When Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass—who has promised to “solve homelessness”—takes office on Sunday, visual evidence of the city’s exponentially spiraling crisis will not detract from the pomp and circumstance of her inauguration, as a homeless encampment on 1st and Spring, in the direct sightline of City Hall, was cleared out by municipal workers and a sanitation crew earlier this week.
Several unhoused individuals told the Los Angeles Times that they were ordered to relocate in preparation for Bass’s big day, which was originally scheduled to be held outside City Hall but had been rescheduled to the Microsoft Theater due to potential rain—which could really have dampened the celebrants’ spirits.
The people cleared from their tents and other shelters were taken by van to the the L.A. Grand Hotel, a temporary homeless facility. By the time Bass announced the venue change on Thursday, at least 20 people had already been moved to the Grand.
“They said that they were going to be coming through here and cleaning this whole section out, because the mayor is having her inauguration,” Robert Fulps told the Times. “I don’t know what cleaning this up has to do with that, but I assume… it’ll be on the news and they want it to be clean.”
During a campaign in which the fate of unhoused was a central issue, Bass stumped heavily for ending homelessness, calling for a declaration of a state of emergency and outlining a plan against homeless to the tune of $292 million in the first year, she told Variety in October. And she’s not afraid to raise new taxes to do it.
“We have an emergency on our streets,” Bass said. “We have thousands of people who could fall into homelessness any day. To say I would not raise taxes makes no sense. I’m not saying I absolutely will, but I’m not taking any tool out of the toolbox.”
In a November 17 victory speech in Los Angeles, Bass promised to “solve homelessness.”
“The people of Los Angeles have sent a clear message,” she said. “It’s time for change, and it’s time for urgency. Many Angelenos do not feel safe in their neighborhoods, and families are being priced out of their communities. This must change… To the people of Los Angeles, my message is we are going to solve homelessness. We are going to prevent and respond urgently to crime, and Los Angeles will no longer be unaffordable for working families.”
A few days later, she doubled-down in a tweet, writing, “Let me be clear—my top priorities as Mayor of Los Angeles will be to get Angelenos housed, and to make our city safe and more affordable for all. And that work has already begun.”
Let me be clear — my top priorities as Mayor of Los Angeles will be to get Angelenos housed, and to make our city safer and more affordable for all.
And that work has already begun.
— Karen Bass (@KarenBassLA) November 21, 2022
Bass says she has a plan for tackling the crisis starting on Day 1 of her regime. According to her campaign, she will will “dramatically reduce homelessness and end street encampments in Los Angeles.” Bass’s official bullet points for addressing the situation include providing housing for 15,000 people a year, decreasing street homelessness, ending tent cities, and promoting mental health and substance abuse treatment.
When Bass’s camp was asked about the cleanup of the encampment, they punted the question to the office of current Mayor Garcetti, since Bass doesn’t start work until Monday.
Garcetti rep Harrison Wollman declined to directly answer questions from the Times regarding whether the encampment was moved for the inauguration.
“Everyone living in this location has been offered housing,” Wollman told the Times. “And the [L.A.] Grand was identified for this location because of its close proximity, available beds, and track record of successfully placing Angelenos on a path to permanent housing.”
Asked to elaborate, Wollman told LAMag in an email Friday only that, “Connecting unhoused Angelenos with housing and services is always our top priority and the focus of our ongoing work on homelessness. Outreach in this area started in July with LASHA and CARE+, and was supplemented by CIRCLE teams starting in August.”
Wollman also reiterated: “Everyone living in this location has been offered housing and The Grand was identified for this location because of its close proximity, available beds, and track record of successfully placing Angelenos on a path to permanent housing.”
So, apparently, no one ordered the homeless sweep—not the mayor in power, and not the mayor assuming it. And yet, somehow, the homeless were swept just in time for Bass’s big show. That’s a start and a finish Bass and Garcetti can both try their damndest to be proud of.
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