LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed support for Elon Musk and said he wants the city to keep pursing several large-scale projects with the tech tycoon’s companies despite his eyebrow-raising behavior lately.
The city of Los Angeles is in the process of evaluating several of Musk-backed projects, including a system of underground tunnels aimed at reducing surface level auto traffic through his Boring Company. Another of Musk’s companies, SpaceX, was also granted permission by the city in May to develop an 18-acre site at the Port of Los Angeles to build a rocket for manned flights to Mars.
Musk has been involved in a string of incidents the last few months which have caused the stock of his company Tesla to plunge and some to question his mental stability.
“Great guy, sometimes smokes some pot in interviews,” Garcetti joked when asked by City News Service about Musk during a news conference, referring to an incident earlier this month when Musk smoked marijuana with comedian Joe Rogan during a podcast interview.
Tesla’s shares went down as much as 9 percent the next day and closed down 6 percent.
When asked if he was concerned Musk’s recent behavior could jeopardize the city’s projects it is pursuing with his companies, Garcetti expressed support for Musk.
“I’ve been greatly impressed with what Elon has produced,” Garcetti said. “He’s always somebody whose pushing the boundary, literally in space, underground and on land — all three dimensions, as well as the virtual one.
“He’s been somebody who attracts incredible talent. I think everybody gets so fixated on his personality,” Garcetti added. “I don’t run the city by myself, and he doesn’t run his companies by himself. The people that are working around him, the people at the Boring Company are incredible engineers. It’s a big risk. Will it work? We don’t know, but I want L.A. to be the place where people do test that.”
A British diver who helped rescue a dozen boys from a flooded cave in Thailand recently sued Musk for libel and slander, alleging the Tesla chief executive defamed him by falsely calling him a pedophile on Twitter.
Musk has had other public relations problems this summer. Tesla has seen mass layoffs, the loss of several top executives and a slowdown in production. In response to a customer complaint about slow delivery of the electric cars, Musk tweeted that “we’ve gone from production hell to deliver logistics hell,” but the company was “making rapid progress.”
Musk also is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission after he announced on Twitter in August that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 a share and implied that he had the funding to do so “secured.” He later backed away from the plan.
Musk also gave an interview to the New York Times last month where he said he gets very little sleep and relies on the sleep drug Ambien. The Times also reported that he cried during an interview when discussing the personal toll running his companies takes on him, although Musk later denied crying and said his voice only cracked once.
A plan from the Boring Co. to build what is billed as a zero-emissions, high-speed, underground public transportation system from the Hollywood area to Dodger Stadium was the subject of a public hearing at the ballpark in August.
The approximately 3.6-mile Dugout Loop underground tunnel would run from Dodger Stadium to property owned by The Boring Co. near the Vermont/Sunset, Vermont/Santa Monica or Vermont/Beverly Red Line stations.
The tunnel would be entirely privately financed and not require any tax money, the company has said.
Passengers will ride in “autonomous electric skates” propelled by multiple electric motors carrying eight to 16 people. They will travel between 50 and 125 miles per hour for a trip that will take less than four minutes and cost around $1, according to the company.
The tunnel will be entirely beneath public right-of-way or land owned or leased by The Boring Co.
The Dugout Loop is similar to a city-wide series of tunnels Musk has also proposed building with private funds. A Los Angeles City Council committee approved excavation permits in April Musk is seeking for a 2.7-mile “proof of concept” tunnel on the Westside.
The Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee noted, however, that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will need to review the project, in part to ensure it does not conflict with the agency’s own plans to build a transit system along the Sepulveda corridor. The committee also added an amendment to clarify that the tunnel was not a public mass transit system and only a proof of concept — a distinction needed for the committee to also find that the project is exempt from the often-stringent requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Hawthorne-based SpaceX already leases 8.1 acres in San Pedro’s Outer Harbor, where rocket boosters and other spacecraft returning from orbital missions can be docked.
But a new facility given approval for development by the city in May on the former Southwest Marine Shipyard will be used to build the company’s Big Falcon Rocket for possible missions to Mars and to transport passengers around the world in record time. Musk predicts the rocket will be ready for a launch to Mars by 2022.
SpaceX wants to use the port so that it can ship the rocket parts by sea to potential launch sites in other parts of the country, as the vessels would be to large to transport by land.
According to a project description in a California Environmental Quality Act review, “the vessels, once complete, would be too large for delivery by road and thus must be taken via supply barge, necessitating the facility be located adjacent to the water.”