The full results of the poll, which includes the statistic that just 46% of likely California voters believe the state is headed in the right direction — the lowest share of adults in the poll’s past four years — suggest that Californians are deeply concerned with how the state’s failures on affordability and shelter have impacted their own lives and those of their neighbors.
Obviously, state leaders like Gov. Gavin Newsom should be deeply concerned by the results of this poll, which also found that more likely voters disapprove of his job performance than approve of it. (To be fair to Newsom, a recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found the opposite, with six out of 10 voters in that poll approving of his performance.)
But local leaders also need to give serious consideration to what these results mean for their priorities.
For example, newly released data from Oakland’s citywide homeless count showed 1,430 people living in a vehicle of some kind — a 131% increase from just two years ago.
Vehicle dwellers represent a whopping 35% of the city’s total homeless population — a total population which surged by 47% over the past two years, for a per-capita total higher than San Francisco or Berkeley.
Oakland is aware of its problem and is making efforts to tackle it. In addition to the “community cabins” it’s created for homeless people, the city opened its first safe parking site for RVs in East Oakland in June.
Joe DeVries, an assistant to the city administrator who coordinates the city’s encampment management team, said that the site has been successful and even has a waiting list of about 30 vehicles.
The city is also set to open a smaller, second safe parking lot in West Oakland. It’s aiming to open two more sites by the end of the year.
But the largest of the planned RV lots won’t be able to hold more than 80 vehicles, which means that Oakland is barely making a dent in a problem that’s rapidly growing worse.
“Cabins, RV sites, these are temporary solutions, but our priority for resources has to be deeply affordable housing,” DeVries said.
The Oakland City Council will soon have the opportunity to wrestle with its priorities. On Tuesday, the city council’s Life Enrichment Committee will consider an updated five-year homelessness plan; the full council likely will weigh in the week after that.
The updated plan emphasizes homelessness prevention, because it’s far more costly to rehouse people than it is to help them stay sheltered in the first place. But when it comes to creating the kind of highly affordable housing that it needs for its current homeless population, Oakland can’t do it alone.
No city in California can do it alone, in fact. The magnitude of the state’s intertwined problems on housing and homelessness have outstripped the resources of any one local government. Judging by the PPIC poll results, voters appear to be realizing this. Now they just need their state and local governments to work together on a solution.
For the Bay Area, that means a regional solution, with each city doing their part to increase all housing in general and very low-income housing for the homeless population. Since too many cities have failed to do their fair share, it makes sense for the state to take on a strong enforcement role.
All of our elected leaders need only look at voters’ top concerns to see the wisdom — and the necessity — of this course.
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