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9 takeaways from Mayor Garcetti’s AMA on Reddit

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You’ve probably been seeing a lot of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti lately, whether he’s styling a cloth mask or delivering some sobering but much-appreciated truth about the coronavirus pandemic and actions the city is taking.

Now, he’s popping up on your Reddit front page, too. As he’s done a number of times before, Garcetti and his team took to the L.A. subreddit on Monday morning to answer questions from Angelenos about testing, rent, open streets and more. Here are the nine biggest takeaways.

L.A.’s Safer at Home order could likely be extended beyond April—but some people might be able to return to normal life sooner than others.

“I expect this to be two months minimum, but look at Wuhan, where with a different political system it lasted nearly three months,” Garcetti wrote. “It is important to remember, though, that we enacted our Safer at Home earlier than other cities that have been hard hit… so we will have to wait and see.” He noted how history shows that the consequences of trying to declare victory too early can be dire,  but he does reference a conversation with the mayor of Milan, who “said that they will return some stronger, younger people (including those who might have already had Covid-19) to work and be lifted from their order, while others who are older and/or more vulnerable will have to wait longer. I could see that being the advice given here, too.”

That said, the return to normal life won’t be like a light switch, and it’s still months off.

“There is no accepted or agreed upon tipping point right now, just as there wasn’t one for the two main orders that comprise Safer at Home,” Garcetti said, citing a mix of instinct, research and medical advice. “As for opening things up, my instinct is to go slow or to go smart. Slow given that many places that declare victory early get slammed with a second short-term wave. Smart meaning that there are approaches that might allow us to have ‘immunity passports’ or some evidence through antibody tests that we are good to go to work and stay at work, though we’d want to be sure that folks can’t spread it even if they’ve had it. Certainly when we get to zero deaths (which come later then the cases), we should be at a place where we are able to come out of this situation. My gut is that we will do it before zero deaths (since many people will continue to hang on for a long time before succumbing), but we are a way off (months, not weeks) from that kind of a statistic.”

We probably won’t see any car-free, open streets initiatives.

“I know it’s really tough to just walk around the block or Zoom a workout with friends, but we don’t want people moving much out of their neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Even though people can try to do that as safely as possible, public health recommends that neighborhoods stay put so that we don’t have more and more spread.”

He’s in favor of a rent and mortgage moratorium, but doesn’t think the city alone has the power to tackle it.

Garcetti said that mortgage and rent forgiveness could only occur with the cooperation the local, state and federal governments. The city on its own simply doesn’t have the power to mandate it. “Without all three levels working together, it is a mess,” he said. “If the city were to, we would be liable for all of the rents, and according to back of napkin calculations, we wouldn’t have the cash flow to pay for even two weeks of everyone’s rent, and in about three months the city government would have no money and be bankrupt (no fire department, no 911, no power, no water, etc.).” Therefore, Garcetti said he and mayors around the country are asking Congress for another economic stimulus to give assistance to renters and landlords.

If you think you’re being wrongfully evicted, you can file a complaint with the city.

Given the intricacies of it, we’ll jump straight to Garcetti’s words on evictions: “If you receive an eviction notice that you suspect violates the city law—such as a “notice to pay rent or quit,” which is the first step in the legal process for evictions—file a complaint with the city of Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCID), which is handling eviction investigations. According to HCID, in the meantime, and before the notice expires, tenants should also let their landlords know the reason why they haven’t paid. (The notice will say the number of days a tenant has to act.) Tenant advocates typically advise tenants to conduct this type of important communication with their landlord in writing, but tenants do NOT have to provide any documentation about their economic or health reasons they are unable to pay rent. When a complaint has been filed, it will be assigned to an HCID inspector. The inspector will review the documentation the tenant has to prove that their non-payment is related to COVID-19. If everything is in order and the proof is sufficient, the housing inspector will send the landlord a letter requesting the cancellation of the notice and alert them about the repayment period.”

He’d like to open up testing to people under 65 years old—but thinks we’re a ways off from that.

“We need testing for as many people as possible,” Garcetti wrote, while also noting the challenges of providing tests in a county of 10 million people and a city of four million. “We need to see who may be a carrier but asymptomatic, though we are a long way off from that.” But Garcetti did note the significant uptick in testing tens of thousands of people at an increasing number of drive-through locations—accomplished almost entirely through local efforts. “Hope to have more accelerated help with Governor Newsom’s announcement but no federal help at all so far,” he noted.

Update: L.A. has now in fact launched testing for more people in the county, limited to those with symptoms or people who have been prevented from working because of contact with someone who has been infected. Find out more here.

The new portable toilets on Skid Row are here to stay.

“I hope we can build better than just Porta-Potties, but in the meantime they are there to stay,” he wrote. Garcetti detailed the year-and-a-half-long effort to work with Skid Row residents to listen to their needs for bathrooms, laundry, storage and showers—including the 24-hour ReFresh Spot and the introduction of more bathrooms and hand sanitation stations. 

We should expect a second wave of infections—but the city can prepare for it.

“This means in the summer, getting our hospitals in shape for a second wave; preparing a reserve of tests; looking at antibody testing to keep some more people working instead of staying at home; having the economic assistance at the national level to keep businesses going and paying their employees, and assistance for self-employed, under and unemployed, and immigrants; and having better/quicker/more extensive tools to chase down those that are positive and immediately quarantine them and their contacts,” Garcetti wrote.

Garcetti knows we’ve been asked to give up a lot of what we love about life in L.A., but he’s tried to apply some balance to his policy decisions.

“To me, my years of dealing with other emergencies and crises… bring me back to a pretty central idea: Everything can be rebuilt—jobs, homes, businesses (and I don’t pretend it is quick or easy)—but a life cannot be. I went pretty fast and pretty severe on this one and continue to so that we can, a year or two from now, know that thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. History shows us that leadership by cities during pandemics requires speed, discipline, and encouragement. I'm trying to apply all three.” 

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