Garcetti exits LA, with a Downtown transformed by development, stung by scandal

President Biden nominates mayor as next US Ambassador to India

Photo illustration of Mayor Eric Garcetti (Getty, iStock)
Photo illustration of Mayor Eric Garcetti (Getty, iStock)

Officially tapped on Friday as the next U.S. Ambassador to India, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will leave a city whose Downtown he helped transform through development. But in recent years, it has also been the center of a major pay-to-play scandal involving developers.

The White House announced the nomination in a statement, and Garcetti, who was first elected mayor in 2013, said he will “always be an Angeleno.” His position requires confirmation from the U.S. Senate.

In the statement, President Biden praised Garcetti for overseeing the city’s massive transportation system, municipal utility and for leading the successful bid to host the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Part of Garcetti’s legacy will likely be the massive development projects that have reshaped Downtown L.A. in his eight years in office. But another part may also be the related corruption scandal that has rocked City Hall. Last year, a federal grand jury indicted former City Council member Jose Huizar on charges he milked developers for more than $1 million in payments and gifts in exchange for steering their projects through to approval. The multi-year federal corruption investigation netted other elected officials, developers and political aides. Garcetti, who was never implicated or charged with wrongdoing, faced a choice: keep or cancel the tainted projects.

His administration ended up nixing developer Shenzhen Hazens’ $700 million hotel-condo project in Downtown, after prosecutors linked the development to the racketeering charges against Huizar.

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When the pandemic took hold last year, Garcetti halted evictions and pushed for rent relief programs. The city’s eviction moratorium remains in place, and Garcetti said it would until the city’s state of emergency is lifted.

Throughout Garcetti’s two terms in office, homelessness has been a growing problem. The number of homeless people in the city before the coronavirus hit stood at around 40,000, and that number has likely grown since. Many of his administration’s solutions, including building shelters and tiny homes across the city, have faced scrutiny over delays and costs; and pushback from business leaders and residents.

In his April state of the city speech, Garcetti proposed allocating nearly $1 billion to homeless services, and expanded rent relief for tenants and landlords hit hard by the pandemic. He also pledged small business grants for 5,000 struggling owners.

The L.A. City Council must now appoint an interim mayor.