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Proposed LA city budget aims to address homelessness, fund police expansion

The Los Angeles skyline is pictured. On May 18, the LA City Council voted to approve Mayor Karen Bass’ new city budget plan to draft a resolution for final approval. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Sharla Steinman

May 27, 2023 12:45 a.m.

The Los Angeles City Council approved Mayor Karen Bass’ 2023-2024 city budget May 18 to draft a resolution for final approval.

The $13.1 billion budget, which the council approved 13-1, funds a $1.3 billion investment to address homelessness, including $250 million for Inside Safe, an executive directive launched by Bass to help people experiencing homelessness move into temporary housing units. Nearly a quarter of the budget – $3.2 billion – was also approved for policing, with the city planning to hire an additional 1,000 officers.

“This budget will make Los Angeles more livable for all,” Bass said in an emailed press release May 18. “It will aIlow us to confront the emergency of homelessness with the urgency we need and make innovative investments in bold new methods to make our neighborhoods safer.”

Zev Yaroslavsky, a former council member representing the 5th District that includes UCLA, said the creation of the city’s budget is a long process that involves the chief administrative officer consulting with department heads, various city officials and the mayor about their needs.

Yaroslavsky, who is also director of the LA Initiative at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, added that he believes Bass’ state of emergency on homelessness and record amount of spending to address the issue will be effective.

“Karen Bass has made housing the unhoused a top priority,” Yaroslavsky said.

He added that this effort is the first time in 15 years that he believes the city will be able to make a dent in the growing crisis.

Many on the council believe homelessness is the most pressing issue LA is facing.

Leo Daube, a spokesperson for 5th District Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, said homelessness is the top issue in LA, adding that all council members agreed that the budget allows for a citywide response to deal with the issue.

According to the LA Homeless Service Authority, 41,980 people in the city experienced homelessness in 2022.

“I think it’s really important … that we’re ensuring that interim housing and permanent supportive housing is being distributed equitably across Los Angeles,” Daube said.

Although council members agreed with Bass’ plan to combat homelessness in the city, one council member – Eunisses Hernandez representing the 1st District – as well as members of the public disagreed with other planned spending measures and voted against the mayor’s efforts to provide the LAPD with $3.2 billion of the budget. Hernandez, who represents Echo Park, Highland Park and Koreatown, among other neighborhoods, said at the council’s May 18 meeting that she could not support the LAPD budget when other city departments often have to compete with each other for funding.

“We are celebrating moving pennies around, while we put a quarter of our entire budget into just one department,” she said.

But 3rd District Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents the southwestern San Fernando Valley and is also chair of the council’s budget committee, said the mayor’s dedication to funding public safety, such as her spending on additional officers, will increase safety throughout the city. He added that the mayor’s plan to increase the number of officers would help curb the LAPD’s shrinking ranks.

However, members of local organizations such as Black Lives Matter LA agreed with Hernandez and said the LAPD spending plan distributes resources unrealistically. Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter LA chapter, said the city’s desire to increase the police force is problematic since the majority of people in public comment did not agree. She added there is no guarantee LAPD can actually hire all the expected officers.

“What happens when they’re not able to hire 1,000 cops?” Abdullah said. “Can we reclaim that money?”

Other portions of the budget were diverted to funding the LA Fire Department, unarmed mental health responders and a reserve fund for pedestrian and traffic safety.

Daube said Katy Yaroslavsky intends for speed bumps to be installed around elementary schools and will invest $1.5 million to build housing for people without homes in her district. The budget also allocates $100,000 for the Jewish Federation’s community security initiatives for private security and metal detectors, among other measures, Daube said, adding that the 5th District has the densest Jewish population in LA.

The council plans to approve the budget resolution Friday. Bass said she will sign the budget Friday after the council’s approval in an emailed press release Wednesday.

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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