Mayor Eric Garcetti will deliver his second State of the City speech on Tuesday, drawing attention to key parts of his agenda such as plans to reduce Los Angeles' water usage and strengthen buildings that could collapse in a major earthquake.
Will anyone be listening?
The question looms every year over the mayoral address, which rarely gives birth to big news announcements and lacks the political resonance of the much-watched State of the Union speech delivered annually in Washington.
"It doesn't play the role that the State of the Union address plays, in a hyper-partisan environment where the president is making a political argument," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs and an expert on Los Angeles city government.
The State of the City speech not only lacks the glamour associated with the president's annual address to Congress; it also takes place in a civic landscape where residents are often all too happy to ignore local politics.
But against the backdrop of L.A.'s chronically low level of civic engagement -- voter turnout in the city's March elections was less than 9% -- the speech also offers a rare chance for the mayor to pitch his agenda in one sitting to the public.
"This is a city in which people do not pay attention to City Hall as much as they do in, say, New York or Chicago," Sonenshein said. "Since attention is low, and the mayor wants people to get a sense of where he wants to go, it's an unusual opportunity."
Garcetti is expected to use that opportunity to talk up the achievements of his first two years in office but also to address the unfinished business on his first-term agenda.
The decision to deliver the speech from Cal State Northridge, in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, suggests that one aspect of that agenda could be especially prominent: Garcetti's proposals to require seismic retrofitting of unsafe buildings and make the city's water supply more earthquake-resistant.
The area was the locus of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, which killed 57 and left parts of the Valley without water for weeks.
Water could be another highlight of the speech. In recent weeks, as Gov. Jerry Brown has mandated a 25% reduction in water usage, Garcetti has been urging city residents to take steps to reach that goal, such as replacing water-hungry lawns.
He has also been calling attention to a directive he issued in October that L.A.'s per-capita water use be cut 22.5% by 2025.