Developers and town officials get a leg up in the race to construct shelters and flats for the increasing homeless population of LA. There will now be a fresh state law exempting many of these projects from environmental review.

Assembly Bill 1197 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday and instantly came into force.

“This legislation will help us make blueprints faster for the shelter and supportive housing that unhoused individuals now need,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who advocated the proposal, in a declaration.

The government legislation has been written specifically for Los Angeles City, the only location it relates to. It includes the initiative of the mayor “A Bridge Home” to construct temporary homeless shelters in each of the 15 districts of the City Council, as well as accessible and permanent housing projects financed by Measure HHH.

These projects no longer have to go through the often-long state process of environmental review known as CEQA, which needs developers to research, publicize, and minimize the environmental impact of a project, such as noise, traffic, and opinions.

Los Angeles should lead when it comes to addressing homelessness,” the author of the bill, Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said.

“If we can do this for multimillionaire building projects, there’s enough awareness out there for individuals who are homeless on the road and in hopeless need of shelter,” he said, referring to the California Environmental Quality Act exemptions given to major innovations such as the $2.6 billion NFL stadium rising in Inglewood.

AB 1197 will also make it more difficult for citizens in their neighbourhoods to block homeless shelters. When suing the town over projects, residents often quote CEQA — and homeless shelters have not proven to be an exception.

The Venice Stakeholders Association lodged a lawsuit against the town in January regarding its plan to construct 154 beds for inhabitants residing on roads and sidewalks in the Venice Beach region.

In the suit, the association claimed that the shelter would violate CEQA by acting “as a magnet for homeless people and encampments,” leading in enhanced “noise, litter, sewage release” and “government security” effects. As part of its suit, the association requested an injunction to stop building. A judge rejected that injunction in May, but chose to proceed the lawsuit challenging the permission of the shelter, stating that the case produced by opponents “has some teeth.” The West Mar Vista Residents Association opposed the law. In a July 1 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, its board called AB 1197 a “fiscally and politically irresponsible and undemocratic measure that exempts Los Angeles representatives from getting their projects financed by Proposition HHH funds reviewed under CEQA for electoral and community feedback.” AB 1197 is in effect until 2025.