Five things to watch for in 2023 – Daily News

With seats up for grabs in 2022 for Los Angeles mayor, city attorney, controller, and half of the city council seats, Angelenos had expected it to be a hectic election year.

But things became all the more chaotic when a leaked audio, taped a year earlier in October 2021, revealed that three city councilmembers and a powerful labor leader privately discussed how they could manipulate the city’s redistricting process to benefit Latino communities – a backroom conversation that also involved racist and derogatory remarks about Blacks, gays and other groups of Angelenos.

Now, as residents look to 2023, there are no signs that the city’s political controversies and upheaval will slow down.

Below, we’ve highlighted five categories to watch in the new year, which is shaping up to be as eventful as 2022.

City of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass enjoys the Winter Solstice Sunrise Ceremony held by the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and the LADWP at the Chatsworth Nature Preserve Wednesday morning.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Homelessness and crime addressed by a new mayor

Mayor Karen Bass wasted no time tackling the city’s homelessness crisis, declaring a state of emergency her first day in office, quickly followed with an executive order to fast-track the approval and construction of affordable housing projects and shelters. A few days later she launched her “Inside Safe” initiative to move individuals off streets and into hotel and motel rooms until permanent housing is available.

The new mayor says she can make a dent in the number of people experiencing homelessness in 2023. At last count, LA’s homeless population stood at nearly 42,000.

“I know that we won’t end homelessness in a year, but I should be able to get 17,000 people off the streets. And I also should be able to get rid of – meaning getting housed – most of the encampments,” Bass predicted in an interview with host Tavis Smiley on KBLA radio in mid-November. “So my focus, especially in the first hundred days, is going to be to house a percentage of the encampments – the ones that are, you know, the most problematic.”

Bass has also signaled her intention to launch an Office of Community Safety, which won’t involve law enforcement, to address growing concerns over crime and public safety.

“If I have that up and running, and we’ve done a serious investment in crime prevention and have actually watched the (crime) numbers go down, then I will feel that that is an accomplishment,” Bass told Smiley when he asked how she would define success in her first year in office.

March 21 will be Bass’ 100th day in office.

A tenants' rights group marches to the Los Angeles mayor's mansion to demonstrate for renter's rights on May 1, 2020. Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP ImagesA tenants’ rights group marches to the Los Angeles mayor’s mansion to demonstrate for renter’s rights on May 1, 2020. Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP Images

Tenant protections end

The end of the city’s COVID-19 pandemic-related local state of emergency on Feb. 1 also means the end of Los Angeles tenant protections created in 2020 to protect renters from being evicted during the pandemic.

Starting in February, landlords will once again be able to evict tenants for unpaid rent. Tenants who did not pay their rent will have until Aug. 1 to pay off debts incurred between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. And they ‘ll have an additional year, until Feb. 1, 2024, to pay rent they failed to pay between Oct. 1, 2021, and Feb 1, 2023.

Landlords can also resume rent hikes on rent-controlled apartments – which make up three-quarters of apartment units in LA – starting in February 2024.

Council member Nithya Raman has been pushing for universal “just-cause” rules, which would require landlords to show specific reasons for evicting tenants in all rental units in LA, not just units under rent control. She also called for relocation assistance for individuals who leave due to a rent increase of more than 10%, and has proposed other tenant protections.

“I’m proud that during the pandemic LA has had some of the strongest tenant protections in the US They had demonstrable impacts on evictions and homelessness,” Raman wrote in a recent Twitter post. “But as the moratorium ends, we must do more to keep people housed — or so much of that good work will be undone.”

If the council wants to extend tenant protections that advocacy groups say have prevented new waves of homelessness, it will have to take action in January before the eviction moratorium lifts on Feb. 1.

About $4 million in cash found in September 2014 at the downtown LA office of developer Dae Yong Lee who was found guilty in June 2022 of bribing former LA City Councilman Jose Huizar, giving Huizar $500,000 in About $4 million in cash found in September 2014 at the downtown LA office of developer Dae Yong Lee who was found guilty in June 2022 of bribing former LA CityCouncilman Jose Huizar, giving Huizar $500,000 in “bags of cash.” (Photo by Department of Justice)

Jose Huizar and Mark Ridley-Thomas face corruption trials

Former District 14 Councilmember José Huizar and suspended District 10 Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas both have high-profile court trials set for early 2023.

Huizar, who previously represented downtown and Eastside communities, was dictated in 2020 for conspiracy and for accepting $1.5 million in bribes from developers. Federal authorities allege that Huizar, who once chaired the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which holds sway over whether large projects move forward, led a “pay-to-play” scheme.

Huizar’s trial is expected to start Feb. 21.

Two weeks later, Ridley-Thomas is set to go on trial. The council member was indicated in 2021 for his alleged role in a bribery and fraud scheme while serving on the LA County Board of Supervisors.

Prosecutors allege that Ridley-Thomas arranged through Marilyn Flynn, former dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work, a plan to steer county contracts to the university — if USC admitted his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, to a graduate program and provided him with a full-tuition scholarship and paid professorship. Flynn pleaded guilty in September to a federal bribery charge.

In December, the City Council agreed to reinstate Ridley-Thomas’ salary and benefits and required the city to pay him $364,573 as part of a settlement. Ridley-Thomas had sued the city and then City Controller Ron Galperin for discontinuing his pay and benefits after the council suspended him following his federal indictment.

But on Wednesday, Dec. 28, newly elected City Controller Kevin Mejia backed his predecessor, Galperin, saying, “While the Council has the legal authority to make this settlement, I believe it is important to reassert the fundamental principle that the taxpayers of Los Angeles shouldn’t have to pay someone for work they are legally prohibited from doing.”

Ridley-Thomas remains suspended from his seat on the council. His federal trial is set to begin March 7.

LA City council president Nury Martinez praises a $5 million federal investment in the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)LA City council president Nury Martinez praises a $5 million federal investment in the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project Tuesday, April 19, 2022. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Leaked audio scandal fallout

Fallout from the leaked audio involving former Council President Nury Martinez, former Councilmember Gil Cedillo and embattled Councilmember Kevin de León will continue to dominate headlines in 2023.

Residents in Council District 6 are looking ahead to a special election to replace Martinez, who resigned in October for her widely condemned comments in the leaked audio. District 6 includes the San Fernando Valley communities of Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Van Nuys.

The special election is set for April 4, with a runoff election in June if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in April. The race could cost taxpayers upwards of $7.6 million if a runoff election is needed.

In the meantime, there are continued demands by members of the public, and even some elected officials, for de León to resign, but the council member has not shown any indication that he’ll step down.

As long as he’s in office – and attends city council meetings and votes on city issues – protesters have vowed to continue the ruckus during council meetings that began in October. Their loud disruptions have made it challenging, if not impossible, for the meetings to proceed in an orderly fashion, often forcing the council president to eject disruptive protesters or call a recess.

It appears the only way de León can be forced out of office is via a recall by voters in his Eastside district. Some residents in his district are vocal in arguing that de Leon’s constituents — and not activists from the outside — should decide his fate. His working-class district is 60% Latino and roughly 15% Asian, with a household income of just $49,212. It includes Downtown LA, Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and Northeast LA

A recall effort is underway, though it remains to be seen if organizers can gather enough valid signatures from registered voters in District 14 — 20,437 voters’ signatures are needed — to place the recall question on the 2023 ballot. The signatures must be collected by March 31.

P-22 in 2014, after the mountain lion moved in under a Los Angeles home, and despite wildlife workers using a prod and firing tennis balls and bean bags at him, was unwilling to move.  (National Park Service via AP, File)P-22 in 2014, after the mountain lion moved in under a Los Angeles home, and despite wildlife workers using a prod and firing tennis balls and bean bags at him, was unwilling to move. (National Park Service via AP, File)

Environmental issues: from oil drilling, to banning Styrofoam, to saving wildlife habitat

The City Council is moving forward on several environmental issues, including a 20-year phase out of oil drilling within the city.

An ordinance the council passed in December prohibits new oil and gas extraction and orders all existing operations to stop within 20 years. Council President Paul Krekorian said the vote was possibly “the most important step towards environmental justice” that the council had taken in recent memory.

Working-class Angelenos and communities of color are disproportionately affected by oil drilling, with more than half a million LA County residents living within a half-mile of an active oil well, those who support the drilling ban say.

Meanwhile, an ordinance banning the sale and distribution of expanded polystyrene products, commonly known as Styrofoam, by businesses with more than 26 employees will go into effect in April. (The ban will extend further and apply to smaller businesses in April 2024.)

Styrofoam products aren’t biodegradable, and their main component, styrene, is considered a possible human carcinogen. Chemicals can also leach into food stored in Styrofoam containers, and such products could end up in open spaces, rivers and oceans.

And while not a done deal, a controversial ordinance likely to come before the City Council in the new year would create a wildlife district which proponents say aims to strike a balance between real estate development and wildlife in the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains between Griffith Park and the 405 freeway.

Specifically, it aims to reduce the impact of residential development on wildlife habitat, trees and waterways important for big cats and other species, by creating new restrictions and regulations on residential development.

Opponents worry the ordinance could negatively impact their property values ​​or result in more wildlife in the area, which they say could be dangerous for humans.

The city’s planning commission has approved the ordinance, but because it contains minor amendments, the document must be reviewed by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee – likely in January – before it’s sent to the full council for a vote.

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