific sites of public land for temporary or permanent emergency housing construction.” In addition, Liccardo wants homeless funding mechanisms, such as the state’s Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention program, to bypass regional administrators and provide the funding directly to cities and counties. Details of the memo can be found here. “Homeless encampments have never been safe places for human habitation, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic makes them—and our crowded shelters— far more perilous for our unhoused residents” said Liccardo in a prepared statement. “Rapid construction of emergency housing—leveraging local and state dollars, with the benefit of FEMA reimbursement for a substantial share of the cost—becomes all the more imperative amid this crisis. The State must act quickly to remove all barriers to enable cities to scale quickly to meet their capacity needs for homeless residents.” Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $150 million in immediate aid to local jurisdictions for emergency housing along with some 1,300 travel trailers sent across the state. Liccardo, who chairs the state’s Big City Mayors coalition of the state’s 13 largest cities, said the assertive action by Newsom along with the legislature’s support would save lives, but that more is needed. Among the priorities the Big City Mayors sent to Newsom included a request for waivers of permitting and regulatory requirements to expedite the construction of emergency housing. The Big City Mayors coalition is comprised of the mayors of Los Angeles, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton.