State housing official will lead Bass' homelessness efforts

Mayor Karen Bass' homelessness czar, Mercedes Márquez, will leave her high-profile post next month, with state housing official Lourdes Castro Ramírez set to succeed her, the mayor's office announced Monday. Márquez, a former local and federal housing official, was one of Bass' first hires last year. She has held one of the more visible roles in an administration that's been predominantly focused on the city's homelessness crisis. Márquez was expected to step down before the end of the year, and the mayor's office described Castro Ramírez's appointment as "a planned transition due to federal retiree rules" in a news release Monday. Castro Ramírez will start her tenure as the city's chief housing and homelessness officer on Nov. 6, the same day Márquez steps down, according to the mayor's office. Márquez will remain a senior advisor to the administration. Bass praised her "tireless work and dedication" in a statement. Known for her tough management style, Márquez brought deep knowledge of both City Hall and federal agencies, having previously run the city's housing department and twice served in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “We have led unprecedented efforts through our Inside Safe initiative, and have truly locked arms with every level of government to bring the Los Angeles homelessness crisis the attention it deserves in order to save lives every single day," Márquez said Monday. "I feel lucky to have a successor like Lourdes Castro Ramírez, someone with the experience and knowledge required, and someone I have had a relationship with for nearly 20 years." Castro Ramírez currently leads the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which is responsible for overseeing the state's housing departments. The agency's far-reaching portfolio includes state cannabis and alcohol licensing departments, the California Horse Racing Board and state departments dedicated to civil rights and consumer protection. Castro Ramírez also serves on the California Strategic Growth Council, the California Housing Finance Agency Board and the Governor’s Military Council, and she co-chairs the California Interagency Council on Homelessness. She has been based in Sacramento but will "be working in person and living in the [Los Angeles] area" when she joins the mayor's office, Bass spokesperson Gabby Maarse said. "I am honored to join in Mayor Bass’ efforts to continue this work, bringing my experience and passion for urgent, collaborative and transformative solutions to Los Angeles, the place that welcomed my family when we immigrated from Mexico, and the place where I found my calling and honed my community planning, housing and leadership skills," Castro Ramírez said. Before the state Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, Castro Ramírez led HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing and the San Antonio Housing Authority. She also spent a decade with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles and led HACLA's Section 8 program for several years.