Mayor Karen Bass is urging business and philanthropic leaders to help fund housing for the homeless

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 18: Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, accompanied by her team, presents her first city budget during a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Karen Bass is urging business and philanthropic leaders to help fund housing for the homeless

Homepage News, LA Politics

Dakota Smith
David Zahniser

April 15, 2024

During her annual State of the City address, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called on business leaders, charities and wealthy individuals to use their financial power to move homeless Angelenos inside.

Bass told a City Hall audience Monday night that her administration has already made crucial progress in the fight against homelessness, in part by working more closely with county, state and federal agencies.

Now Bass urged those with resources to donate private dollars to help purchase or lease buildings that could be converted into housing for the city’s unhoused population, Bass said.

The homeless count conducted in January 2023, a month after Bass took office, found more than 46,000 unhoused people in Los Angeles, which was an 80% increase since the 2015 count.

“We have brought the public sector together,” Bass said, standing before a room full of elected officials, department heads, business leaders and political appointees. “And now we must triumph over the humanity and generosity of the private sector.”

The pitch comes as Bass works to break an impasse that has prevented more than a thousand homeless Angelenos from finding their way out of temporary housing, such as hotel and motel rooms, and into apartments they can afford.

Bass also used her speech to highlight ongoing efforts to prepare the city for 2028, when it will host the Olympic Games. She also praised her administration’s work in addressing public safety, expanding public transportation and strengthening LA’s business climate.

The mayor last year touted a decline in homicides compared to 2022. And she made clear she was interested in pursuing a hotly debated project: the long-delayed upgrade of the city’s convention center, at a price tag that would be at least 4 could amount to $.8 billion.

She told the crowd that her office has challenged the status quo on homelessness. “The crisis on our streets is nothing short of a disaster,” she said, working more closely with officials from Los Angeles County, which oversees mental health care. She also praised Inside Safe, her signature program that uses hotel and motel rooms to house people.

“Inside Safe is our proactive rejection of a status quo that left unhoused Angelenos waiting and dying outside in camps until permanent housing was built,” Bass said.

As of April 12, the mayor’s Inside Safe program had moved about 2,600 people indoors from street encampments, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

About half live in hotels and motels, the agency said. More than a quarter of the program’s participants, or 613 people, have returned to homelessness.

Bass talked in her speech about the costs associated with leaving people on the streets. The public “pays the cost of the thousands and thousands of fire, paramedic and police calls,” she said. Shops, restaurants, tourists and office centers also pay “a price” when customers fear or businesses leave.

Her new initiative, LA4LA, asks private, business and philanthropic leaders to help the city buy real estate and accelerate housing.

“We have brought the public sector together. And now we must prevail over the humanity and generosity of the private sector,” Bass said. “LA4LA can be a game changer for Los Angeles, an unprecedented partnership to address this emergency, an example of disrupting the status quo to build a new system to save lives.”

Monday’s speech comes as the mayor prepares to release her budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The city budget is under severe financial pressure, due in part to lower-than-expected tax revenues and higher payroll costs. The increased spending on city employees stems in part from a salary agreement Bass negotiated with the city

union representing Los Angeles police officers. Los Angeles Police Department.

That contract provides for four pay increases over four years and gives officers new retention bonuses to ensure they don’t leave for jobs in other law enforcement agencies. The deal also increases officers’ starting salaries by 13%, bringing it to about $86,000 per year.

On Wednesday, the City Council will vote on another package of worker pay increases that Bass negotiated with thousands of civilian workers this time. These agreements are expected to add $1 billion to the annual budget by 2028.

To free up money for the wage increases, Bass is pushing to eliminate hundreds of vacant jobs in the city. These positions, she said during Monday’s speech, “do not fill potholes, sweep streets or employee parks.”

“Too many of these vacant positions have been there for years and years because of poor budgeting that doesn’t reflect how departments should actually work,” she said. “So this year we will eliminate these ghost positions while maintaining core services and continuing to recruit strategically on a real-world basis.”

Bass also defended the city’s new contract with the police union, saying it has led to an increase in the number of candidates hoping to join the LAPD.

Bass is still far from her goal of having an LAPD with 9,500 officers. Last month, the Board of Police Commissioners received a report showing the department was at 8,888.


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