Day 1: Mayor Karen Bass declares state of emergency, sets sights on housing Angelenos

Homeless encampments are lined up near LA City Hall, October 14, 2022. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

Karen Bass was sworn in as LA’s first female mayor on Sunday. Vice President Kamala Harris flew in to do the honors. This morning, she kept her campaign promise of declaring a state of emergency on homelessness. “My emergency declaration will recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside and to do so for good. It will create the structure necessary for us to have a true, unified and city-wide strategy,” she said.

The swearing-in ceremony felt like a celebration of women, particularly those who break glass ceilings, describes Dakota Smith, investigative reporter for the LA Times. She adds, “It felt like a celebration of Blackness. … There was a lot of optimism in the room.”

The emergency declaration allows Bass to spend money more easily and quickly — and cut through red tape, Smith explains. She and her team can rapidly hire people to go to the streets and offer housing, plus take over property. Plus, the declaration will make it easier to open shelters and other housing sites.

“[Bass] has talked about leasing buildings like hotels like we saw during COVID, maybe hotel conversions as well. … We know that she also wants to clear large encampments as well, which is something that we'll [probably] see right away.”