Mayor Eric Garcetti: L.A. is “the model” for dealing with homelessness

As the city of Los Angeles sees a 16% uptick in homelessness over the past year, two-time Mayor Eric Garcetti declares “There’s no question L.A. now is the model” for rectifying the crisis.

He says Los Angeles has "gone from 9,000 to 21,000 housed a year.”

In his exclusive sit-down with FOX11’s political talk show, “The Issue Is:” host Elex Michaelson presses the mayor on his response to the homelessness crisis, asking “How is L.A. the model if the homeless count is going up?”

“I had the same feeling. I remind people the city has very little power compared to the county, state, and federal government has for affordable housing, mental healthcare, [and] hospitals.”

The Democrat addressed an onslaught of criticism aimed squarely at the effectiveness of Proposition HHH, a measure appropriating 1.2 billion dollars towards the construction of 10,000 housing units.

During the 2016 campaign, the initiative was hailed as indispensable for relieving the housing shortage and affordability crisis.

“People know that when you pass a new thing, to build something it takes 2 to 2.5 years.”

A newly released report by L.A.’s controller alludes to a different timetable, however, indicating that zero units have been constructed since 77 percent of voters greenlit the bond measure in 2016. It also pointed to the staggering price of these facilities – more than $500,000 per unit.

In contradiction to the report, Garcetti says the measure has already helped to pay for 1,200 permanent apartments, even while subsidizing only a portion of their total cost.

“I want to reassure taxpayers – we’re only subsidizing about $150,000 of that $500,000. That’s market rate to build anything. It’s a strong economy, so labor costs more, our labor has made steel go up.”

Garcetti says the federal tax code is partially to blame for companies’ hesitance in building affordable facilities, explaining that “Congress actually dried up the other source of funding because companies used to get tax breaks for investing in affordable housing. Now, they have such a tax break they don’t need it.”

The once thought-to-be 2020 hopeful implores the Commander-In-Chief to step up efforts on the issue, while emphasizing the role of inter-agency partnerships in solving the problem.

“I’ve got cops and street cleaners, and you can’t clean or arrest your way out of this solely…the federal government has cut by 80 percent its affordable housing over the last decade, and the state obliterated re-development, which is the money we used.”

He continued to lament the fiscal shortcoming, “Just if we had the money we had 10 years ago, I could’ve built 40,000 units of housing.”

Garcetti says he’s housed 21,000 people and predicts his administration will meet the goal of Proposition HHH five years early.

But as scrutiny mounts against his response to homelessness, Angelenos worry about potential power outages associated with the slew of fires erupting across the Southland. In recent days, utility companies like PG&E and SoCal Edison have unplugged electricity for millions with hopes of reducing the likelihood of wildfires in the golden state. The Mayor assures Los Angeles isn’t in the crosshairs.

“In the city, we’re reasonably well protected. We don’t have to do those proactive outages, and we’ve kept people’s power on…”

He cautioned folks as to why laying blame on the state for the blackouts may be misdirected.

“I can tell the [Department of Water & Power] folks what to do…The governor and legislature are, literally, no pun intended powerless to do anything.”

Dissatisfied with the outages himself, Garcetti urges the state to introduce new legislation to, presumably, lessen residents’ dependency on private-utility companies.

“I think it is a wake-up call for the legislature, for our Governor to look at what law changes that can give them the power to make those decisions, [since] people depend on their refrigerator food, their medical equipment, and other things.”

As for zeroing into the root cause of the fires that lead to black-outs, Mayor Garcetti pitches “climate change,” dubbing it the “fight of our lives.”

“If you’re one of the last people who doesn’t believe climate change is real, talk to a firefighter. Look at the fact that the United States paid, in the last two years, as much as we’ve paid in the last 27 years through FEMA for natural disasters.”

Underscoring the importance of local action on climate change, the mayor brushed off any question that he regrets reversing course on joining the 2020 democratic crop.

“It was absolutely the right thing to do. Bill Clinton once said the two best jobs in politics are president of the United States and mayor of a big city in America.”

He crescendos toward a patriotic cry…”I have one of those jobs.”

Watch the full interview with Mayor Garcetti on "The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson" on FOX 11 Los Angeles Friday at 10:30pm/1:30am and on Sunday on KTVU FOX 2 at 5:30am.