City proposes legislation that will ease conversion of motels to housing

The California housing crisis has affected every metropolis in the state: From San Francisco and Oakland to Los Angeles and Long Beach, a lack of both building and good policy has driven up the cost of living while sending thousands into homelessness or near homelessness. This, in turn, has prompted a flood of legislation—from Senator Scott Weiner’s SB 50 to the attempt to repeal Article 34—that has been far more direct and innovative than in years past.

The city of Long Beach joins those teams of proposers with the announcement that it has worked with Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, in drafting SB 450, a bill that hopes to streamline the process of converting motels into supportive and transitional housing. The main effect of the bill is that it would exempt such projects from CEQA, the laws which often deter developers from successfully building affordable housing.

On top of this, the bill can help cities curb what they deem “nuisance motels.” In October of 2017, the city of Long Beach created a Nuisance Motel Taskforce that analyzed problematic motel properties, eventually noting that six specific motels were responsible for over 3,100 calls-for-service across a three-year period. While the city launched a pilot program to help reduce the calls—and it was successful—later reports from city staff confirmed that “the over-concentration of motels throughout Long Beach renders motels a persistent problem that will need to be addressed through redevelopment.”

For both redevelopers and housing advocates, the bill is a win-win.

“Bottom line is this,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “It’s hard for affordable housing developers or the city to purchase these properties because in some cases they have to go through stricter environmental reviews than other housing projects. SB 450 makes the cost of purchase and development less expensive and much more feasible.”

Ultimately, should the owner of a property wish to convert their motel, hotel, apartment motel, transit occupancy residential structure, or hostel into supportive or transitional housing, the city would determine their applicability for the exemptions within the bill. Following that, the owner would be connected with an organization that handles and oversees such services for those experiencing homelessness. The properties will also be examined to determine if they can handle case management, health care, and substance abuse treatment on-site; if not, the properties would have direct connections to such services.

For the full text of SB 450, click here.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.