Homelessness Issue Chasing Businesses Away

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Businesses have long been concerned about taxes and traffic congestion as impediments to business and while those concerns still exist they have suddenly been joined by a new issue that is frustrating Californians—homelessness. That is the finding of the latest Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) poll.

While taxes remained the top concern for the majority of BizFed members for the ninth year in a row and road and street infrastructure was second, the issue of homelessness jumped from ninth in last year’s BizFed poll to number 3 this year.

The homelessness issue is strong enough that 24% of the business respondents felt homelessness was a major reason why businesses and jobs are moving out of Los Angeles and California. While homelessness fell behind a number of other concerns that could chase businesses away, the homelessness issue has risen most dramatically over the last two years in the BizFed poll compared to other issues. The concern over homelessness as a reason that could move a business from the county and state more than doubled from 9% in 2017 to 24% in 2019.

In a recent letter to constituents, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reviewed his efforts to confront homelessness, took full responsibility for the city’s plan to deal with homelessness and among other ideas to attack the problem said he proposed to “rally the private sector to do more.”

Yet, as the poll reveals, many in the private sector appear to be looking for the exit doors. They are frustrated with a city and county that has raised $600 million in bond and tax revenue yet have seen double-digit increases in homelessness.

The homelessness issue in the Golden State reverberates across state lines when you consider California’s strong tourist industry could be adversely affected as stories of homelessness, filth, rats and disease make the national media.

A report done for the city in December, which came to light this month, noted that leftover food, human waste and hypodermic needles and general filth around the downtown civic center was causing a problem with rats. With rats comes disease.

The city has been slow to respond to cleanup in homeless areas, at times restricted on how much they can do because of court decrees.  However, the spread of rats and disease is something that must not be ignored.

City officials said Tuesday they would make a new effort to reorganize cleanup efforts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

As Estela Lopez, executive director of the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, told the Times, “Everything we’re doing now represents, in my view, Band-Aids on a hemorrhage. … We need 5,000 beds now. We need another 5,000 beds next month, and another 5,000 the next month.”

As frustration with homelessness presses down on businesses, the question if they will answer the mayor’s rallying cry could well depend on whether they believe that government is doing what it must to lessen the problem. Voters have responded with tax increases, now the city and county must produce.

Otherwise, as the BizFed poll indicates, some businesses will be looking for greener pastures.

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