Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho announced about 10 days ago that his office is gathering evidence and assessing whether or not the city violated laws pertaining to the growing homeless encampments within the city.
This article was written by Katy Grimes and originally published by The California Globe.
Earlier this month, the Globe reported that DA Ho sent District 4 City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela an inquiry following Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman’s letter to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg outlining the growing unsafe conditions at the county courthouse because of so many homeless vagrants camping and loitering at the courthouse, and imploring the Mayor for help.
So what does the Sacramento City Council do in response? Tuesday evening the Mayor and five members of the city council voted on an ordinance to give unfettered power to City Manager Howard Chan to unilaterally decide where the city’s homeless camps will be – no council approval needed.
“I’m asking you to trust the city manager with these difficult siting decisions,” Mayor Steinberg implored the other council members ahead of the vote. “In my view, he has earned that trust.”
Sacramento’s homeless has even surpassed San Francisco’s under Mayor Steinberg’s guardianship.
California has spent $23 BILLION over the last five years on the homeless population only to see the drug-addicted, mentally-ill homeless population in California explode to more than 172,000. Despite spending the $23 billion on California’s homeless housing, homelessness continues to grow in California, According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “nationally, California has topped the list for the state with the largest homeless population for more than a decade. As of 2022, 30% of all people in the United States experiencing homelessness resided in California, including half of all unsheltered people (115,491 in California; 233,832 in the US).”‘
The Sacramento City Council just approved another $5 million for City Manager Chan to spend on the homeless flourishing in Sacramento.
“We need heroic efforts from everybody here and I think tonight was a really good step,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg following the approval of the ordinance, KCRA news reported. “The success of this will be dependent on him finding the intersection between moving fast and making sure that there is some form of geographic diversity.”
“Geographic diversity?” Does that mean sharing the love by spreading all of the city’s homeless around the city equally so all citizens can equally share in the crime, assaults, drug deals, break-ins, and terrorized residents?
That geographic diversity is what worries City Councilman Sean Lololee, of District 2. He said District 2 has historically stepped up to help the homeless, and that while he has confidence in the city manager, he is concerned the sites will be disproportionately put in some districts over others, including in District 2.
Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela even suggested the camps be “self-governing,” similar to Chaz, Seattle’s autonomous zone police-free neighborhood? This is the enlightenment coming from Sacramento’s elected officials.
Sacramento has provided all sorts of housing options under Mayor Steinberg’s “Housing First” plan, including RV quality travel trailers for Sacramento’s Homeless drug-addicted transients to live in, tiny homes, “safe” camping areas, and renovated motels, but the population has only grown. If you build it they will come.
“To authorize the city manager to be able to make these siting decisions is controversial, it’s difficult, but in my view, under this system, it’s the only way to make real progress,” Steinberg said. “We must find alternatives for people. There are too many tent encampments throughout our entire city.”
Mayor Steinberg essentially created the problem through the nonsensical policies and laws he supports (Propositions 47 & 57, “housing first” for homeless), and now admits that it is out of his control, so he punts the problem to the unelected city manager, and gave him a large budget.
Other people’s money…
A friend who attended the 6-hour council meeting, ran the numbers. At the council meeting, City Manager Chan speculated that 100 tents at a Safe Grounds site would cost $3 million – that’s $30,000 per tent. He estimated 4,444 “unhoused homeless” (what happened to the actual 11,000 homeless in Sacramento?), times $30,000, and the total cost is $133 million – not the $5 million the council allocated for this half-witted plan.
Steinberg said the City Attorney, City Manager Chan, and the Homeless Attorney Mark Merin are negotiating on what services should be at a Safe Grounds site to assure that the homeless have “dignity,” my friend reported. Because maintaining the “dignity” of people who live on the streets, urinate and poop on public sidewalks, masturbate in front of children, perform sex acts publicly and openly use drugs, is the priority? Dignity means “greatness,” “respectability,” “prestige” and “honor.” Substitute “dignity” with “analysis,” “medical care” and “treatment.”
The tail is wagging the dog – and the Mayor is dodging responsibility.
Mayor Steinberg and the City Council have approved various and very expensive plans to “house” the homeless. They’ve spent the money – millions of dollars (maybe billions) – yet we have no idea where that money has gone and to whom it was paid – NGOs, non-profits, contractors, developers? When those plans don’t work and the money is gone, no one is the wiser, and the Mayor shifts to yet another multi-million dollar plan.
This is a government sanctioned grift.
And it’s a mole game.
In March, the Globe reported “Coming to Sacramento: 350 Tiny Homes for 11,000+ Homeless:” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the state will purchase and install 350 tiny homes in Sacramento “as part of a statewide push to assist California communities in addressing the crisis of unsheltered homelessness.”
In February, the Globe reported Mayor Steinberg announced 17 brand new travel trailers (RV quality) for Sacramento’s Homeless drug-addicted transients to live in, replacing 60 tents. These are located in Sacramento’s former public park, Miller Park.
The Mayor and city gave the public park on the Sacramento River, next to a boat ramp, away to the homeless transients, first filled with tents. The homeless have rendered the once lovely park unsafe, noxious, toxic and unusable for the city residents who pay taxes to sustain it.
So far, nothing the Mayor has done has made an appreciable difference in reducing Sacramento’s homeless population, and in fact has helped grow it – again, because of the “housing first” con.
“Council members Sean Loloee, Lisa Kaplan, Karina Talamantes and Mai Vang voted against the item, raising concerns that the sites would be concentrated in underserved neighborhoods of Sacramento’s north and south neighborhoods, Sacbee.com reported. “My district right now, we are at a tipping point,” said Loloee, who represents North Sacramento, where the city likely has the highest number of usable vacant lots, a previous city siting plan found. “I don’t want all the weight to fall to the districts that are oversaturated and disadvantaged.”
Best laid plans
As part of part of the City Council’s 2021 $100 million Comprehensive Siting Plan to Address Homelessness, the Council unanimously adopted a plan in August 2021 to create “more than 5,000 beds, roofs and safe camping spaces to mount a comprehensive response to the growing crisis of homelessness.”
“The plan is the product of more than six months of intensive outreach and work by the Mayor’s Office, City Council members and City staff. Now that Council has approved the list of sites and strategies, it will be the job of City staff to carry them out,” the City brags on its website.
“The city’s $100 million Homeless plan contains 20 sites where the city plans to open shelters, tiny homes and Safe Ground sanctioned encampments, MSN reported in September 2021, expected to “serve 2,209 people at a time. Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who proposed the idea, called it ‘the most aggressive plan in the history of the city.’”
What happened to those plans? Are there 5,000 or 2,209 fewer homeless drug addicts on Sacramento streets? The answer is no – nothing the city has done has eradicated Sacramento’s homeless population.
The Miller Park “Safe Grounds” with trailers already costs $60,000 annually. The latest $5 million authorized for Chan to spend without Council approval might move 166 homeless off the streets.
And the additional $8.5 million Steinberg says the city will receive from the state might move 283 homeless off the streets.
However, if Steinberg’s track record is any indication of the lack of seriousness in eliminating homelessness in the Capitol City, don’t count on anything other than the Mayor pushing for higher taxes to “house” more homeless in the near future.
What Sacramento really needs is a full audit of homeless spending since 2014 – and new leadership.