One week after a quadruple slaying outside an unlicensed boarding home, a City Council committee on Monday unanimously approved a plan to regulate group homes for the disabled, senior citizens, recovering drug addicts and others.
The so-called Community Care Facility Ordinance would authorize about 1,000 licensed care facilities housing seven or more people to operate in residential neighborhoods under certain conditions, including a cap on two people per bedroom and landscaping, lighting and noise restrictions.
With the backing of the Public Safety Committee, the proposal will move to the full City Council for a vote in January.
Councilman Mitchell Englander, the plan’s principal backer, called the proposed ordinance the most liberal in the state. Previously, operators of facilities of seven or more people had to plead their cases before the city in order to be allowed in residential zones, a process that could run as much as $14,000.
The ordinance strikes a balance between protecting the character of residential neighborhoods and protecting “the most vulnerable in society who are taken advantage of and warehoused in deplorable conditions,” Englander said.
The ordinance also strengthens the city’s ability to crack down on illegal unlicensed boarding homes by providing specific language that distinguishes boarding home businesses from multi-family residences and barring landlords from issuing four or more leases in residential zones without a license to operate as a care facility.
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Kris Pitcher, who oversees an area with about 57 group homes, told the committee that some of the homes become regular scenes for personal theft, disputes among tenants, assaults, narcotics violations and general blight.
The 4-0 approval by the committee came on the heels of a quadruple homicide last week at an unlicensed boarding home in Northridge, where an estimated 17 people were living at a residentially zoned property where officials found more than 75 building code violations. LAPD officials have not said publicly whether the victims or four people arrested for the murders lived at the home.
Englander said it was impossible to know whether the proposed ordinance could have prevented the killings, but he said it would deter landlords from operating such facilities.
Dozens of opponents testified at the hearing, claiming the conditions the ordinance would force many group homes to close, forcing vulnerable people into homelessness and placing greater burden on the city’s dense urban centers.
Michael Arnold, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, told the committee the ordinance would increase the city’s homeless population of about 24,000.
“Los Angeles is a city with a critical shortage of affordable housing,” Arnold said. “No one supports cramming 20 or 30 people in a single- family residence. However, many people who share housing … are good neighbors.”
“Small transitional housing programs are not eligible for licensure and will be put out of business,” Arnold added.
Critics also argued the city’s lack of resources would make the ordinance unenforceable. Inspections would be complaint-driven, a Department of Building and Safety official told the committee.
Opponents also said the ordinance would violate federal fair housing laws, but Deputy City Attorney Amy Brothers told the committee the proposal was legal.