Karen Bass
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass signs emergency homeless declaration. Courtesy lacityview.org livestream

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness on Monday, following through on a promise to take such an action on her first day in office.

Bass said the declaration will streamline efforts to address the homeless problem, calling it a “seismic shift” in the city’s tactics.

“I will not accept a homelessness crisis that afflicts more than 40,000 individuals and affects every one of us,” she said. The new mayor also said she will sign a series of executive orders targeting homelessness in the coming days, and the city will take an aggressive approach to providing temporary housing by leasing apartments and motel rooms.

Bass was sworn in Sunday as Los Angeles’ 43rd mayor.

In her inaugural address the new mayor focused on housing as one of the key topics in her speech, noting that the emergency declaration will “recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside, and do so for good.”

“It will create the structure necessary for us to have a true, unified and citywide strategy to set us on the path to solve homelessness,” Bass said.

There were 41,980 unhoused people in the city of Los Angeles this year, up 1.7% from 2020, according to the latest count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Bass’ plan also includes providing housing for 17,000 people experiencing homelessness in her first year. She said Los Angeles has earned the “shameful crown” of having some of the most overcrowded neighborhoods in the country and called for residents to “welcome housing to every neighborhood.”

“We know our mission: We must build housing in every neighborhood,” Bass said. “We cannot continue to overcrowd neighborhoods that are already overcrowded.”

Bass, the first woman and second Black person to lead the city, was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, a former California senator and the first woman to serve as the nation’s second-in-command.

Nearly every major city official, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, attended the ceremony.

“Making history with each of you today is a monumental moment in my life and for Los Angeles,” Bass said in her speech.

Bass addressed what she described as an “inflection point in our history,” with issues including “the pandemic, the rapidly changing economy, the rapidly changing climate, the cost of living, (and) 40,000 people sleeping on the street.”

“I believe that times of inflection require reflection — I believe, it’s time for Angelenos to remind ourselves where we come from and who we are,” she said.

On crime, Bass sought a strategy to make neighborhoods safe “that is informed by our communities,” which includes launching an Office of Community Safety.

“Of course, we must stop crimes in progress and hold people accountable,” Bass said. “Some neighborhoods have asked for additional officers, and we will deliver. But what neighborhoods are asking for and what they need is as diverse as our city.”

Sunday’s ceremony was initially scheduled to take place outside City Hall, but rain in the forecast led to a venue shift indoors. Instead, Bass was sworn in on the theater’s stage, with two large “LA” letters in the mold of the LAX sign to her right and a picture of the Spring Street City Hall steps behind the stage.

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