Two of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors who represent different parts of the San Fernando Valley were guest speakers at the United Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.
Supervisor Lindsey Horvath represents the Third District, covering from Westlake Village to West Hollywood and up to San Fernando. Supervisor Kathryn Barger represents the Fifth District, covering from North Hollywood to Claremont and up to Lancaster.
They were both asked a series of questions on issues relevant to valley residents and businesses, including the homeless, mental health and local control over zoning and housing density – and how the county is addressing those issues.
Horvath said the county’s recent Declaration of Emergency regarding the homeless was imperative to work at solving the homeless issue – which she said, “touches every neighborhood in the valley.” She told the assembly that she put herself on the LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) board in order to have more impact and input.
Horvath explained that there was a lot failing in the current LAHSA structure – that contracts to help the homeless were sometimes touched by 140 people before they were executed. “There is too much lag time and that must change,” she said.
Barger agreed it was important to “streamline” LAHSA and get the city and county to actually talk to each other. “Government alone cannot fix the problem, and non-profits alone can’t fix the problem. We need to work together,” she said.
Barger continued that currently there is no accountability between departments.
On the issue of mental health, which is closely related to many of the homeless issues, Horvath talked about the problems of the current system. She said she had tried to get help for a woman who was eating out of the trash, but the court ruled that she could feed herself so she didn’t need help, which Horvath said was both illegal and immoral.
Barger insisted that the county needs federal assistance to build facilities so when people get out of the hospital they actually have a place to go.
They both agreed that there should be a clear pathway to get people help, with Barger adding that there needs to also be enforcement – to clean up the streets and protect the vulnerable from slum landlords.
On the issue of public health in general Barger said that “COVID is by no means gone, but substance abuse and STDs are also on the rise. Public health has a lot more to do.” Horvath said she understood the frustration of local businesses regarding public health mandates during COVID, and that to keep business going the county needs to expand what was learned during the crisis – such as outdoor dining and financial help. Addressing the group of business executives, the Supervisors talked about what the board could do for local business, referring to various small business grants.
They differed slightly on the question of local zoning, with Horvath saying, “I don’t think Sacramento should be taking away local control, and building housing alone won’t solve the problem.” Barger said that the cost of housing is increasing and the county and city must address the affordable housing issue.
Between them the two supervisors cover over 3,000 square miles and approximately four million residents. They agreed that expanding the number of supervisors was important. Barger said, “We are the mayor and city council for all the unincorporated districts, and it’s important to understand all of what the supervisors do,” and Horvath said, “There’s plenty to do in my district – I could use another hand or two!”