As Karen Bass approaches her 100 days in the Los Angeles Mayor’s office next week, her tenure has been singularly focused on rectifying the city’s homelessness crisis. But her efforts, though pro-active, have not only left doubt about whether or not the problem will be adequately addressed, but they raise questions about her ability to focus on other chronic citywide issues, as well.
During her Mayoral campaign, Bass pledged to get 17,000 of the approximately 60,000 homeless in LA off the streets by the end of her first year in office. Since January she has been attacking that goal with her “Inside Safe” program, which utilizes a handful of city agencies to take people out of encampments and give them temporary housing.
The Mayor’s office has shut out the media, for the most part, including this news outlet. Repeated phone calls – including leaving a message with a live person who promised to get back to us – and emails for comment on Inside Safe, and the agenda for other pertinent issues, have been met with no response.
A spokesperson for city councilor Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s District 8 office provided information about Inside Safe’s efforts so far, and KNX FM has reported on Bass’ work st Mayor every week since she started. Together, the two sources provide a composite picture of the actions of the city’s new leader.
On Bass’ first day on the job, she signed an emergency declaration on homelessness. A few weeks later the City Council approved $50 million for her to use toward ending homelessness in whatever way she saw fit – no approval needed for any specific initiatives. A short time after that, the city was granted $60 from the HUD fund to address the crisis.
Bass has used the money to gather city agencies together to clear large homeless encampments around town at a rate of one per week. The skid row area downtown, an area near Venice Beach, and an encampment near 3rd and Fairfax were among the first targets, in an effort to reach and areas where “the suffering is the greatest,” KNX reported.
The homeless are moved into hotels but are not forced to accept help.
“People have to agree to this,” the 8th district spokesperson said. “People are not just being yanked off the streets.”
After entering the hotel, homeless residents have 3-6 months before they are moved into permanent housing, which are low-income units around the city – several of which are being constructed now.
So far, the number housed in hotels is far less than the estimated 362 per day that it would take to reach Bass’ year-end goal. KNX reported that about half of the homeless have addiction problems, which is often a barrier to getting people off the streets. Bass has not spoken about a plan to address drug and alcohol use issues among the homeless population.
Three encampments within District 8 have been successfully dispersed, the spokesperson said. Representatives from council offices, as well as other city agencies, work to ensure that cleared camps do not repopulate. So far that has been successful.
The spokesperson confirmed that dealing with the city’s homelessness issue is Bass’ top priority. And to be sure, the measures being taken now are a significant step compared to former mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration, which did little to combat the problem. But Bass’ single-mindedness on the issue is causing her to neglect the numerous others that plague LA, and desperately need to be addressed, as well.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city cut back on street sweeping services to due a worker shortage. Three years later, city streets are still swept bi-weekly only, or longer if holidays get in the way. As a result, numerous streets are sooty, trashy, and unkempt. Where is the plan to restore regular street cleaning?
This winter is not yet over, but to date, LA has seen almost 10 more inches of rainfall than normal. During each rainstorm – of there have been many – which has passed through, the same streets flood over and over. This causes traffic problems, pedestrian problems, automobile problems, property problems, and as a result, taxpayer time and money. Why doesn’t the city ever do anything to improve the flow in storm vents and drains?
Severely-worn streets and roadways throughout the city are driving hazards, and often cause vehicle damage. Where are the HUD funds for re-pavement and resurfacing?
Now, just as work on Metro lines is in full swing, numerous passengers have abandoned public transportation due to crime and drug use there. Indeed, crime is up citywide, as is reckless driving and speeding. Where is Bass’ plan to combat these trends? Many residents say they no longer feel safe in the city.
And let’s not forget that while the mayor is addressing the front end of the homeless crisis, she hasn’t said much about creating more affordable housing in the city, lowering rents, or enacting greater rent control. As long as wages remain the same while the cost of housing continues to rise, there will be a danger that more people will end up on the streets, unhoused.
Bass ran for mayor promising to address the homelessness crisis in LA. And while she is indeed doing that, she owes the public more transparency as to what she is doing, what the overall plan entails, and where it is going. There is no need to keep the media at arm’s length; she should communicate clearly, and work in the open.
The longtime politician needs to become a multi-faceted leader and tackle the infrastructure issues, the high crime and other problems that are infringing on the quality of life for LA residents. She has too much experience to be so short-sighted.
If Bass doesn’t diversify her approach to running the city, she may become a one-term mayor.
Jacy Hanes is a freelance journalist for 2UrbanGirls.com.