As he nears the end of his time in office, Eric Garcetti is preparing to pass the torch to a new mayor. In a recent conversation with PPIC vice president and senior fellow Lande Ajose, he touched on major challenges facing California and its largest city—including infrastructure, housing and homelessness, and climate change—and how state and local leaders can help create a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable future.
For Mayor Garcetti, moving toward a better future requires a sense of both belonging and ambition. He stressed the importance of remembering, “no matter what your political perspective, your ethnic background, your age, your income, that we belong here, that we have an ownership of this democracy in California.”
For elected leaders, he said, sustaining that democracy means answering the question “What can we do to make governance more frictionless?” He argued that reducing that friction may mean reassessing decades of laws and regulations. “I think we as Californians need to look at our laws and see what is not working anymore, what is outdated.”
For Garcetti, a more frictionless approach is key to alleviating what he sees as California’s biggest challenge: housing. “Somebody asked me what are the three biggest issues in California and Los Angeles the other day, and I said, ‘Number one, housing; number two, housing; number three, housing.’ And you don’t have to be unhoused to feel this.” He touted the progress during his administration: “Since I’ve been mayor we’ve tripled the amount of housing being built in LA.” But there is still much to be done. “I do have a lot of hope and see things changing,” he added, laying out three key priorities for addressing the housing crisis: “One is around zoning, two is around subsidizing, three is about preserving.”
The mayor is also proud of the progress Los Angeles has made on addressing climate change. Citing the LA Green New Deal and other ambitious initiatives, he said, “We’re trying to show that these things aren’t as radical as people think.” He stressed the importance of prioritizing lower-income areas—which have absorbed much of the negative impact of climate change—and creating jobs for Angelenos. “Getting to zero-carbon buildings will be controversial,” he added, “but it will create so many more jobs if we have to build out every existing building to make them all carbon neutral.”
What advice does he have for the next mayor? “First of all I would say thank you—and are you crazy?!” he joked. More seriously, he advised his successor to “know who you are—and it’s not the title of this job. . . . Stay focused on opportunity, on justice, on belonging, on housing.” And, finally, “Love the fun part, because the stress part is going to be there every day.”
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PPIC’s Speaker Series on California’s Future invites thought leaders and changemakers with diverse perspectives to participate critically, constructively, and collaboratively in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.