Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is being targeted for removal from office over his handling of the homelessness crisis.
On Wednesday, Alexandra Datig, a political commentator who is leading the effort, told reporters at a news conference outside City Hall that the mayor was served with a notice of intent for recall — the first step of a long-shot attempt.
“He can’t handle the crisis,” said Datig, a registered Republican who described herself as longtime Angeleno frustrated by the surging number of people living on the street. “He needs to step down.”
According to the latest count, homelessness has swelled 16% over the past year, largely because of a shortage of affordable housing. And there are renewed concerns about diseases and filth as more people bunk down on L.A.’s streets.
Critics have questioned whether the mayor is treating the homelessness problem with enough urgency.
The mayor announced plans last year to build 15 shelters in L.A. to get people off the street, but they have been slow to open. Also, voters in 2016 approved Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond to build 10,000 of units of housing for homeless people, but no units have opened.
Garcetti argues that the region has built tens of thousands of housing units in recent years and that the crisis would be worse without city efforts under his leadership. In a letter to a constituents last week, he took “full responsibility” for the city’s response to the homelessness crisis.
The mayor, asked about the recall effort by reporters on Wednesday, said “people know the difference between political games and actually doing the work — and I’m doing the work.”
Garcetti political consultant Bill Carrick also dismissed the recall effort, saying, “It doesn’t sound very real.”
“Certainly the mayor is focused on homelessness, and it’s his principal focus,” Carrick said. “He’s not going to get distracted by people playing these type of games.”
Recall efforts are costly, time-consuming and rarely successful. Campaigns typically need to raise significant sums of money to be able to collect enough valid signatures to put the issue before voters.
A 2010 attempt by a handful of critics to recall then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa fizzled out. More recently, critics unsuccessfully sought to bounce City Councilman Mike Bonin out of office over his support of “road diets” in his Westside district.
However, voters last year successfully removed Southern California state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) from office. The California Republican Party targeted Newman over his support for Senate Bill 1, which increased the gas tax and vehicle fees to pay for road and bridge repairs and mass transit improvements.
Datig’s group will need to collect more than 300,000 signatures from registered voters to trigger a recall election, according to the city clerk’s office. Datig said no money has been raised yet for the campaign.
She launched an online petition to recall Garcetti earlier this month and the site has gathered thousands of signatures. Those signatures don’t count toward the city’s recall process.
On Wednesday outside City Hall, Datig was joined by David Hernandez and Benito “Benny” Bernal, both longtime activists with a variety of causes.
A 30-year resident of Los Angeles, Datig said she voted for Trump in 2016 but has supported or campaigned for local and national Democrats, including former state senator and City Councilman Nate Holden and former City Councilwoman Jan Perry.
A spokeswoman for Perry said Datig never worked for any of Perry’s political campaigns.
Datig refers to herself as a sex trafficking survivor and has publicly detailed working for Heidi Fleiss. In a 2013 television interview with KCAL9-TV, she described approaching police and becoming an informant on Fleiss.
The case against Fleiss was managed by then-Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, Eric Garcetti’s father.
Times staff reporter Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.