Mayor Karen Bass calls on LA's 'most fortunate' to help create more affordable housing

"We have brought the public sector together, now we must prevail on the humanity and generosity of the private sector," she said.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Bass calls on LA's 'most fortunate' to help create affordable housing
Mayor Karen Bass delivered an optimistic State of the City address Monday, including a call for "the most fortunate Angelenos'' to participate in a capital campaign to speed creation of affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Mayor Karen Bass delivered an optimistic State of the City address Monday, including a call for "the most fortunate Angelenos'' to participate in a capital campaign to speed creation of affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness.

LA4LA is seeking "personal, private sector and philanthropic funds to help us acquire more properties, lower the cost of capital and speed up housing,'' Bass said in the late-afternoon speech from City Hall's Council Chambers.

"We have brought the public sector together -- and now we must prevail on the humanity and generosity of the private sector,'' Bass said.

"LA4LA can be a sea change for Los Angeles -- an unprecedented partnership to confront this emergency an example of disrupting the status quo to build a new system to save lives.''

Hiring more police officers

Bass also reiterated her goal of hiring additional police officers despite a budget deficit.

Bass said she remained committed to her goal of increasing the size of the Los Angeles Police Department to 9,500 officers. The latest figures for sworn officers stood below 8,900.

"Supporting our sworn personnel is deeply important to me. And the status quo simply cannot protect Angelenos -- so we are acting to change it,'' Bass said.

"As a result, we're attracting record numbers of applicants to the police academy -- and my budget for next year maintains our LAPD staffing goals.''

Bass said she remained optimistic for the future because of how far the relationship between officials from the city and Los Angeles county and city has come in just "one short year.''

LA's proposed spending plan

The mayor is required annually to address the City Council before the release of the proposed city budget. Bass' proposed spending plan for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be released later this month before it goes to the City Council for revisions.

Bass drew applause as she touted past accomplishments, as well as charting a path forward to address the city's projected $467 million budget deficit, a continued homelessness crisis, rising crime and explained how the eight games of the FIFA 2026 World Cup at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood and 2028 Olympics can benefit the city.

On a personal note, Bass also revealed her family welcomed her third grandchild, Oliver.

"While I've spoken tonight about the 4 million Angelenos I work for everyday, a huge part of my heart is with him and my other grandchildren right now,'' Bass said.

"I know City Hall can do big, bold things for L.A....For today, and for the future that my grandchildren will inherit.''

She added, "I will never accept that we have to settle for the way things have always been...and if we keep challenging the status quo -- through the budget and across the board -- we will make sure Los Angeles is a city that puts the people's business first...that puts results first...and that builds a new Los Angeles we can all be proud of.''

Tackling homelessness in L.A.

The mayor recognized that her Inside Safe program, the cornerstone of her efforts to reduce homelessness, was a part of a "rescue phase'' to deal with the emergency, and that aspect is "always expensive.''

"There is no way around it -- motel rooms rented by the night are expensive -- but it is far, far more expensive to leave people unhoused on our streets,'' Bass said.

The program has resulted in more than 2,500 people who were formerly living in encampments receiving interim housing, mainly in motels, since shortly after she took office in December 2022, according to figures provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Inside Safe and the city's overall approach to ending homelessness is "evolving and will continue to evolve,'' she added.

LAPD police chief

The city is looking for a new, permanent chief of police following Michel Moore's retirement in February. A national search is underway. Bass reiterated that the process will not be a "closed-door'' conversation.

While Bass did not hint at what her proposed 2024-25 budget will look like, she said is it her goal to "change the way L.A. budgets.'' The city budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year was about $13 billion.

More on city spending

According to City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, the overall $467 million deficit represents a combination of $289 million in unexpected spending -- mostly on the police and fire departments and liability claims -- and a $187 million shortfall in expected revenues.

The LAPD element of the unexpected spending comes mostly from overtime, due to what Bass has acknowledged is a significant staffing shortage of sworn officers.

All that red ink could impact the city's hiring in the year ahead. Just last week, the council's Personnel, Audits and Hiring Committee voted to consider a plan to eliminate nearly 2,000 vacant positions across a range of departments -- a move that could save $155.6 million to the general fund and about $7.3 million to other special funds, according to Szabo.

The city had previously implemented a "critical hiring prioritization'' plan, placing a freeze on most vacant positions unless deemed high-need. In total, the city has about 3,600 vacant positions, representing about $280 million to $300 million.

"Looking ahead, we will use the elimination of these vacancies to set the stage for future budgets to be based on actual service delivery,'' Bass said.

"We will begin preparing for next year's budget immediately after this year's budget is signed -- so we take advantage of these tough times to determine how departments can function in a more efficient and effective manner.''

Olympic Games in L.A.

With the Olympic Games coming in the next four years, Bass assured that Los Angeles will be ready.

"The Games will mean more than 5 million visitors pumping billions of dollars into our economy -- staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, visiting our museums, and exploring our neighborhoods,'' she said. "And my administration will create a focused initiative to make sure the Games will mean hundreds of small businesses winning contracts and hiring Angelenos.''

Bass also announced the creation of a new climate cabinet and climate plans that will lead city departments toward the goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy, such as solar and wind power, by 2035.

Councilman John Lee told City News Service "Mayor Bass showed that she's made significant progress on our city's most pressing issues, including homelessness and public safety, and proved to Angelenos that her vision for our city is one that addresses the problems of today and has solutions for the ones of tomorrow.''

Lee said he "appreciated the mayor's willingness to discuss the challenges our city will face because of the upcoming budget and was pleased at her commitment to continue delivering Angelenos with core city services, one of which is undoubtedly public safety.''

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