Los Angeles City Council signed Mayor Karen Bass’s Police Department expansion plan on Thursday, approving a budget calling for Hire about 1,000 staff next fiscal year and record spending to combat homelessness.
Council voted 13-1 for bass’ budget of 13.1 billion dollars, despite warnings from critics that her plan for the LAPD – to scale up the force to 400 officers – was impractical and unnecessary. The department expects nearly 600 people to resign or retire in the upcoming budget year, which begins July 1.
Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez voted only against, saying she could not support a spending plan that provides $3.2 billion to the LAPD at a time when city agencies repair sidewalks, provide programs for city youth and aid for the elderly who are having to “fight over scrap.”
“We are celebrating moving the coin around, while we put a quarter of our entire budget into one department,” Hernandez said in an emotional seven-minute speech.
Congressman Hugo Soto-Martínez, a close political ally of Hernandez, said the spending plan was “not perfect.” Still, he hailed it as “the most progressive budget in the history of Los Angeles,” a budget that would provide expanded mental health teams, drug treatment facilities and a record sum of money. $1.3 billion to fight homelessness.
Soto-Martínez said the mayor’s budget will focus on issues that are the root causes of homelessness, such as poverty and a lack of mental health services.
“The budget represents the beginning of a new path to addressing homelessness,” he said. “And while it may be just a few steps forward, it prevents us from going backwards.”
Soto-Martínez and Hernandez – both backed by the Social Democratic Party of America-Los Angeles – were elected last year after campaigning on the idea that the LAPD should have fewer officers, not more. Both represent a growing effort to promote conflicting policies at City Hall.
During Thursday’s budget discussions, the pair tried but failed to cut $7.4 million spent on the purchase of a replacement LAPD helicopter. They called for using that money to buy new electric buses.
Their attempt to force a floor vote on electric bus funding failed by an 8-6 vote, with Hernandez, Soto-Martínez and Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Heather Hutt , Nithya Raman and Katy Yaroslavsky did not achieve the necessary majority. The proposal is now heading to several council committees for further consideration.
Bass welcomed the council’s actions, saying her spending plan would help the city face homelessness urgently and use “bold new approaches” to make safer neighborhoods.
“This budgeting process is a prime example of how, working together, we can move LA forward,” she said in a statement.
A second technical vote on the budget is scheduled for next week.
Thursday’s action will provide $250 million for Inside Safe, the mayor’s program to move homeless Angelenos into hotels, motels, and other facilities — and ultimately into permanent housing. Bass’s team plans to use nearly a fifth of that money to buy three or four larger motels. More than two-fifths will go to hotel and motel room rentals.
In recent weeks, some on the council have grown frustrated with the mayor’s team over the lack of public information about the program, which has driven about 1,200 people out of Hollywood encampments, VeniceSouth Los Angeles and several other surrounding areas.
Two reports have been issued on the program since December, when the program was launched. Both have not been uploaded to the board yet online files focus on Inside Safe.
Under one compromise reached last week, Bass’ homeless team will provide council members with a biweekly report on Inside Safe. So far, the mayor’s team has committed about $44 million of the $50 million previously provided to the program, according to a report released Tuesday.
Bass’s homeless team booked rooms at 25 motels and hotels during the first four and a half months of Inside Safe. For example, the city paid $4,684 per room per month at the LA Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
The cost of the Inside Safe program could easily exceed $300 million in the upcoming budget year if Bass’s team completes the planned acquisition of 294 rooms. Mayfair Hotel in the Westlake neighborhood of LA. That 15-story building is being considered for temporary housing.
Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who heads the council’s budget committee, said the mayor’s spending plan shows city leaders have “redefined what is public safety,” investing more money on unarmed response teams. At the same time, he also voiced support for Bass’s push to hire more police.
The LAPD has lost about 9% of its officers since the COVID-19 outbreak, down to 9,100 employees. Blumenfield said he’s concerned the officer count could soon drop below 9,000, putting the city and department in a “dangerous position.”
“I am really concerned that we are falling dangerously low with the amount of police we have on the streets,” he said.
Last month, the mayor called for an increase in the size of the LAPD to 9,500 officers. As part of her plan, the department will recruit 780 recruits, while also convincing another 200 retirees to return to the force.
Some on the panel have voiced doubts about her chances of achieving her goal, given the slow pace of recruitment. Meanwhile, some attendees of Thursday’s council meeting protested against the larger LAPD, saying Angelenos desperately needed other types of services.
Greg Akili, a longtime Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles activist and organizer, said: “Too much reliance on the police to solve all of our problems undermines our ability to solve them. We have a society where people, neighborhoods and communities are invested in. Every dollar spent on the police, he said, is money that cannot be spent elsewhere. “We simply can’t have it both ways.”
Yasser Nokoudy, 29, has urged the council to take the money from the LAPD and use it to buy Hillside Villa, an apartment building in Chinatown where dozens of residents are facing rent increases very big house.
“Instead of hiring more police, use the money to hire unarmed crisis responders and preserve affordable homes like Hillside Villa,” said Nokoudy, a six-year resident of the building.
Council took a first step to purchase the building last year. Blumenfield, following Thursday’s vote, said the budget does not set aside any specific funding for such a transaction.