"The simplest answer is I love Los Angeles, I loved growing up here," Garcetti said.
Garcetti grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He's still an officer in the Navy reserve.
The next mayor will start off with a deficit and other financial challenges, including keeping the police and fire departments whole. Police overtime was eliminated because of budget problems.
Then there are the everyday headaches for all residents, like the deteriorating streets and potholes growing in them. Garcetti believes there are ways to pay for those things without cutting needed city programs.
"Eighty-five percent of our costs are people, so I have for the last four years been doing that," Garcetti said. "Pension reform, reducing the number of positions we have on the payroll, paying into health care premiums for city employees. If we do those things, we don't have to cut programs, we cut costs."
At the same time, Garcetti has promised several times to end homelessness in Los Angeles rather than manage it.
Garcetti was one of the council members who voted to eliminate 5,000 jobs in Los Angeles and negotiate a deal with unions to require some city workers to contribute to their own health and pension benefits.
Garcetti's name and fluent Spanish can help him in a city where the importance of the Latino vote can't be underestimated. If he gets the job, being vacated by Antonio Villaraigosa, he says his first priority is re-establishing faith in government.
"I think if we grow our economy and we actually invest in a city that's lost 165,000 jobs in the last 30 years, we can come back," Garcetti said. "I've seen it happen in other cities. I've seen New York come back, I've seen London come back. This is the moment for Los Angeles."