Mayor Eric Garcetti this month, reached out to Los Angeles’ African American community, in order to give clarity on issues like housing, education and jobs. These three things seem to be affecting a disproportionate number of African Americans in the city, Garcetti said. But, he wants to leave a mayoral legacy of having addressed the disparities with real time solutions.
He began the roundtable with some members of Los Angeles’ Black media, on the subject of jobs. The city, he explained, has partnered with the Annenberg Foundation to kick off Pledge L.A. Both entities have looked at the industries and noticed whose absent: women and people of color.
“The tech industry looks a little different because people are wearing T-shirts and flip-flops,” Garcetti said. “But the boardrooms and C-suites look like something out of ‘Mad Men.’”
That’s going to change as the partnership has created an opportunity for dialog with industry leaders who have signed on to the program, agreeing to be more inclusive. Garcetti also talked about an increased number of paid internships in the entertainment industry, allowing people of color and from lower income neighborhoods a chance to gain experience in the field.
“We’ve matched mentors with mentees so everyone has a go to person in the entertainment industry,” Garcetti said.
“We want to accomplish the same thing with tech.”
As far as minority businesses displaced by Metro projects:
“This is for me and [L.A. County Supervisor] Mark Ridley Thomas, a huge priority,” Garcetti said.
“As of now, we’ve given millions of dollars in direct assistance. We’ve made it easy for businesses to show their losses due to the projects, and we’ve disbursed about $5 million primarily to black businesses along Crenshaw so far. It’s also been a real crusade for me, to get prime contracts for black and women owned businesses with Metro…
“We’re holding workshops for these businesses to teach them how the system works so that when the opportunity for contracts come up, they can be prepared.”
For education, Garcetti said that part of his focus is getting L.A.’s African American youth ready to join the city’s future workforce.
“We’ve got all these great things coming [to L.A.],” Garcetti said.
“We’ve got the Lucas Museum, we’ve got all of the Olympic stuff that will be built, we’ve got fifteen new rail lines… we’ve got 40 years of projects because of Measure M (Metro’s funding initiative). So, this isn’t just about a job for a couple of months but about educating people for a career where they can actually see their middle class lives secure.”
Garcetti and his team have been looking at what would need to change in the system for African American workers, he said. One of them was the importance of working with high schools, to make sure there is pipeline to good careers for them. Another, is focusing on the community colleges.
“[L.A.] Trade Tech is probably the best of these. They’ve become a pipeline for certain trades. [For instance] people can get on to new construction sites…”
And, they are trying to create other pipelines, like to the police and fire departments and to civil service, Garcetti said.
“[As far as education] one of the things I’m proud of having done, is making community college free. The first year we did that (2017-18 school year), we said you graduate LAUSD, you can go to community college free. We had a 40% increase in full time community college students after that.
“We’ve also utilized our library system. So, every kid gets a library card in kindergarten. At those libraries, we’re now adding a system. We have STEAM classes in the libraries after school (for industries that are growing).
“Things like that are preparing them really early on, to see, ‘oh I can be a programmer, or I can be an aerospace engineer…”
But perhaps, the biggest question was homelessness and the housing crisis here. Insurmountable as it seems, Garcetti said as mayor he has been focused on mitigation. Through programs, measures and rallying community help, he feels that he has made a significant amount of headway.
“We’ve done a lot of outreach work,” he said, giving an example of a woman who had been homeless for five years in the city with deep mental health issues, where housing workers had gotten her to say yes to permanent supportive housing.
“The Homeless Service Authority is particularly looking at Black homelessness because there is a disproportionate share… and this year we’ve had a down tic of homelessness [among blacks] but there’s still a disproportionate number, especially on Skid Row.
“We really want to focus on, not just saying ‘oh we hope African Americans get swept up in good policies,’ but we really target and focus on the best solutions.”
And, about the growing class of Angelenos who are becoming the working homeless:
“When housing prices are high, we can’t turn that around in two or three months. We have to build more housing,” Garcetti explained.
“And, we have to subsidize housing for low income, as well as from the top down, build more units so that the whole rent market is relieved. So, I set a goal when I first became mayor… I was hoping to be here for eight years… I said, ‘what’s the most ambitious goal: to build the number of units of housing we need to make up for what we hadn’t built. Folks came up with 100,000.
“To put that in perspective, we hadn’t built that much since about 1983, when Mayor Tom Bradley was in office and every decade since, it’s been lower than that.”
Garcetti and his team are going to hit his eight-year goal of 100,000 units of housing two years early, he said.
“Second, we’ve made it easier to build. We’ve cut red tape, we’ve updated our community plans so people don’t always have to go through city council to get approvals. And then, we’re doing bottom up to double the pace of subsidized affordable units, which prevents people from becoming homeless. Because everybody had been smooshed down.
“A successful economy meant that there wasn’t enough housing, so folks who used to have luxury housing are moving into middle class housing and folks who are in middle class housing are pushed down to working class housing are moving to the housing of people on the brink and people on the brink are being moved to the streets.
“So, we looked at something called the linkage fee, which we just passed this year, which means when anybody builds any housing, they have to give us money for affordable housing. We estimate a $100,000,000 this first this year.”
Garcetti said the city is partnering with builders and engineers to see how they can further drive down the cost of housing.
Eric Garcetti is a fourth-generation Angeleno and the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles, born and raised in the San Fernando Valley.