ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown moderated the debate, with questions generated by the League of Conservation Voters.
The four candidates who led in fundraising participated in the debate, including Councilman Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry and former assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin James.
A moment of silence was held before the debate got underway in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. Among the items discussed during the debate included the safety of Los Angeles schools and solutions to reducing gun violence, and all four candidates expressed their sorrow for the victims throughout the night.
But it appeared the creation of jobs and a green economy took center stage.
"I have a plan to clean our air, and our water, and to create 20,000 local jobs -- good jobs, green jobs," said Garcetti.
The candidates also played up their accomplishments in office. Perry noted the creation of two wetlands in South Los Angeles, and Greuel played up her developments on solar power.
But outsider Kevin James contends he's the one to provide new leadership.
"The city has never developed a comprehensive environmental sustainability plan," he said.
Should the local sales tax be increased to help deal with the budget crisis? The candidates had other ideas.
"My plan to get rid of our city's gross receipts tax, our business tax, The Daily News said would be the single biggest step we could take to bring revenue and jobs back to Los Angeles," said Garcetti.
Candidates also hit on what can be done about jammed freeways.
"If we continue to build housing near where people work, which is the best way to affect traffic congestion, perhaps one day we will build a city where people do not need a car," said Perry.
The candidates all supported the expansion of public transportation.
The election for Los Angeles mayor is March 3.