Garcetti vows a ‘safer city’ in final State of the City speech

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers his final State of the City address from the Sixth Street Bridge
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers his final State of the City address from the Sixth Street Bridge in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed in his final State of the City speech Thursday to ensure that Los Angeles is clean and safe, an acknowledgement of the uptick in violent crime and the unsanitary and bleak conditions on the streets that have dogged his last year at City Hall.

In his yearly address, the mayor announced plans to hire hundreds of sanitation workers, including Angelenos who have been incarcerated or unhoused, and said the city would spend an additional $1 billion on homelessness in the coming fiscal year.

His proposed budget, to be released next week, will also “bring about a safer city,” said Garcetti, who didn’t specify how much he would set aside for the Police Department, which typically consumes the largest share of “unrestricted” city revenue — a trend that angers groups who want spending reduced.

An aerial view of the Sixth Street Viaduct currently under construction and scheduled to open this summer
The under-construction Sixth Street Bridge was the backdrop for Mayor Garcetti’s State of the City speech.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“We need to ensure that this is the safest and the cleanest city that it can be,” Garcetti said during a speech delivered from the under-construction Sixth Street Bridge near Boyle Heights.

After nearly a decade as mayor, Garcetti made his last State of the City address facing an uncertain future.

Nominated to serve as the ambassador to India, Garcetti likely thought he’d be in New Delhi by now. But the confirmation process remains in flux, and it’s unclear whether Garcetti will leave office before the end of his second term.

The symbolism of the carefully chosen backdrop behind him spoke to both the august and the quotidian elements of the mayor’s job. The ribbon-like concrete arches of the bridge soared grandly behind him, dancing toward the downtown skyline.

L.A. voters are sharply divided over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s job performance, a dynamic that is shaping the race to replace him.

April 11, 2022

A portable toilet, dumpster and construction equipment were also visible, as an orange-vested crew continued their morning’s work a few hundred yards down the bridge from the mayor.


Garcetti used the metaphor of a bridge throughout his speech, noting that the city is “living through a year of transition. From pandemic ... to renewal. And from one administration to the next. This calendar year will close on a new mayor’s first month in office.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, takes a selfie with Michelle Vergara, a City of Los Angeles employee
Garcetti takes a selfie with Michelle Vergara, an L.A. City employee, after his speech.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

He also used his address to pay homage to his start as mayor, inviting college student Kenia Castillo to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. As an eighth-grader, Castillo administered the oath to Garcetti when he was sworn into office in 2013, the mayor said.

Facing term limits, Garcetti must step down in December. At one point, he appeared to choke up as he thanked his family members — his daughter, Maya, and father, former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, were in the crowd. Garcetti’s wife, Amy Wakeland, was absent because she was not feeling well, Garcetti spokeswoman Jen Marroquin said.

Others in the crowd included City Council members, general managers and deputy mayors.

While Garcetti acknowledged that L.A. is safer than past years, he also struck a more forceful tone on rising crime than he has in previous addresses. The uptick in violence “requires urgency and resources,” he said.

“Every act of violence casts a long shadow,” Garcetti said. “From every conversation I have with families of victims, from every time someone’s home or car is broken into, I know it violates our peace of mind.”


Homicides are down 10% this year compared with the same period as last year, but overall violent crime and property crime are both up.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, with father Gil Garcetti, left, and a guest, before Mayor Garcetti speech.
Among the guests at Garcetti’s speech was his father, Gil, a former L.A. County District Attorney.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Garcetti’s proposal to spend $1 billion on homelessness in his new budget will include money raised from Proposition HHH, a 2016 voter-backed initiative to support homeless housing, as well as dollars for homelessness that went unspent in this year’s budget.

The mayor also outlined plans for a new $21-million climate equity fund that will focus on mitigation and resilience efforts in low-income neighborhoods. Money for the fund will come from Southern California Gas Co. through an arrangement the company has with the city to maintain its gas system. Homelessness and the climate emergency are the “two greatest challenges that we face in the long term,” Garcetti said.

While speaking about housing, the mayor pledged to “lean into SB 9,” a state law passed in 2021 that lets property owners construct duplexes, and in some cases fourplexes, in most single-family-home neighborhoods statewide.

The mayor also announced the creation of a “Low-Rise Design Lab” with a $500,000 budget in the city’s planning department. The lab will help support construction of the duplexes and quadplexes allowed under the new law.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers State of the City Address
Garcetti said his proposed budget will “bring about a safer city,” as one focus of his speech was crime.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Garcetti also used his speech to look back on his two terms in office. He touted the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and a project at LAX that will connect travelers directly to airport terminals. He also name-checked a fee paid by developers to raise money for affordable housing, the 2028 Olympics and a boost in the minimum wage.

Garcetti gave his first State of the City address in April 2014, walking out to a packed auditorium at the California Science Center to the sound’s of M83’s “Midnight City.” That speech heralded low crime numbers and made no mention of homelessness.

Nearly a decade later, issues of homelessness and public safety have come to dominate the 2022 mayor’s race.

Garcetti’s emphasis on a “clean” city in his speech Thursday didn’t sound dissimilar to developer Rick Caruso’s campaign pledge to “Clean Up L.A.” Caruso — along with Rep. Karen Bass — is a frontrunner in the race to replace Garcetti, according to a recent poll co-sponsored by The Times. Angelenos will vote in a June primary followed by a November general election, with the new mayor set to take office in December.


The last few years have been tumultuous for Garcetti, both professionally and personally. He oversaw the city’s response to COVID-19, and said he turned down an unknown position in the new presidential administration in late 2020 after supporting President Biden during his campaign.

Protesters picketed outside his house, forcing his wife and daughter to relocate at points during the pandemic.

The location of Thursday’s speech was not publicly announced by the mayor’s office prior to the event, likely to ward off potential disruptors. Several layers of security prevented any unauthorized guests from approaching the unfinished bridge.

The fight on Capitol Hill over Garcetti’s ambassadorial nomination has intensified in recent weeks, as more senators express concern about the mayor’s handling of sexual harassment allegations against Rick Jacobs, a former top Garcetti advisor. A widening probe led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has delayed a vote in the Senate. Garcetti has said he knew nothing about the complaints.