LOS ANGELES — In front of thousands of people packed into a downtown auditorium on Sunday, Karen Bass was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris as Los Angeles’s 43rd mayor — and the first female mayor of the nation’s second-biggest city.
When Bass finished taking her oath of office, Harris said “madame mayor,” drawing loud cheers from the audience in the Microsoft Theater as people leaped to their feet. “Making history with each of you today is a monumental moment in my life and in Los Angeles,” Bass said during her inaugural address.
The ceremony, which included performances by Stevie Wonder and the poet Amanda Gorman, celebrated Bass’s ascension. A former Democratic congresswoman who was on the shortlist to be Joseph R. Biden’s 2020 running mate, Bass won a hard-fought race last month against Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer.
A wave of women are taking office in the Los Angeles region: The city elected its first female city attorney and a record number of women will sit on the Los Angeles City Council. Bass noted that all five members of the Los Angeles County supervisors, a board once known as the “five little kings,” are now women.
Before the event began, Tamaqua Jackson, 48, endured a drizzly morning as she waited to enter her first mayoral inauguration, in the city in which she’s lived her entire life. Wrapped in a scarf and wearing a beret, she told me that the vice president’s appearance added to the appeal of attending the event in person. Harris, the first female vice president, flew to Los Angeles for the occasion with a planeload of Democrats.
“That’s another high for me: To actually see two people I’ve voted for in person is awesome,” said Jackson, who works as a commercial driver and lives in Baldwin Hills. “Go women!”
But the ceremony’s celebratory tone was undercut by the clear obstacles Bass will face as she leads Los Angeles through a major leadership turnover. She will confront a city exhausted by mounting crime, a pandemic, homelessness and ethnic divisions. On Friday, an altercation involving Councilman Kevin de León as well as a City Hall protest dashed hopes that the tensions that erupted this year had diminished.
In her inaugural address, Bass focused primarily on the 40,000 people in the city who sleep on the streets each night. She called on communities to welcome more housing in their neighborhoods, and she said that her first act as mayor on Monday would be to declare a state of emergency on homelessness.
“If we are going to bring Angelenos inside and move our city in a new direction,” Bass said, “we must have a single strategy to unite our city and county and engage the state, the federal government, the private sector and every other stakeholder.”
The new mayor’s emphasis on homelessness addressed the concerns of attendees I spoke to at the event. Earle Charles, a professor at California Lutheran University, told me he trusted Bass to carry through on her campaign promises.
“One of the first things, of course, is to take care of the homeless situation,” Charles, 69, who lives in Granada Hills, said. “To me, that’s the primary issue.”
Bertha Scott-Smith, 54, said she felt as though homelessness had noticeably worsened in Los Angeles in recent years, but Bass’s predecessor, Eric Garcetti, had not had the easiest time making real progress.
“I hope she doesn’t meet that same pushback,” Scott-Smith, who lives in Leimert Park, said.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Annie Ayala Jelnick, who lives in Corona Del Mar:
“I was born in a beach town in California, 80 years ago before this area of Orange County became trendy and expensive.
I have traveled throughout California, and while Yosemite is one of my favorites and a not-to-be-missed place for its unique beauty and peacefulness, my ultimate don’t-miss place is Mono Lake on the eastern side of the Sierras. It is amazing and beautiful in an untypical way.
In fact, just driving U.S. Highway 395 on the eastern side of the Sierras is its own experience. I love the beach and could never live anyplace else, but this is a whole different California than most people know about.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
We’re writing about how Californians celebrate the holidays. Do you relax by the beach, visit Disneyland or make tamales with your family? Maybe you always travel to a special spot within the Golden State?
Email us at CAtoday@nytimes.com with your California holiday traditions and memories. Please include your name and the city where you live.
We may include your email response in an upcoming newsletter or in print. By emailing us a response, you agree that you have read, understand and accept the Reader Submission Terms in relation to all of the content and other information you send to us (“Your Content”). If you do not accept these terms, do not submit any content.
And before you go, some good news
In a handwritten letter dated Nov. 14, a girl identified only as Madeline wrote to Los Angeles County with an unusual request: She wanted to know whether she could look after a unicorn at home, should she succeed in corralling one.
“I would like your approval if I can have a unicorn in my backyard if I can find one,” Madeline, 6, wrote. “Please send me a letter in response.”
On Nov. 30, Marcia Mayeda, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, wrote back. Mayeda said she had approved a unicorn license for Madeline and listed the county’s five conditions for unicorn licensing.
Unicorn owners must feed their unicorn watermelon, “one of its favorite treats,” once a week, she said, and polish the unicorn’s horn “at least once a month with a soft cloth.”
In addition to the dietary and grooming requirements, the unicorn must have “regular access to sunlight, moonbeams and rainbows.” The unicorn must also be cared for in compliance with Title 10 of the Los Angeles County Code, which governs animal control and health, she said.
The Animal Care and Control Department also issued Madeline a heart-shaped unicorn license tag and gave her a stuffed unicorn to look after while she searches for a unicorn of her own, noting that the creatures “are indeed very rare to find.”
Read more from The New York Times.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia and Steven Moity contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.