LA's Next Mayor: How Kevin De León Would Tackle The Big Issues Facing The City
LAist sent all candidates actively campaigning for L.A. Mayor the following questionnaire. Their responses have been published in full, adjusted only to fit the formatting and style of the page.
We also highlighted 12 questions that we think give you a sense of where the candidates align with your own views on issues that are important to Angelenos. And we wrapped it all up in our interactive "matchmaking" quiz, Meet Your Mayor. Curious? Take the quiz!
About The Candidate
Kevin de León represents the 14th City Council District (Boyle Heights, Northeast L.A., downtown). He served in the Assembly from 2006-2010 and the State Senate from 2010-2018 (elected President Pro Tem in 2014).
He is a former labor organizer for the state and national teachers unions. He lists his occupation on the ballot as Los Angeles Councilmember.
Q: California is in a chronic drought. Which of the following strategies most closely reflects what you think should be done at the city level to improve individual water conservation?
A: Water scarcity is a real, existential threat to Los Angeles that requires a network of solutions. First, we must be willing to enforce rationing so that the pain of a drought is not all on the backs of our poorest residents. We also need to encourage voluntary conservation, and make it easier for Angelenos to conserve.
Q: What should the next mayor prioritize to lower the costs of converting to more sustainable electric options for homeowners and businesses? (i.e. solar power, electric vehicles, etc.)
A: We need to invest in charging infrastructure, specifically electric chargers and superchargers. My climate plan calls for 125,000 new EV chargers by 2030, as well as 3,000 new super-chargers, with an emphasis on neighborhoods with a higher population of renters. This also applies to the expansion of electric car-sharing programs like BlueLA, which I helped create as leader of the California State Senate.
Q: As mayor, Eric Garcetti promised to get to 100% clean electricity for city operations by 2035 by electrifying city buildings, vehicles and public transit. Will you continue working toward this goal? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely. I’ve always believed that California should get all of its energy from clean, renewable sources — that’s why I authored and passed SB 100, making California the largest economy in the world to legally commit itself to 100% renewable energy. Transitioning Los Angeles to a completely decarbonized grid will create jobs and build the economy of the future, all while cleaning up the air we breathe.
Q: Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles. Where do you see the biggest opportunity to lower those emissions?
A: One of the first things we can do is to convert all city transportation — Metro buses, light rail, etc. — to electric. Though some city CNG (“Clean” Natural Gas) is touted as lower emissions, there is no truly “clean” natural gas. To eliminate tailpipe emissions, we need to completely electrify our transit system.
Q: What's the most important action the next mayor can take to help the city's most vulnerable residents deal with extreme heat?
A: There simply isn’t enough shade or green space in our city’s most vulnerable communities. Planting trees and caring for them is the best way to create and maintain an urban canopy that keeps our homes, sidewalks and streets cool and safe for all.
Q: What should the next mayor’s top priority be for addressing the city’s poor air quality, especially for those communities most impacted by pollution?
A: Reducing tailpipe emissions offers the best “bang for our buck” in terms of cleaning the air, but we cannot forget about the Port of Los Angeles. The communities of San Pedro, Watts, and Wilmington have long suffered under the cloud of port pollution, so we have to use our economic leverage as America’s Port to compel shippers to convert to cleaner fuels and electrify the port machinery, as much of it now runs on diesel.
Q: Climate is also affecting fires in the city and its surroundings. How would you tackle this problem?
A: One of the most basic techniques for mitigating the increased risk of fires is to better maintain our hillsides. We have to accept the reality that “fire season” is now a constant threat, so we have to prioritize hillside and open space maintenance on a year-round basis.
Q: Los Angeles Municipal Code 41.18, better known as the “anti-camping law,” bans people who are unhoused from camping on public property close to locations such as schools, parks, libraries and underpasses. Should 41.18 be kept as is, repealed, or changed (and if so, how)?
A: It is not progressive, nor humane, to leave Angelenos to live and die on the streets of our city. That’s why I’ve moved quickly to create enough shelter to house 80% of the homeless in Northeast Los Angeles. The 41.18 Municipal Code only works as-is if there are adequate housing opportunities available, which is why I’ve introduced my 25x25 plan — unanimously supported by the L.A. City Council — to build 25,000 units of housing in the next three years.
Q: Should the city be clearing encampments where people experiencing homelessness have taken up temporary residence? Why or why not?
A: Encampments are the symptom of a need for community in places where there are not enough affordable housing opportunities. That’s why as Mayor I will mandate inclusionary, affordable housing in every new development. However, until that time, and while we pursue permanent supportive housing, we need to continue to construct temporary, emergency housing like the Tiny Home Villages that we have constructed in my district. These get people in a safe environment, with a roof over their head and a door that they can lock.
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Q: I believe the primary cause of most homelessness in Los Angeles is…
A: Trying to cite one “primary” cause of homelessness over-simplifies an enormously complex problem. The factors that led Angelenos to experience homelessness are as varied as the people themselves, though there are some leading causes. 1) A severe lack of housing stock, specifically affordable housing. 2) A crumbling social safety net, with housing voucher values in the basement and no real mental health or substance abuse services. 3) A city that works for the very wealthy, while leaving the poor to fend for themselves, often unable to pay rent as costs rise. Still others find themselves financially destitute and on the streets due to medical bills or personal trauma.
Q: The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) estimates that 25% of people who are unhoused have a severe mental illness. What is your opinion on the current state of mental health support for unhoused people?
A: There is virtually no support for unhoused Angelenos who suffer from severe mental health conditions, and that needs to change. That’s why I have proposed that the City of Los Angeles develop its own Department of Public Health (to provide addiction treatment services), and our own Department of Mental Health to deal with those who need mental health services. If cities like Long Beach and Pasadena can have their own Public and Mental Health Departments, then Los Angeles should, too.
Q: Do you agree with Angelenos who say that the large number of people living outside makes the streets less safe? Why or why not?
A: Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, a public health crisis, and a public safety crisis all-in-one. Leaving tens of thousands of people to live outdoors on our streets and sidewalks is exceptionally dangerous — especially for our unhoused neighbors. In particular women, protected by nothing but a flimsy tent-zipper, are exposed to all manner of violence and sexual assault. Alternatively, we’ve seen janitors and other workers at Union Station attacked by unhoused individuals living with severe mental illnesses. Each incident further demonstrates the need to quickly provide the housing, mental health and addiction services people need to get back on their feet.
Q: Should the next mayor commit to ensuring that people who are experiencing homelessness are at the table when decisions are made on the city’s homelessness policies?
A: Yes — it is important to speak to those experiencing homelessness to see what their needs are. That being said, City leadership, from the Mayor on down, need to take responsibility for whatever path they choose going forward. It is not incumbent upon those experiencing homelessness to solve this crisis; that’s what the voters are electing the next Mayor to do.
Q: Proposition HHH is a $1.2 billion bond measure approved by voters in 2016 which supports the development of 8,000-10,000 permanent supportive housing units within the city of Los Angeles over 10 years. Has its implementation been effective?
A: No. Angelenos have been generous, reaching into their own pockets to fund housing solutions, but have yet to see their dollars make a real impact on homelessness. My proposals to cut bureaucratic backlogs and red tape will speed the development of permanent supportive housing at a much lower cost than we are currently seeing.
Q: Who should build housing for the unhoused community: the city or private developers? Why?
A: The City should be working with all builders to reach our goal of providing enough temporary and permanent housing opportunities to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors. This crisis demands an all-hands-on-deck approach; and with more people falling into homelessness every single day, we need to bring public and private partners together on projects that will bring us closer to our housing goals.
Q: LAUSD is the largest school district in the country in which residents directly elect their school board and the mayor doesn’t have direct control over that board. This means the mayor has little to no influence over education in the city of Los Angeles. Should anything about this arrangement change?
A: There is a much larger discussion to be had about this issue, but in the short term, the Mayor can play a powerful role within the LAUSD system by organizing with teachers and parents to ensure that the needs of LA students are being met. Ultimately, the Mayor does not need to run the school district to influence it — but they have to provide the leadership to affect change for our students.
Q: What role does the city play in addressing a lack of affordable child care, which is particularly acute in low-income areas?
A: As the only candidate who has put out an education plan, I have proposed changing school hours to match the hours of working parents. School days would begin slightly later in the morning, and stay open later to accommodate working families. Students would have access to facilities like the gym, track, the library, the cafeteria, and learning labs. This would take the financial burden off families who would otherwise lose income by taking hours off work to pick up their children, or pay for child care.
EQUITABLE ECONOMICS AND HOUSING
Q: I believe the biggest barrier to building more affordable housing is…
A: A lack of leadership with the courage and vision to mandate the inclusion of affordable units in new developments. Additionally, restrictive downzoning under prior city governments has reduced the available space to build affordable housing. As Mayor, I'll reverse both of these trends.
Q: Due to the city's emergency decree, rent increases are currently not allowed for tenants living in most apartments built before 1978. But before the pandemic, Los Angeles generally capped annual rent increases at 3% for apartments covered by local rent control. Should the city keep its existing rent control ordinance, eliminate it, or modify it?
A: Rent control is an essential tool to keeping people, like seniors on fixed incomes, in their homes, and I fully support it. However, I am open to looking at means-tested rent control, to make sure rent-controlled units are not occupied by those who can afford to pay market rate and are available for those who most desperately need them.
Q: Landlords also say they’ve been struggling amid rising costs, inflation over 7%, and pandemic-era restrictions such as temporary bans on rent increases and evictions. What, if anything, should the city do to help landlords?
A: Master-leasing, which allows the City to lease property from landlords and rent out units to Angelenos, is a creative way for the City to fill thousands of vacant units across the city with people who are in desperate need of housing they can afford, while supporting small landlords at the same time.
Q: What statement best reflects your position on the minimum wage of $16.04 that goes into effect on July 1, 2022?
A: It’s too low
Q: Mayor Garcetti piloted a universal basic income program. Do you support the idea of a universal basic income in Los Angeles? Why or why not?
A: Today in Los Angeles, if you’re not super-wealthy, you’re super out-of-luck. The rising cost of housing coupled with stagnating wages leaves working people struggling to make ends meet. I supported the $35 million that the Governor put into the California Comeback Plan for the [universal basic income] pilot program, and I am looking forward to reviewing some quantifiable data to see if and how this will help working Angelenos. There were some interesting findings from the Stockton pilot, and I would like to see how those translate to Los Angeles.
Q: Street safety advocates say at the current pace of improvement, it will take 200 years to fulfill Vision Zero, which was supposed to be accomplished by 2035. What’s the first step to getting Vision Zero back on track?
A: For too long, Los Angeles has prioritized convenience and safety measures for cars and other motor vehicles over pedestrians and cyclists. The first step to getting Vision Zero back on track is electing a Mayor who will make it a priority for the city. As Mayor, I’ll move fast to make sure everyone can move about the city safely and efficiently, by implementing strategies that reduce traffic deaths and prioritize pedestrian safety — including protected bike lanes and a bike network, high-visibility crosswalks, better traffic signals to improve traffic flow.
Q: Should the Los Angeles Police Department remain at its current size of 9,500 sworn officers, should it be downsized, or should it increase? Why?
A: Every Angeleno deserves to feel safe — and be safe — in their own neighborhood. We can make sure our streets, sidewalks, and homes are secure by reaching the LAPD’s currently budgeted size of 9,706 officers. Los Angeles does not need to increase the size of its police force by tens of thousands of officers, as other candidates have proposed, costing taxpayers billions of dollars at a time families are already struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
Q: The current LAPD budget of $1.76 billion represents almost 16% of the overall city budget. Should LAPD funding stay the same, increase or decrease? Why?
A: Funding for the LAPD should stay the same.
Q: Is it possible to reduce crime in the city without increasing the LAPD budget? If so, how?
A: Absolutely. There is no direct correlation between lower crime and higher numbers of officers, as noted by a number of studies. What is more important is how we use our officers. Our LAPD Reserves, for example, are an underutilized resource. Rather than having them direct traffic at the [Crypto.com Arena], I want to position them in hot spots around the City as an increased deterrent for crime. We also have a loss of 911 operators, which increases wait times for Angelenos in emergencies. I will restore the ranks of emergency operators to better serve our City.
Q: A rising number of Angelenos say that Los Angeles no longer feels safe. As mayor, how would you address their fears?
A: Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that saw its fair share of violence — so I know what that fear feels like. While crime is not at the historic highs of the '90s, any increase is unacceptable. My public safety plan takes tangible and realistic steps to quantifiably improve safety in the city. Public safety is not a simple matter of how many officers are on the street — it’s about using our resources wisely and getting to the roots of crime.
Q: Media investigations have found that LAPD officers have disproportionately stopped Black drivers, and were much more likely to search Black and Latino drivers. Do you believe racial profiling is a problem, and if so, what should be done to address it?
A: No one should ever be stopped and searched based on the color of their skin. It's time we had a real conversation about culture change in the LAPD, which starts with training practices in the Academy. As Mayor, I’ll work with the LAPD Chief to make sure every officer is trained to treat all Angelenos with dignity and respect.
Q: Would you be willing to meet with groups that have been sharply critical of the police, such as Black Lives Matter and Reform LA Jails?
A: So long as the people of Los Angeles are engaging in a healthy, constructive discourse on how to improve the quality of life for all Angelenos, our city will continue to thrive. As your City Councilmember, and as the next Mayor of L.A., my door is always open.
Q: District Attorney George Gascón came to office on a progressive agenda that includes fewer prosecutions for low-level crimes. What statement best reflects your opinion of his agenda?
A: While George Gascón and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, the recall process is a gross waste of taxpayer dollars and should be reserved only for those accused of high crimes; not abused by the very wealthy to serve their own interests.
Q: Who should be sent when a call is made about a mental health crisis?
A: It’s time we take our LAPD officers off the mental health frontlines, and back on the line of duty solving and preventing crime. As Mayor, I’ll hire mental health professionals to integrate into each of the 21 divisions of LAPD. With teams of two mental health professionals handling 8-hour shifts, we can provide better service to those in mental health crisis, and free up officers to do what they were trained for.
Q: How would you want the police chief to address the frayed relationships between the LAPD and many of the communities it serves?
A: Community policing is an effective way to build trust between law enforcement and the people they are sworn to protect, and I would work closely with the LAPD Chief to expand this approach to public safety in neighborhoods across the city. Trust between the LAPD and our communities is also an outgrowth of the culture in the police department, one of treating everyone with respect and dignity — regardless of their ZIP code or the color of their skin. This culture change starts with making sure these values are instilled in trainees from their first day in the Academy to their last day on the force.