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One-on-One with Karen Bass

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By Kathleen Sterling

Valley News Group sat down with Karen Bass 11 days into her tenure as Los Angeles’ new Mayor. We congratulated her on her historic achievement – the first woman and first Black woman to hold the position, then got down to brass tacks about what that means for the Valley.

VNG:What are your plans for the San Fernando Valley with Inside Safe? (Bass’ program to get people living in tents into motel and hotel rooms.) What is the roll out for the valley?

Bass: I don’t have an overall city plan yet. We’ve tried it for a few days and have been successful. We are starting in Councilmember Nithya Ramen’s district and the Van Nuys BID District – the area around Art’s Deli. Then we will work with Bob  Blumenfield. We’re working in tandem with all the councilpeople. 

VNG: LAPD was seen cleaning out a homeless camp in the east valley this week. Is that part of Inside Safe? 

Bass: There are clean outs happening all around the city – but they are basically just power-washing the streets and the people go right back. We want them to get off the street and not go back on.

VNG: A lot of the problem as you know is not housing, but mental health and drug use. Governor Newsom instituted the CARE Doctrine in September, where families, first responders and others can refer individuals  to mental health institutions. It’s working in Orange, San Diego and San Francisco – but not L.A. We have the 5150 option but that’s just a three-day hold.

Bass: As a former health care worker, I can’t watch people suffer. I’m a big believer in not letting people die on the street who are mentally ill. I talked to the governor just yesterday  about the CARE Program, but it’s not finalized yet. My only concern about CARE is that it’s a great concept but where will they be housed?

But let’s get back to substance abuse. I asked (federal Department of Health and Human Services) Secretary Becerra to send the substance abuse agency to Los Angeles in January. We need to beef up our treatment infrastructure. The Valley is best served now by the Tarzana Treatment Center, but 30-60-90 day programs are not enough time for someone addicted to get sober. We need more sober living homes. When someone gets sober then we need a place to send them.

VNG: The next move is to build housing? There is a lot of controversy there as HHH money was spent to build apartments that cost $500,000 each – up to $800,000. Former City Controller Ron Galperin says since February only 1,200 units have been built. That’s nowhere near your goal of 17,000.

Bass: We had Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez (California Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency) down to Los Angeles with her team to talk about housing and how we can work together.