View of City Hall and James K. Hahn City Hall East (pictured right). Photo by John Schreiber.
View of City Hall and James K. Hahn City Hall East (pictured right). Photo by John Schreiber.

A City Hall building was renamed Thursday in honor of former Mayor James K. Hahn, who also served 16 years as City Attorney and one term as city controller.

A “who’s who” of Los Angeles city politics gathered to watch as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Hahn’s sister Congresswoman Janice Hahn and businessman Rick Caruso unveiled signs identifying the 18-story tower as the James K. Hahn City Hall East building.

The building formerly known by just “City Hall East” lies across the street from the main City Hall and houses the city Controller, Fire Department and traffic center offices. It was where Hahn spent many years of his career prior to becoming Los Angeles’s 40th mayor in 2001, starting with his first job with the city in 1975 as a deputy City Attorney, working out of a single drawer at a shared desk.

Hahn is the only elected official in city history to serve as mayor, city attorney and controller.

The cost of changing the building’s moniker, which included emblazoning Hahn’s name in silver lettering on either side of the Main Street entrance, was funded by private donations, with Caruso among the list of top sponsors.

Other funders included business chambers, city employee unions such as fire and police, the Dodgers, NBCUniversal and law firms such as Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP and Mayer Brown LLP.

Hahn who is spending his post-mayoral career serving as a Los Angeles Superior Court traffic judge said following speeches praising his single term as mayor that he feels like “Tom Sawyer at his own funeral.”

“But it is kind of good to hear it when you’re alive, isn’t it?” he said.

The newly renamed building is the result of a 2011 council resolution by Hahn’s sister Janice Hahn, who was voted onto the City Council the same night her brother was elected mayor.

The building is a block away from the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, which honors the 40-year career of the political siblings’ father, Kenneth Hahn, on the county Board of Supervisors.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose father is former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, noted that he and Hahn both came out of “county” political families, later falling in love with the city of Los Angeles. The two buildings named after the Hahns serve as “bookends” for a family that has had people in various Los Angeles-based elected offices for the past 67 years, Garcetti said.

Garcetti, like several others, credited Hahn with keeping the city whole through secession efforts by San Fernando Valley neighborhoods.

“We would not be a city today if not for Jim Hahn. We might have two or three cities,” Garcetti said.

Caruso, appointed president of the Police Commission under Hahn, said the former mayor may have served just one four-year term, “but actually that was all he needed.”

The billionaire mall developer said Hahn “led the effort to keep us together” through three secession attempts and made a difficult decision of hiring LAPD outsider Bill Bratton to lead the Police Department. The hiring of Bratton meant the ousting of then police Chief Bernard Parks — now a City Councilman — who had been seeking a second term.

Admirers of Hahn said today Bratton’s hiring was the start of an era of declining crime and improved public safety in Los Angeles.

Hahn today also reflected back to his years as City Attorney, saying he worked with his staff to pioneer ways to tackle neighborhood crime issues, including using of injunction orders to control gangs and employing civil nuisance abatement laws to remove problem, crime-ridden homes.

Hahn was mayor of Los Angeles from 2001 until 2005, when he lost a re- election bid to Antonio Villaraigosa.

City News Service

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