L.A. Homeless Crisis Could Dent Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Presidential Hopes

Getty Images
Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is openly considering a presidential run — so much so that Politico recently called him “the least coy of any prospective 2020 Democratic presidential contender.”

This week, Garcetti — who was re-elected last year with over 80% of the vote — revealed plans to visit Iowa. But his political ambitions could be held back by one of the most glaring failures of his administration: the recent surge in homelessness on L.A.’s streets.

In his second State of the City” address in 2015, Garcetti promised to “end veterans homelessness in Los Angeles.” He declared a “state of emergency” on homelessness as the city bid (successfully) for the Summer Olympic Games (which it will host in 2028). He pledged $100 million in additional funding to tackle the homelessness crisis. In his third “State of the City” address, delivered the following year, Garcetti vowed: “Homelessness is, and has to be, our top priority — after all, lives are on the line.” He convinced voters to pass Measure H in 2017, which raised sales taxes 0.25% to provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year towards fighting homelessness in the county.

But Garcetti’s efforts have largely failed, as the Los Angeles Times noted in a blistering article on homelessness Thursday:

The growth of a homeless day camp at the halls of civic power speaks to the breadth of Los Angeles’ burgeoning homelessness problem.

The number of those living in the streets and shelters of the city of L.A. and most of the county surged 75% — to roughly 55,000 from about 32,000 — in the last six years.

The problem has only gotten worse since Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013 and a liberal Democratic supermajority emerged in 2016 on the county Board of Supervisors.

Tent cities stretch from the Antelope Valley desert to the Santa Monica coast, with stopovers in unlikely communities — even Bel-Air, where a homeless cooking fire was implicated in December’s Skirball fire.

During an October hygiene survey, county public health officials identified 222 encampments, including 50 with 30 or more people living in them. These ragtag outposts have altered the basic terms of urban life.

The problem has many causes. One is the high cost and scarcity of housing in Los Angeles. Journalist Gale Holland notes: “500 homeless veterans have vouchers but no place to cash them in.” Another is the opioid epidemic.

And another cause is the fact that Southern California has the most comfortable climate in the continental U.S., which attracts runaways and homeless people from colder cities where sleeping outside in winter is risking death. The Times also blames some of the failed policies of past Los Angeles administrations for the homeless spike today.

But Holland warns: “If homelessness continues to escalate at current rates, it will swamp even the best efforts.”

And if Garcetti cannot show better progress, his trips to Iowa and New Hampshire will be little more than sightseeing.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.