New mayor hard at work

| January 26, 2023 | 0 Comments

Homelessness tops her agenda; move-in underway for Getty House in Windsor Square

MAYOR Karen Bass.

Before Mayor Karen Bass left for the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. in mid-January, she spoke with us about her rapid-fire actions to help alleviate homelessness since taking office just one month before.

The solution will take “all hands on deck,” she said on the telephone conference call with Larchmont Chronicle editors. She connected with us from Getty House, the city’s official mayoral residence on Irving Boulevard in Windsor Square.

WILSHIRE PARK residence was the locale for a rally of supporters of Karen Bass (center) two days before election day.

Since taking office, Bass has reached out to Gov. Newsom and President Biden, as well as to members of the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

  “I want everybody to be working together… if we pool our resources, we can be much more effective.

“Can you imagine our powers if we’re all on the same page?

“One of the things that’s been a frustration — work is being done, housing is being built, people are being taken off the street — but we are never able to reach the scale of what we need.”

The new mayor didn’t hesitate when Biden announced recently that he wanted to alleviate homelessness nationally by 25 percent in two years.

“Just come to Los Angeles; if you come here, you can actually reach your national goal,” she told the president.

She also noted to us that, “Besides lacking temporary, affordable and permanent housing, enough isn’t done to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place.”

But she is hopeful that the tide is turning.

Because of Proposition HHH, passed by city voters in 2016, “Thousands of new [housing] units are coming online.” And, after a couple of years of COVID-19, hotel and motel owners, who once shied away, are “coming forward. There’s so much we learned from the pandemic… they will now lease to you and sell to you. We’ve learned we can move people differently…”

Mayor Bass cited the 13-story L.A. Grand Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Grande, on Figueroa and Third streets in Downtown Los Angeles). The hotel’s contract for interim housing was extended last month to house homeless people for another year under Project Roomkey.

Extending tenant protections is another crucial element, she says. (Pro-tenant rules were adopted as temporary COVID-19 relief, and further extension was approved by the City Council as this issue of the paper went to press.) Mayor Bass told us that she believes that the extension also must include safeguards for mom-and-pop landlords so that they don’t become homeless as well.

Nearby transient

When told of an apparently homeless, transient man who circulates in Windsor Village turning over trash cans as he goes, Bass said he may be among the “profoundly” mentally ill, a group that needs a different course, one that Bass — whose career began in the field of psychiatric emergency care — is “passionate about.” She noted that, two days before our interview, she, plus Gov. Newsom and leaders of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, had announced their intentions to implement the law establishing CARE Court by Dec. 1, 2023, a full year ahead of schedule. She told us that CARE Court is a program to “help people get into conservatorship to get the help they need…”

“I feel it is downright inhumane for people who are mentally ill to be on the street. It’s dangerous for them and for you.

“Now we wait ‘til they commit a crime or they wind up severely injured or dead.”

(With respect to the specific Windsor Village individual cited by the Chronicle staff, Mayor Bass asked an attending staff member to see what might be done to help him.)

Locking arms

Besides working with the county’s Board of Supervisors — which recently endorsed her declaration of a state of emergency to get as many as possible of the approximately 45,000 street dwellers off the city’s streets — Bass emphasized to us that she also is in sync with the 15 city council members.

She told us that she was pleased to find that, unlike rumors she had heard, they are not 15 people acting as chiefs of different “fiefdoms… but are more than willing to say, ‘Yes you take it…’ I have been welcomed to take on the responsibility. I have met with every council member more than once. There is no resistance at all.”

She has found that each council district has different needs with its homeless population. For example, while a recent, successful program to temporarily house nearly 100 people in Venice comes with support services to keep them housed long-term, the need in South Los Angeles is less for outreach and more for hotel rooms.

Asked to elaborate about the 100 people just housed temporarily in Venice and where those people may go from there, the mayor responded, “We don’t see them being there for a couple of weeks. We see them being there for a couple of months. We see them moving into permanent supportive housing. There are thousands of units coming online — HHH. It is not the objective to put them in a hotel for a couple of weeks and then scatter them back out. [If we do that], we fail. If they go into permanent housing, then we succeed.”

She added that, regarding Proposition HHH construction of new housing, “One of the reasons it costs so much is that it takes so long!”


As mayor, Bass has a seat on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“Metro”) Board of Directors (plus she appoints three additional directors). She told us: “The fact that [Metro] is served by three different law enforcement agencies has always mystified me. It is high on my agenda to address this.”

She mentioned to us another of her concerns about transit: “One thing that I look forward to learning about is safety on Metro. People won’t ride if they don’t feel safe onboard or in the station.”

Safety is paramount all around, she emphasized. “Nobody wants to see tents,” she said, adding, “Everyone needs to be part of the solution.”

Getty House

She told us that her move into Getty House in Windsor Square is slow but ongoing, taking place in the middle of her full schedule, where the main focus is to tackle homelessness head on.

And, with that, we wish her well and welcome her to the neighborhood.

By Suzan Filipek, Casey Russell and John Welborne participated in the interview and contributed to this article.

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