Services: The state budget could pay for local homeless services. Matthew Hall

With a $286.4 billion state budget proposal on the table, Santa Monica could soon see new funds to support interim and permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Governor Newsom unveiled the upcoming fiscal year budget proposal on Jan. 10, which focuses on what he calls the state’s five “greatest existential threats” — homelessness, public safety, climate change, the cost of living and the pandemic. It was met with a positive response from Democratic legislators, but will still undergo several months of tweaking in Sacramento prior to the June 15 deadline for approval.

Of key interest to Santa Monica is the Governor’s continued commitment to addressing homelessness in light of last year’s history investment of $12 billion, which he seeks to bolster this year with additional funding for increasing shelter capacity, building supportive and affordable housing and clearing encampments.

“I applaud California’s budget surplus and Governor Newsom’s commitment to allotting increased dollars to the fight against homelessness and its root causes,” said City Councilmember Phil Brock. “In Santa Monica, we anxiously await for some of the promised dollars to trickle down from Sacramento.”

Newsom’s proposed budget includes $2 billion in funding to build on Project Homekey, an initiative launched during the pandemic where the state provides funding for local governments to convert vacant hotels, motels and other buildings into permanent supportive housing for unhoused individuals.

The plan also calls for $1.5 billion over the next two years to build more interim housing such as tiny homes or shelters. Additionally, he seeks to give $500,000 to local officials to assist in clearing street encampments.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represents Santa Monica in the state’s 50th District, praised the focused funding on homelessness, but emphasized a need to ensure the funding is applied effectively.

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his focused priorities, particularly in regard to California’s mounting humanitarian crisis,” said Bloom. “I do hope to see more transparency and accountability surrounding the use of these dollars to ensure that the funds are being best utilized to help as many people as possible.”

Bloom’s concerns are shared by other legislators including members of the GOP who called for a special legislative session on homelessness to increase accountability and look closely at how and where funds have been spent.

Part of Newsom’s plan for addressing this is to require that all local governments submit a “homelessness action plan” detailing how they intend on utilizing the funds.

Another budget item of note for Santa Monica is new investment in local public safety. Newsom proposes spending $255 million on local law enforcement and establishing a smash and grab enforcement unit to address the statewide rise in organized retail crime.

While Santa Monica has not experienced such an incident since the May 31 riots in 2020, both The Grove and the Beverly Center have been targets and SMPD is on high alert for coordinated robberies.

The proposed budget also contains plenty of environmental investments, including $10 million for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to complete a wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway.