LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Although homelessness existed long before Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was sworn in nine a half years ago, and it will certainly exist when he leaves city hall in a few days, Garcetti is confident that he's laid the foundation for Los Angeles to find its way out of this crisis.
"I know that we're going to house many people in the next few years," Garcetti said in an interview with ABC7. "We're going to see homelessness come down. I could see it coming up and I ran to the crisis."
Garcetti's critics point to how much worse homelessness has gotten on his watch with an estimated 40,000 living on the city's streets. But the 51-year-old mayor says it's unfair to blame one person for years of neglecting renters, not building affordable housing, and failing to recognize the trauma caused by those problems.
"People don't understand that mayor's and cities really don't have the authority on what causes homelessness and in the past what solved homelessness," said Garcetti. "We don't have a mental health department. We don't have a veterans affairs department. We don't run the child welfare department. We don't run the prisons or the jails."
So as Garcetti leaves office, he's asking the four million residents of L.A. to look in the mirror and find ways they can help solve homelessness, whether it's supporting the building of homeless shelters or affordable housing in their neighborhoods or helping a person down on their luck. Garcetti says he won't be satisfied as long as there's one person on the street, but firmly believes his two terms have addressed the problem long term.
"While I've been mayor, we've boosted black and brown incomes by 44 and 43% when it's only gone up by 25% nationally. Reduced poverty by 27%. If we aren't helping everybody, L.A. will never move forward," Garcetti said. "We're a majority-minority city and nobody here should feel that they don't belong."
Promoting this idea of belonging for Garcetti has centered on major achievements in transportation. Adding transit lines that connect far corners of the city to places like downtown, LAX, the beach, and neighboring counties.
The 2028 Olympics is one of Garcetti's most proud accomplishments, along with addressing climate change and leading the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. But a sexual harassment scandal involving Garcetti's former chief of staff and top advisor Rick Jacobs created a dark cloud over his final two years as mayor. Former staffers at City Hall have blamed Garcetti for not intervening, claiming that he witnessed the harassment on multiple occasions.
"When you're the boss at the top you can only tell the truth, which is that I never witnessed that," Garcetti sais. "But of course my heart breaks for anybody and I think we always have to support people who say, 'Something happened."
It may come as a surprise that during the interview with ABC7, conducted at downtown L.A.'s Homebody Industries, where Garcetti unveiled a housing project for the homeless, the mayor told us he's grateful the scandal kept him in Los Angeles, referencing the leaked audio scandal involving three City Council members.
"I actually look back on it with a lot of gratitude. This year, when those tapes came out, somebody else including the council president might have been mayor. My mom said i think god wanted you to be here this year, finish your term out," said Garcetti.
A year and a half ago, Garcetti was nominated by President Joe Biden to be the next U.S. Ambassador to India. But the Rick Jacobs scandal has delayed his confirmation vote and left an important foreign post, vacant. Garcetti believes a vote will happen in the next month or two.
"I'm looking forward and I'm optimistic they'll take a vote and i could be there as early as spring of this next year. Hopefully when I get there I can bring L.A. to India and a little bit of India back to L.A.," said Garcetti.
Garcetti's final day in office is on Sunday, the same day that Karen Bass will hold her inauguration and be sworn in as the next mayor.