COMMUNITY REPORT: L.A. is strong — and we’re fighting to make it stronger

Each spring we come together to assess the state of Los Angeles — to measure our progress, ask the public to hold us accountable and outline the challenges in the year ahead.

And yes, we can begin to gauge our city’s well-being by the more than 170,000 jobs we’ve created over the last four years, the tourism and air travel records we’re breaking and the billions of dollars of investment we’re attracting — but the real measure of our success is the lives of everyday Angelenos.

Are you feeling the progress? Are your wages going up? Do you have an affordable place to live?

When I think of the state of our city, I think of people like Imli and Nazrul Islam.

Imli works as a teacher in Koreatown. Her husband also works for the Los Angeles Unified School District, at an elementary school cafeteria. They were raising their three children in a cramped one-bedroom apartment in the center of the city. For three years, Imli and Nazrul scoured the city for a better option, but came up empty-handed.

Then they found Selma Community Housing — a project that the city helped fund in partnership with LAUSD, and that I worked on as a member of the City Council. Selma recently opened 66 affordable housing units in the heart of Hollywood, and the Islams are some of its newest tenants.

Today, they can afford their rent. The family is enjoying the resurgent Hollywood that surrounds them — instead of being priced out of it.

But here’s the thing: these stories are too rare.

While the state of our city is undeniably strong — with an unemployment rate cut in half, a minimum wage on the rise to $15 an hour and the passage of the largest transportation program in the history of the nation — we still have big challenges to take on in the year ahead. We need to house the homeless, make rent more affordable, create new jobs and keep our streets safe.

The good news is that we have the resources, the ideas, and the will to take on these problems.

That is because, through two elections in November and March, we campaigned for once-in-a-generation change — and you voted for it.

You invested billions of dollars to house the homeless through Measure H and Proposition HHH. You approved $120 billion to expand our transportation system and ease congestion on our clogged streets. You voted in favor of a city with more parks and better community colleges.

In short: Last year, we campaigned for historic investments and won. Now, armed with the people of L.A. behind us, and new resources to propel us, it’s time to deliver historic change.

Here’s how we’re going to make it happen:

This year, my budget invests $176 million to house the unsheltered, connect them with services and keep our communities safe and clean. That investment is going to help us begin the process of more than tripling the number of permanent supportive housing units built in this city. We have housed 24,000 Angelenos since 2014, and in the years ahead we are going to house tens of thousands more.

But anyone who writes a rent check knows that our housing crisis isn’t limited to those who live on our streets. The rent in this city is just too high. More than 430,000 low-income families in Los Angeles are worried about keeping a roof over their heads.

They either spend more than half their income on rent, or live in severely overcrowded, second-rate housing. We are working to change that.

We’ve made it easier to build by cutting red tape to put affordable housing projects at the front of the line. With state cap-and-trade dollars, we’ve built thousands of new units.

Last year, I strengthened our rent stabilization ordinance to protect Angelenos from illegal rent increases and evictions. And together, these efforts have helped put nearly 54,000 new housing units in our city’s pipeline — more than halfway to my goal of 100,000.

And this year I am fighting for a new affordable housing program — a linkage fee on developers that would generate $100 million a year in local dollars that can be leveraged for another $300 million. Combined with HHH, this will allow us to more than double affordable housing production in Los Angeles. When we pass this, I know we can make affordable housing more accessible to people in every corner of the city.

However, I don’t just want our residents to be able to afford a home, I want that home to be on a safe block. I am proud to say that crime has leveled off since last summer, and all violent crime is again going in the right direction — down.

In the year ahead, I’m going to keep pushing. That starts with getting more guns off the streets and more cops on them.

I have set a new goal: to rid our communities of 20,000 guns in the next five years. This year, we’ll expand our successful gun buyback program and create a Crime Gun Intelligence Center in South Los Angeles, so that we can coordinate local and federal resources in communities hardest hit by violence. And this summer, you will begin to see LAPD officers on our trains and buses,and at the stations. That’s because we fought for, and won, a new contract that will help put an average of 150 more officers into our communities each day.

Finally, I want to create an economy where no one is left behind — one where we aren’t just creating new jobs, we’re creating middle-class jobs. Through Measure M, we will form a sustainable pipeline into the middle class for decades to come — creating 465,000 jobs for people who are ready to build L.A.’s future. These opportunities will allow an entire generation of construction workers, and advanced manufacturers to raise families, and they’ll also be a source of second chances for people like Patricia Allen.

Years ago, desperate for money to support her child, she committed a crime and served her time. A criminal record made finding work even harder. But Patricia didn’t give up trying, and this city didn’t give up on her. Today, she is a union construction worker, building the Crenshaw/LAX rail line, just blocks from where she lives in South L.A.

This year, Los Angeles is on track to link 1,000 formerly incarcerated Angelenos like Patricia to jobs. And in the years ahead, with the help of local hiring programs like Measure M, we are going to connect thousands more.

We are doing all of these things because the state of our city is only as strong as the people who need us most. I am humbled and grateful that you have given me another term as your mayor — and I will keep waking up every day determined to make life a little bit better for those who are vulnerable, Angelenos who are raising families here and everyone who calls our city home.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.

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