Voters and residents weigh in four months after Karen Bass took office

Residents are optimistic, but challenges still lie ahead of the new mayor.

Photo of Karen Bass speaking with then Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti October 12, 2022 waiting for Joe Biden to land at LAX

After first being elected to the California State Assembly in 2004 and later to Congress, Karen Bass returned to her hometown of Los Angeles to run for mayor. Defeating her opponent Rick Caruso, she currently stands at an approval rate of roughly 50% among Angelenos, according to a poll from Suffolk University/L.A. Times conducted between March 9-12, which was similar to her predecessor Eric Garcetti who stood at an approval of 56% in his first 100 days as mayor.

This number shows that residents are hopeful about this new administration and the leadership skills of Mayor Bass.

“Since Karen Bass took office, more people are coming in, and they find Bass to be more approachable,” said Cecily Chan, a constituent representative serving city hall. “One thing people are excited about is Bass has more resources in her connection with other political institutions than her predecessor Eric Garcetti, as she can pull more funding and resources from state and federal government.”

However, one can definitely make the case that it is a more difficult task to lead the second most populated city in America with many more crises than her previous position as a congresswoman.

L.A.’s homelessness crisis has long been such an issue that plagues the city that people are losing confidence in government officials despite the leadership. One of the root causes of homelessness is the soaring rent costs in L.A. The latest Zillow data shows that median rent cost in LA is $3,000 as of March, while the national median is $1,937.

In February, one of Bass’ first plans as mayor was to push the city council to pass the extension of the pandemic-era eviction ban in an effort to keep tenants in their homes.

It has been a victory for progressive advocates, who have long claimed that landlords are the primary cause of homelessness and why so many are unhoused. Jason Reedy from the social justice organization People’s City Council gave Bass compliments on the move.

“[A] majority of the rental houses being offered in the market are owned by big corporations who come into the city and speed up gentrification,” Reedy said. “Landlords are scums.”

He also believes that evictions should not be existing, because it is a violent and cruel act carried out by police that results in the death of people.

When it comes to directly addressing homelessness, he said that Karen Bass has done something, but there are still people being left behind.

Sasha Hussain, the president of Trojan Democrats, a student and USC-based political organization that advocates for Democratic policies and supports Democratic candidates, also said that she is glad to see Bass is taking some new measures to make sure more people are being housed, which will definitely make an impact on USC student’s daily lives.

In 2020 when the pandemic hit, despite various financial aid, some 2000 USC students experienced homelessness or had experienced homelessness in the past year. “I think USC also has gentrified this area … a lot of the issues Karen Bass supports that she has been talking about are very very applicable to our surrounding community as USC students,” Hussain said.

Yet the eviction ban extension also highlights the long-existing conflict between landlords and tenants.

Jacqueline Kan, a real estate agent who has been working in the industry for decades primarily with customers with a Chinese background, said “the politicians do not understand the ‘suffering of the masses.’”

Many of her customers are ordinary middle-class home buyers who spend half of their lives accumulating wealth and are looking for a place to invest in.

As a real estate agent, Kan explained that “individual landlords are spending a lot of their time and money to make sure their houses are being kept in good shape.”

She further expressed the detriments of strict rent control and policies that crush their profit. For example, in Santa Monica, voters last year passed a measure that limits annual allowable rent increase to 3%, or $19 a month, landlords will not have the incentive to provide proper maintenance to the house. Particularly, with the challenge of high inflation in the past year, every homeowner was also having a heavier economic burden on themselves.

In this case, when the profit for landlords shrinks, they will be reluctant in fixing water pipes, lawns and many other facilities in their houses. Furthermore, the increasing cost of renting their houses will force the landlords to collect more deposits and enhance renter background checks, making it even harder for low-income renters to become housed.

Bass’ challenge does not stop in housing. Another issue that residents have called out is police brutality, which many believe is responsible for three deaths involved in police activities at the beginning of 2023.

“There have been more than 1600 emails sent to her office protesting Karen Bass in her reappointment of police chief Michael Moore, who has been a controversial figure as people accuse him of being responsible for police brutality in LAPD,” Chan said.

In regard to this, Reedy expressed his disappointment to Bass, as she campaigned on holding the police force accountable. He also said that Bass was by no means a true progressive whom many of her constituents believed her to be, and that “He (Moore) has overseen one of the most murderous police departments year over year. He was the head of the police department when they bombed the neighborhood in South Central in 2017, no one was held responsible for that. "

“There definitely needs to be some accountability,” Hussain said. She also said that she is glad there are people who are protesting and trying to hold Karen Bass on her campaign promises.

In this divided era, we need strong leadership that can deliver results to our city. While 100 days is far from enough to see any substantial change to be made, we will keep an eye on how she is leading the city in the years to come.