Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass hit the ground running when she was sworn into office last week.
The former state Representative made good on a promise to sign an emergency declaration on the homelessness crisis – her first official act – and then took steps to make affordable housing construction easier. She said in a news conference today that the number of homeless citizens, now estimated to be between 40,000-60,000, will be significantly reduced over the next four years.
No doubt this is a welcome prospect for a city that has homeless people living on streets in tents, vehicles, RVs and other makeshift shelters, on sidewalks, in parks, and alongside freeways, in every imaginable nook and cranny. But let us not forget that this is not the only crisis in LA that needs to be addressed. Bass needs to wield her power just as forcefully to restore numerous basic city services that have eroded, which has resulted in a diminished quality of life for residents.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has not restored the number of employees it lost. Street sweeping services, for example, were cut from weekly to bi-weekly in March, 2021, and increased trash and debris on roadways and in residential areas has resulted. Many of those same streets should not only be swept more often, but repaved entirely, as a backlog of repaving projects is now years long. Major arterials are not exempt from potholes, long cracks and general dilapidation, which can cause vehicle damage for drivers.
This fall, the darkest time of the year has laid bare another problem: massive street light outages. There are areas throughout LA where large swaths of neighborhoods and major streets are pitch black, due to several street lights being out. Residents reporting the problems are told that repairs will be made within 45 days, but they rarely are.
Parking enforcement was suspended during the 2020 lockdown. Though it has returned to residential areas, dozens of vehicles parked along major arterials during morning and evening rush hour traffic are left un-ticketed and un-towed. This emboldens violators to continue parking there, which greatly slows morning rush hour commutes.
LAPD numbers dropped during the pandemic, and along with them, traffic enforcement officers. Rarely now are there police on patrol to slow down reckless drivers – of which there are many, who endanger lives – or to conduct DUI checkpoints. Traffic collisions and incidences of pedestrians being struck by vehicles has increased accordingly.
Though Bass should be credited for tackling the homelessness crisis immediately, she should make hiring new city employees and restoring basic city services an emergency, as well. Low-quality and dirty streets and roadways, darkened and unsafe streets, and lack of law enforcement for illegally-parked vehicles and traffic violators makes life difficult and unpleasant for every LA resident.
Angelenos deserve much better than to live in what has become akin to a Third World country.