When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office he pledged to be the city's first "high tech mayor," but did President Joe Biden's pick for the next ambassador to India make good on that?
Biden officially named Garcetti as his pick to the ambassadorship last week, after months of speculation. If confirmed by the Senate, the mayor who oversaw an ever worsening homeless crisis and lured the Olympics back to Los Angeles will cut short his term ending in December 2022.
Paul Bricault, who co-founded and is the managing director of venture capital firm Amplify.LA, said Garcetti was the city's most engaged mayor on tech in at least the last 25 years.
"He used his bully pulpit frequently to promote L.A. as a tech hub and he made himself widely available to drive interest in L.A. tech," Bricault, who sits on Garcetti's tech innovation council, said.
But did this engagement produce results or was Los Angeles ripe for an explosion of the tech sector on its own?
Bricault said it's almost impossible to measure, but he said the mayor's proselytization of tech helped.
Elected in 2013, Garcetti took the helm before creator houses emerged in the Hollywood Hills and the Uber-fueled gig economy roiled the state. Once confined to "Silicon Beach," the tech industry has erupted throughout the region during his tenure.
Silicon Valley behemoths like Google, Apple, Facebook and Netflix have opened offices in L.A. in addition to homegrown giants like SpaceX and Snap Inc.
Garcetti called it a "once-in-a-lifetime moment" for this global tech capital. In some ways, it is true the forces that have shaped Los Angeles over his tenure have also reshaped the world.
And he hasn't been shy injecting himself in the industry and pushing for public-private partnerships such as Urban Movement Lab, a transportation accelerator that's encouraged the development of delivery robots. Amid a furor in Hollywood over the lack of diversity, last year he created "L.A. Collab" with Eva Longoria to push for more Latinos in the industry.
But part of the journey has been a lot like those electric scooters that dot street corners from Venice to Eagle Rock — loved by many, but questioned by others who've seen Garcetti's grand vision sometimes careen out of control.
At times, Garcetti has faced backlash from residents who are not ready for some of the innovations he embraced and the City Council has been forced to respond to disgruntled constituents by enacting regulations to tamp down those technologies.
And civic problems that have plagued Garcetti's tenure like the homelessness and housing affordability crises have interfered with the tech industry from thriving, observers say.
"The only failure I would say that the political leadership has made in L.A. is really making a truly affordable city to make sure you have talent that want to move here and to really flourish," said Taj Eldridge, who used to lead investment at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and now has launched his own venture capital fund. "We should have learned from what's happening in San Francisco with a lot of displacement of not only just employees, but the support staff for employees."
Top talent graduating from UCLA and USC may rethink their plans to stay and work by the beach in sunny Los Angeles because the visibility of homelessness has grown beyond Skid Row in recent years, Eldridge said. And many of those tech companies and VC funds are attracted to L.A. because of the elite universities in the region, not necessarily because of what the mayor has done, he said.
Garcetti championed private efforts like L.A. Tech Talent Pipeline, which brings together the public and private sectors to expand training and job opportunities for future tech workers as well as PledgeLA, an effort to encourage diversity in the tech industry.
Open Data, Scooters and the Shared Economy
Less than one year after Garcetti took office, he installed the city's first chief innovation technology officer to implement "new tools and technologies" within City Hall and also to work with the city's tech leaders to "deploy innovative technology and promote local job creation."
A self-described, "amateur coder," Garcetti said he would publish data like city employee payroll records to make the bureaucracy of City Hall more transparent. But his chief data officer Abhi Nemani left a year after the city launched its open data portal in 2014. Garcetti's office bragged that it included more than 100 data sets, and although the cache of data has grown, some of it is outdated or incomplete.
Worse, said Dana Chinn, a lecturer at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the data sets weren't helpful.
"It was like the data sets that were chosen to be on the portal were the most user friendly as opposed to the ones that were really the ones that we needed to attack social issues," said Chinn, who researched open data in Los Angeles County. "Nobody was paying attention for the quality of data, as to whether or not we were getting the data sets that we really needed."
And she said Los Angeles has struggled to engage the tech community in ways that New York was able to.
Garcetti faced similar problems when he embraced electric scooters. Critics decried the city for shortsightedness.
At first the zippy scooters were hailed, but soon they flooded city streets largely concentrated on the Westside. Residents complained users of the wheeled vehicles were speeding, collided with pedestrians or were parked in front of doorways or in the middle of sidewalks.
It took months to come up with regulations as residents' frustration grew.
Garcetti said "people have loved" the scooters, but acknowledged safety concerns.
Garcetti faced an even more critical hurdle in the sharing economy.
Before short-term rentals were legalized, the Garcetti administration negotiated a deal so that homeowners who rented out their residences on platforms like Airbnb would pay a 14% tourist tax to the city. It was estimated in 2017 the rentals would generate $37 million annually.
But outrage ensued in many residential neighborhoods as short-term rentals proliferated.
And after three years of debate, city councilmembers heeded those constituents' calls and approved regulations that limited hosts to renting out their homes to 120 days a year. Amid pressure, Garcetti ultimately supported the new rules, even though Airbnb said the city would lose out on millions of dollars.
Garcetti's bullishness on tech sometimes conflicted with the conciliatory tone that the mayor often took.
"Sometimes he was willing to say, 'Okay be upset with me,' like Airbnb, and sometimes there were moments where it looked like he didn't want to make the tough calls," said Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.
The Airbnb battle was an example of how L.A.'s weak mayor system stymied Garcetti's power and forced him to rely on the bully pulpit, she said. He lured in businesses with promises, but ultimately it was the City Council that set rules and regulations that could undermine those relationships.
Judith Goldman, co-founder of Keep Neighborhoods First, which is part of a broader coalition working to track enforcement of the city's home sharing ordinance, accused Garcetti of working behind the scenes to entice Airbnbs and others into L.A. to generate tourism dollars.
"I think he encouraged it and I think he was hypocritical because he knew that we were trying to regulate it and he was obstructive in the regulation and he has been obstructive in the enforcement," she said.
Garcetti, who co-founded the Climate Mayors, has promoted himself as an environmental steward. Shortly after taking office he appointed Matt Petersen to a new post as chief sustainability officer.
And in 2019, he introduced a "Green New Deal'" that would make the city's power supply 100% renewable by 2050. But it was met with criticism by activists who said it didn't go far enough.
A year later, he updated the plan to accelerate the city's goals.
With L.A.'s legendary traffic and pollution generated by gas-powered vehicles, Garcetti has sought ways to reduce emissions.
The city made history last year when it purchased 155 electric buses last year, making it the largest-ever single order for electric buses in the U.S. and Garcetti pledged to make L.A.'s bus fleet entirely emissions-free in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.
"Mayor Garcetti really prioritized inviting the world to deploy their innovations to Los Angeles and I think he lived up to that," said Petersen, who now leads LACI.
Last year Garcetti announced the formation of a new Transportation Technology Innovation Zone, under the auspices of Urban Movement Lab, at the Warner Center in the West San Fernando Valley. Described as a testing ground for new mobility technology, it is helping develop robots and drones that will deliver food and other goods across the region.
But already, there are questions about the technology taking jobs from people and what it will mean for robots to flood communities.
Still Valley Industry Commerce Association President Stuart Waldman gives Garcetti credit for carving out tech as an issue.
"I can think of a lot of failures but not in the context of the tech industry," he said. "When the bar is so low because of the previous administrations, just doing anything would be considered movement and he had quite a few successes."
Rachel Uranga and Francesca Billington contributed to this story.
This story has been updated to correctTaj Eldridge's former role at LACI.
- LA Has Become a Magnet for EV Charging Startups. Biden's Plan ... ›
- Remote Work for Los Angeles City Workers May Be Permanent - dot ... ›
- PledgeLA Releases Report on Diversity in Los Angeles Tech - dot.LA ›
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Startups and technology - dot.LA ›
- Black and Latinx Founders, Investors Are Missing in LA Tech - dot.LA ›
- Tech Policy Storylines in 2022 - dot.LA ›
Join us this Thursday, April 30 at 11:00 am PST for the kick-off of dot.LA Convenes, a speaker series devoted to empowering women in tech in partnership with PledgeLA.
With so many challenges unique to women in this new work-from-home reality, we seek to foster an honest dialogue around these obstacles and discuss specific strategies to combat them.
Women in Tech: Working From Home Challenges & Strategies to Succeed www.youtube.com
About the Speakers
Morgan DeBaun is the CEO and Founder of Blavity Inc.
Morgan DeBaun, CEO / Founder of Blavity Inc.
Blavity Inc. is the leading news company and media brand for Black millennials and Gen Z in the U.S. reaching over 30M millennials a month, surpassing the digital traffic of many legacy black media brands. Since launching Blavity in 2014, the brand has quickly grown to be a strong voice for viral culture, social commentary and a platform for young creators to showcase their work.
Starting her career in Silicon Valley, Morgan graduated with an B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Morgan has been widely quoted as an innovator and media entrepreneur in top tier consumer and business publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, NPR, TechCrunch and many more.
In addition to leading Blavity Inc., Morgan angel invests and advises entrepreneurs on how to launch their ideas, innovate and grow their businesses through her WorkSmart Program.
Joanna McFarland, CEO, President and Co-Founder of HopSkipDrive
Joanna McFarland, CEO, President and Co-Founder of HopSkipDrive
Joanna McFarland is the CEO and Cofounder of HopSkipDrive, the innovator in youth transportation. HopSkipDrive is a ride service that helps families and schools get kids where they need to go safely and dependably with a network of more than 7,000 highly vetted CareDrivers. HopSkipDrive currently serves 18 markets in 8 states plus Washington DC, and works with over 200 schools and districts as well as thousands of families every day. Before co-founding HopSkipDrive in 2014, Joanna spent 15 years in product management, building and scaling businesses for top technology, including WeddingChannel, Green Dot, and YP.com. In addition, Joanna spent the first part of her career in investment banking and private equity. Joanna has an MBA from Stanford University and a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her two boys.
Beatriz Acevedo is the president of Acevedo Foundation and the co-founder of L.A. Collab SUMA Wealth.
Beatriz Acevedo, President, Acevedo Foundation; Co-founder, LA Collab; Co-founder, SUMA Wealth
Beatriz Acevedo is a leading inspirational voice and Latina entrepreneur in the United States. She has dedicated her career to empower and open doors for the next generation of Latinx leaders.
Beatriz started her career in media at a young age, first on radio and later on television. Her work earned her three Emmy's, one MTV music award, and a media correspondent award, among many others.
Most recently, she became a tech media entrepreneur as the Co-founder and President of mitú, the leading digital media brand for young Latinos in the U.S. The mentorship initiatives that she created through her Accelerator Program, have also provided invaluable access to young Latino storytellers.
Beatriz is a passionate and sought after speaker who enjoys discussions around diversity as good business, female leadership, and the economic impact of Latinos in America. She sits on numerous boards and is an advisor on Mayor Eric Garcetti's tech council as well as on Annenberg's foundation tech initiative, PledgeLA. She recently co-founded LA Collab, a Hollywood initiative to double Latino representation in Hollywood in front and behind the camera by 2030.
Beatriz is the President of her family's foundation "Fundación Acevedo." For the past 30 years, the Foundation has provided scholarships for students who lack the financial means to pursue higher education.
- Morgan DeBaun, CEO / Founder of Blavity Inc. - dot.LA ›
- women-in-tech - dot.LA ›
- Women in Tech: Working From Home Challenges and Strategies to ... ›
- Coronavirus Updates: Garcetti Doubles Down on Work From Home ... ›
- Is Working remotely Here to Stay And Is It For Everyone? - dot.LA ›
- Nearly Half of Employees Want to Continue to Work From Home - dot.LA ›
- How Women Can Build Self-Confidence in a Virtual World - dot.LA ›
- How Women Can Build Self-Confidence in a Virtual World - dot.LA ›
- Blavity CEO Morgan DeBraun Calls for Action After George Floyd Death - dot.LA ›
- How to Build Company Culture In a Work From Home World - dot.LA ›
- Column: Adjusting to the New Normal When Office Life Resumes - dot.LA ›
- Column: Adjusting to the New Normal When Office Life Resumes ›
- Ridesharing App HopSkipDrive Announces Layoffs - dot.LA ›
- Startups Are Getting Used to Remote Work. Their Funders Are Not. - dot.LA ›
- Suma Wealth Aims to Provide US Latinos Financial Tools - dot.LA ›