An emergency declaration gives Karen Bass new powers. How will she use them?

Mayor Karen Bass declares a state of emergency against homelessness at the city's Emergency Operations Center


DEC. 12, 2022 11:44 AM PT

Mayor Karen Bass’ first day in office didn’t start at City Hall but down the street at the Emergency Operations Center where, flanked by elected officials, she declared the homeless crisis a state of emergency.

That move, which will require approval of the City Council, gives her the ability to expedite the process of creating new interim housing and making a plan to get the most vulnerable Angelenos off the streets as winter weather sets in. Bass met with the general managers of city departments and challenged them to bring her solutions to make the government more efficient and responsive when addressing homelessness.

“We must bring people indoors faster, and we will,” she said.

“We must build housing faster, and we will. We must coordinate shelter and services and we will. We must have coordination among the city officials and the city departments and we will because we are doing things differently and you can see by who is together in this room today.”


A woman cleans up her camping area on Spring Street one block from city hall.

The question is how Bass plans to use the powers afforded to her during an emergency. She has the ability to more quickly dispense money to providers who do the outreach work to homeless people, approve the master-leasing of buildings and cut through the regulatory and permitting processes.While she could also commandeer property to provide housing, she told The Times editorial board she won’t do that because, she said, “You’re going to end up tied up in court forever. I’m looking for the quickest way to do this.”

LOS ANGELES-CA-APRIL 8, 2022: Karen Bass is photographed at City Hall on Friday, April 8, 2022. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)


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It’s unclear how much this emergency declaration would cost, if passed, or how many units of interim housing Bass plans to create immediately. The newly installed mayor said there would be more details in the coming days about the effort, called “Inside Safe.”

Bass estimated this first push to bring people indoors from encampments would cost “under $100 million” but didn’t elaborate. The Emergency declaration will: “sunset in six months subject to being renewed. The setting of a specific time frame allows for actions to be taken to make permanent, necessary structural changes.”

The Times reported over the weekend that Bass will be aggressively targeting large encampments that are populated with people who are desperately in need of help and have been a constant source of frustration for nearby residents. Her advisors have been asking city agencies, nonprofits and council offices for the locations where these large encampments full of RVs and makeshift structures have sprouted up.

They have been examining where these people could go at least on a temporary basis — contemplating more hotel conversions, master-leasing of buildings and extending the homeless-housing operation of the nearly 500-room L.A. Grand Hotel downtown.

“I will lead a citywide strategy that marshals resources, creates accountability and drives results and that is at the core of a regional strategy,” she said Monday.