A Conversation with Eric Garcetti, Who Led LA for Nearly a Decade

Which isn’t to say we didn’t do things as they happened. During the pandemic, I’m most proud of the city that I saw come together against the biggest threat we’ve ever faced, probably since World War II.

I covered your first State of the City address as a reporter at The Los Angeles Times. I reread that story from 2014, and it felt to me like Los Angeles was an entirely different place then. You’ve alluded to this before, but why does the city feel — for lack of a better word — like a darker place now?

We’ve lived through the trauma of a pandemic. The cresting of a housing crisis 40 years in the making. I would describe it not necessarily as darker, because I still see a lot of shades of light. I would say harder. It’s harder to live here than it’s been in my lifetime.

The California Dream was predicated on great weather, which we have; great people, which we have; great jobs, which we have; really good public schools and affordable housing. Schools are a mixed bag. Our public universities are still great, but our public schools in general are not what they were, and housing is like an F, statewide.

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse places in the world, and the leaked recording seems to have stoked ethnic and racial divisions here. What advice do you have for Mayor Bass to help create cohesion?

I’m not worried about her. She kind of gets it instinctively. She was speaker of the State Assembly, and to run legislative bodies you have to figure out everyone else’s needs. She lived in the San Fernando Valley, has Latino members of her family and is African American. I think she’s actually brilliant for that work, and for this moment.

So what’s next for you? Are you going to be the U.S. ambassador to India?

I’m optimistic, genuinely. I trust the administration to handle that. Almost two years after my nomination, not only am I still standing, but they’re like “100 percent, absolutely he’s the right person with the right qualifications.” I trust that the majority of senators will vote that way.

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