This coming Wednesday evening, hundreds of folks will fan out around the city to do the city’s Annual Homeless Count. Teams will move through each and every neighborhood and count the number of people sleeping or camped on the street, in parks and on private property. The figures obtained will be combined with counts of the number of people in jails, motels, medical facilities, homeless shelters, vehicles and in institutional facilities operated by service providers for a complete tally.

Last year, 742 homeless people were counted in Santa Monica — a five percent decrease from the 780 counted 2013. 769 individuals were counted in 2012, 740 in 2011, 742 in 2010 and 915 in 2009. The number of homeless in Santa Monica seems to have leveled off in the last four years according to the counts.

Coordinated private and public programs aimed at ending homelessness are a factor in stabilizing the homeless population. For example, last year 124 homeless people found permanent housing and City Hall’s “Project Homecoming” reunited 147 homeless individuals with family and friends around the country who pledged to provide housing and support.

The local count also identifies locations within the city where homeless persons are. The counts also help determine services that may need tweaking or expanding for better effectiveness and applications for homeless services grants through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, state, county and private funding sources. In addition, an accurate count can tell policymakers whether City Hall’s array of services (including permanent housing opportunities) are magnets attracting more individuals here than would come if services weren’t available.

This year’s Santa Monica count coincides with Los Angeles County’s biannual count. Last year, 39,400 homeless men, women and children were counted countywide according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

If Santa Monica’s count is up, you can bet your ocean-view condo that City Hall’s Human Services Division (HSD) and the service providers working with City Hall will be scrambling to find out what went wrong. If the numbers are down, everyone will be praising the effectiveness of the city’s “Action Plan to Address Homelessness.”

No homes for sale (unless you’re rich)

The Housing Commission is one of nineteen citizen boards and commissions whose members are mostly council appointees.

The Housing Commission’s mission is to “improve the quality of life by supporting and helping to guide the production and preservation of affordable housing…”

Recently, commissioners decided to make changes in their Mission Statement. One change suggested deleted “language regarding opportunities for home ownership programs and replace with language about income targeting, monitoring and program compliance.”

Since when do programs that may lead to home ownership (versus renting) have anything to do with “income targeting, monitoring and program compliance?”

Most municipalities include home ownership as part of their affordable housing programs. A qualifying person can buy either a new or older, rehabbed dwelling via low cost/low interest loans or favorable financing programs. Not in Santa Monica.

Our own city-affiliated affordable housing provider Community Corp of Santa Monica and other non-profit/governmental affordable housing suppliers only build apartments. Nowhere in town can a low-income family purchase a piece of the American dream: a small house or condo conversion. Renting is the only option.

Of course, the big benefit to the community of ownership is that a low-income owner with a family is likely to become more involved in the community and live in the community longer than a renter. But, none of that matters.

The reason why, year after year, decade after decade, only low income rental units are available for housing is to provide a constant and growing voter base of renters to support Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights candidates and ballot measures. I guess SMRR leaders think homeowners are less likely to vote for them than renters.

It’s another deterrent to the return of Santa Monica’s middle class that has already been decimated by flawed housing policies favoring only those on the far edges of the economic scale. In Santa Monica, you can buy and own your own market value house or condo if you’re rich enough. But, if you’re poor/mid-income and hope to own, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

I was all wet

City Councilman Ted Winterer emailed that I erred last week when I wrote that businesses were exempt from the new water reductions. “Businesses are categorically not exempt from required water reductions. Quite to the contrary, while many residences will be exempt from a required 20% reduction, no businesses will be unless they apply for a modification to their water allowance.”

“There are two stats to bear in mind. The first is the bimonthly water allowance, which is 20 percent less than the usage for the comparable period for 2013. Use less than the allowance and you’re good. Use more and you pay surcharges.” Winterer added that the other stat is the conservation threshold, which applies only to residences.

Dean Kubani, manager of the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment told City Council recently, “Given the diversity of businesses in the city, it would be too complicated to develop a reasonable threshold…” Winterer added, “There are no conservation thresholds for businesses so they all have to meet the water allowance.”

There. Everybody straight on that?

My two choices for new Planning Commissioner

City Council will eventually appoint a new Planning Commissioner to replace Sue Himmelrich, who was elected to council last November. Two out of the 10applicants have my endorsement: architect Mario Fonda-Bonardi and Northeast Neighbors Chair Amy Aukstikalnis.

Bill Bauer can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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