Mayor Karen Bass’ first budget: more cops, more hotel rooms for L.A.’s homeless population
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass released the first budget proposal of her administration on Tuesday, calling for more police and greater spending on homelessness, anti-gang programs and the city’s struggling animal shelters.
Bass renewed her call for the Los Angeles Police Department to increase its ranks by 400 officers, to about 9,500. She also revealed that her plan will rely on a key recruitment strategy: persuading 200 retired officers, many of whom left recently, to return for at least 12 months.
The mayor, speaking to reporters, said those retirees would “hit the ground running.” She predicted that her overall plan for rebuilding the LAPD — which has lost nearly 1,000 officers since 2019 — will face a skeptical response from some on the City Council, particularly those who have called for money to be shifted out of the LAPD and into other programs.
“We are proposing increasing the police force, and it will cause tensions on the City Council,” she said. “But I am confident that our City Council, that we will be able to overcome those tensions.”
The council must review, make changes and ultimately approve Bass’ $13.1-billion budget by May 31.
Bass said she hopes to work with the council on the buildout of her newly created Office of Community Safety, which will supervise unarmed response and anti-violence programs. The mayor has described the office as part of the city’s effort “to break the cycle of violence and crime.”
The mayor’s budget is seeking a 45% increase in funding — an extra $13 million — for the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, which will ultimately be overseen by the community safety office, Bass aides said.
Two of the council’s police skeptics, Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martínez, did not immediately weigh in on the mayor’s proposed budget. Council President Paul Krekorian said he expects the council will have one of its “more robust discussions” in recent years.
“Central to that will be: How do you address the police budget?” Krekorian said.
The mayor is looking to provide newly hired police officers a $15,000 signing bonus, as well as other financial incentives to city employees who find recruits. Police Chief Michel Moore said the LAPD has been sending out inquiries to former officers — and received “some interest” from about 70 people so far.
Bass’ spending plan calls for nearly $1.3 billion for homelessness and housing services, a 9.7% increase over the prior year. The mayor is seeking $250 million for her Inside Safe program, which has been moving people out of large-scale homeless encampments and into motels and hotels.
That figure represents a fivefold increase over the amount approved by the council for Inside Safe early in Bass’ administration. It would include $47 million for the purchase of hotels or motels.
Until now, Inside Safe has been leasing rooms in downtown, Silver Lake, South Los Angeles, Venice and other parts of the city. Acquiring properties outright, Bass aides said, would reduce costs by dramatically reducing nightly room rates.
Mercedes Marquez, the mayor’s homelessness czar, said the city is looking to acquire at least eight motels or hotels. She declined to say which properties are under consideration, to avoid driving up prices.
The mayor’s team did not have a number for how many rooms it plans to lease in the coming year, saying only that it will be “in the thousands.”
Councilmember Traci Park, who represents the city’s coastal neighborhoods, said she is pleased to see the mayor working to expand Inside Safe. The program has carried out encampment operations in two parts of her district so far — Venice and Del Rey.
“I’ve witnessed with my own eyes how transformative for a community, and for the unhoused in need of help, this program is,” she said.
Bass’ team said the proposed budget also includes treatment beds for homeless people who suffer from substance abuse.
Although the spending plan calls for an increase in funding for homelessness initiatives, Bass has recommended that the council spend only a fraction of the revenue expected from Measure ULA, a tax on property sales that was approved by voters in November.
The measure, which imposed an additional tax on commercial and residential real estate transactions exceeding $5 million, is expected to provide an estimated $672 million in the coming budget year for housing and homelessness initiatives. But the mayor’s team plans to use only $150 million until the city determines whether the ballot measure will withstand multiple legal challenges.
That $150 million will go toward housing acquisition and rehabilitation, along with a number of tenant protection measures, the mayor said.
“Boy, would we love to spend the $672 million,” Bass said. “But we want to be conservative about that because of the lawsuits.”
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., one of the groups suing, contends that Measure ULA violates Proposition 13, as well as a section of the City Charter.
“If it were a laughable lawsuit that made no sense whatsoever, they might go ahead and spend the money,” said Jon Coupal, the association’s president.
Bass’ budget also recommends an additional $4.8 million for the city’s troubled animal services department, a nearly 18% increase over last year. The spending plan proposes 28 additional positions for a department that has struggled to staff its shelters.
Times staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.
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