As mayor, Hahn appointed Bill Bratton, the former NYPD commissioner, as police chief of Los Angeles and chose not to renew Bernard Parks' second term as chief. Bratton's appointment is widely seen as leading to the sharp declines in Los Angeles' crime rate and improved morale in the department. Hahn also led the successful campaign to defeat secession in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and San Pedro, thereby keeping Los Angeles intact. While he is noted primarily for these two accomplishments, they also helped lead to his unsuccessful re-election bid; African Americans upset at Parks' ousting and San Fernando Valley residents disappointed with the secession verdict had been the two constituencies that had propelled him to victory in 2001.
Hahn is the brother of Los Angeles county supervisor and former congresswoman, Janice Hahn, the nephew of former California State assemblyman and Los Angeles city councilman Gordon Hahn; and the son of former Los Angeles city councilman and long-time Los Angeles county supervisor, Kenneth Hahn.
Hahn was born on July 3, 1950 in Los Angeles, the son of Ramona (Fox) and Kenneth Hahn, and was raised in the Morningside Park district of Inglewood near South Los Angeles. Hahn attended Manchester Avenue Elementary School, Daniel Freeman Elementary School, Horace Mann Junior High School, and Los Angeles Lutheran Middle & Senior High School.
He graduated from the Los Angeles campus of Pepperdine University in California magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in english and a minor in journalism, in 1972. He received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from the Pepperdine University School of Law, in 1975. In 1994, he was selected as the School of Law's distinguished alumnus. While at Seaver College, he assisted in the development of a paralegal program for the Family Law Center of the Legal Aid Society and during law school, he clerked for the Los Angeles district attorney's Office.
Upon graduation in 1975 until 1979, Hahn worked as a prosecutor and deputy city attorney in the office of the City Attorney. From 1979–1981, he was in private practice with Robert Horner.
In 1981 he was elected the fifth city controller of Los Angeles and served until 1985. He was at the time the youngest person ever elected to that position..
Hahn served from 1985 to 2001 as Los Angeles city attorney, an office of 358 attorneys, support staff of 346, with branch offices in 21 locations citywide. As city attorney, Hahn worked to rid LA's neighborhoods of gang activity through the use of gang injunctions. He was involved in crafting state legislation regarding gang enforcement by writing the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act.
During Hahn's tenure as city attorney, he led the litigation to stop the Joe Camel ad campaign and reached a settlement of 312 million dollars for the city. He then created the Tobacco Enforcement Project to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors.
He re-established a domestic violence unit and sponsored over 30 pieces of relevant legislation, ensuring that California had tough domestic violence laws.
Special units in the office included AIDS/HIV discrimination, environmental protection, housing enforcement, consumer protection, special enforcement, and governmental law and enforcement. He also managed a dispute resolution program. Aside from the special units, the office was divided into a criminal branch and a civil branch. Hahn required all of his attorneys to receive ethnic and religious tolerance training from the Museum of Tolerance.
Hahn was elected in 2001, defeating Antonio Villaraigosa to serve as the 40th mayor of Los Angeles.
Hahn rejected Bernard Parks for a second term as Los Angeles police chief. He then appointed former NYPD commissioner William Bratton to the position. Together with Bratton, he reinstated the community policing program, implemented a flexible work week schedule and the COMPSTAT system, and initiated a comprehensive recruitment and retention campaign. Morale significantly rose in the department and there was the first increase in the ranks in ten years. In addition, all areas of crime dropped steadily, making it the second safest large city in the United States. He also ensured for the first time in the city's history that there be at least one ambulance at every fire station. He convened a homeland security cabinet in his office, hosted an annual homeland security summit, coordinated Los Angeles' "Operation Archangel" to protect its infrastructure, and lobbied for state and federal public safety grants. After September 11, the United States Conference of Mayors appointed him to serve as chair of its aviation security task force. For these combined efforts, Hahn was endorsed in his re-election campaign by the police protective league and United Firefighters of Los Angeles.
Hahn created a $100 million affordable housing trust fund, which was at the time the nation's largest, and expanded the adaptive reuse ordinance to convert dilapidated buildings into mixed-use residential properties. He identified the funding to keep the city's homeless shelters open year-round and met with civic leaders across the county to establish a blue ribbon commission called "Bring LA Home" to end homelessness in Los Angeles county within a decade. He also worked with councilmembers Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti to initiate and sign into law seven business tax reforms, eliminating the business tax for businesses with gross receipts of $100,000 or less, and gradually reducing the tax by 15% for all other businesses.
Hahn established the mayor's office of international trade and led two trade trips, one to Asia and one to Mexico. In Asia, Hahn met with South Korean president, Kim Dae-Jung, Beijing mayor, Liu Qi and Shanghai mayor, Chen Liang Yu. He received the medal of honorary citizenship from the mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak, at Seoul city hall. In Beijing, Hahn reached an agreement concerning the 2008 Olympics, designating Los Angeles as gateway to Beijing and enabling Los Angeles firms to be hired to oversee the renovation of the Beijing airport. To boost tourism, Hahn, working with the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, launched a program in Japan called "See My LA" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Dodgers' Kazuhisa Ishii, and partnered with Korean soccer star Hong Myung-bo to encourage Koreans to come to Los Angeles to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Koreans in Los Angeles. Other agreements made the Los Angeles Zoo the first in the United States to exhibit a pair of Chinese golden monkeys, regionalized air service by shifting EVA Airlines' operations to Ontario International Airport, and improved air quality by plugging more Asian cargo ships into natural power while docked at the Port of Los Angeles.
In Mexico, Hahn met with Mexican president, Vicente Fox, Mexican business and airline executives, and received an airport security briefing at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport. He reached agreement with AeroMexico Airlines to expand service out of Ontario International Airport, providing a more regional approach to air service in the Los Angeles area, and announced that Grupo Gigante would open five new stores in Los Angeles.
Hahn partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District to expedite the construction of new campuses to relieve overcrowding, while contracting the construction to Los Angeles firms. He also worked to create joint-use partnerships with the district so that the schools become the central focus of their respective neighborhoods. He expanded the after school program for elementary school students, "LA's Best," to an additional 5,500 students, bringing the total to more than 20,000 served, and supported the middle school after school program LA's Bridges. He created the literacy @ work program to train LA's workforce, and the free cash for college program, to place more low income high school seniors in colleges and universities nationwide. In 2002, he launched the One City One Book initiative "One Book, One City LA," by picking Fahrenheit 451 as the book and kicking off the program with a news conference with the book's author, Ray Bradbury. Each of Hahn's budgets expanded LA's infrastructure of parks and libraries, while simultaneously increasing their hours of operation, and included the funds to manage a summer jobs program for city youth.
Hahn issued an executive order to require that 17% of all of Los Angeles' energy come from "natural" sources by 2017. He began to convert the city's fleet of vehicles to hybrids and prevented the city from investing in a coal plant in Utah. At the Port of Los Angeles, he created the alternative maritime power program to enable large cruise and cargo ships to plug into clean power while docked at the port, and pledged to make Los Angeles a landfill free city by 2006.
His traffic safety and congestion relief plan made improvements to the 100 worst intersections in the city and his street smart program made improvements to 35 of the busiest thoroughfares. As part of his duties as mayor, Hahn was a member of the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and advocated for better public transportation for the county.
Hahn led the successful efforts to defeat secession in the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood, and San Pedro, effectively keeping the city together. He then created a ten point program called "Teamwork LA" to improve city services and constituent affairs, so as not to anger residents ever again to the point where they would want to secede. Among other objectives, it created a one stop shop neighborhood city hall in the seven major geographical areas of the city, employed a neighborhood area director in his office to manage each of the areas, and created the city's 24/7 non-emergency phone line 311, "your one call to City Hall". He also implemented priority based budgeting to include neighborhood councils in the budget process. When he became mayor, there were zero neighborhood councils; when he left four years later, there were over 80. He provided each council with $50,000 for any purpose and an additional $100,000 for street and sidewalk improvements. With the assistance of councilman Eric Garcetti, he created the mayor's office of immigrant affairs to engage immigrants in civic life.
Hahn was unable to deliver on his promise to add 1000 police officers to the Los Angeles Police Department, as the plan was turned down several times by the City Council. The African-American community, which remembered Hahn's father with affinity as a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, had helped to propel Hahn to victory in the 2001 mayoral election. However, in the aftermath of Hahn's rejection of Parks, African-American support fell away from Hahn in his 2005 bid for re-election.
Additionally, many criticized Hahn for not playing a more significant role in helping to solve the city's transportation problems; he passed his turn to chair the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors. He was also roundly criticized for his plans for Los Angeles International Airport. There were also ethics questions surrounding his administration, including pay to play allegations; no evidence has been found linked to him.
In the March 8, 2005 general election, Hahn placed second to Antonio Villaraigosa; placing ahead of former Speaker of the Assembly Bob Hertzberg, Councilman Bernard Parks, State Senator Richard Alarcon, and about seven lesser known challengers. As the top two vote getters, Villaraigosa and Hahn proceeded to the runoff election held on May 17, 2005. In that election, Hahn lost to Villaraigosa.
Hahn is from a family of politicians. His father, Kenneth Hahn, served as an LA City Councilman and as an LA County Supervisor for 40 years. Hahn's uncle, Gordon Hahn, was a state assemblyman and an LA City Councilman and another uncle, John Hahn, was assistant county clerk. His cousin, Dale Hahn, is a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County. His sister, Janice Hahn, represented the 15th District of the Los Angeles City Council and currently served in Congress.
After leaving office, Hahn accepted the position of a managing director and partner at the firm Chadwick Saylor & Company.
On October 19, 2005, Hahn took part in a discussion entitled "The State of Los Angeles", sponsored by a non-profit organization called "Days of Dialogue". The other panelists were former Mayor Richard Riordan and current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the only other living mayors of the city of Los Angeles. "Days of Dialogue" was founded after the notorious O.J. Simpson trial in order to encourage discussions on key issues in the Los Angeles region. It is currently chaired by Los Angeles County Supervisor and former Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
On December 12, 2005, Hahn delivered a eulogy at the funeral of longtime city councilman Marvin Braude. On January 7, 2006, Hahn attended and spoke at a memorial service at Los Angeles City Hall and at a private residence for former County Federation of Labor leader Bill Robertson. Since leaving office, he has also attended a number of other events of significance.
On March 1, 2006, it was announced that through Chadwick Saylor & Company, Hahn will become CEO of Los Angeles Development Partners, L.P. (LADP). The partnership consists of an $150 million fund managed by Chadwick Saylor & Company with numerous investors. Its goal is to develop affordable housing and other economic development projects around transit lines, including the Metrolink and Metro Rail. The projects will be completed by unionists. Hahn will be in charge of all of the operations of the entire fund. Hahn left the company at the beginning of 2008, according to trade publication Real Estate Alert and joined a prominent mediation firm. The fund's status is unclear.
On September 20, 2006, more than a year after leaving office, a Steve Lopez column ran in the Los Angeles Times explaining Hahn's new life in the private sector. Hahn said that he is now as happy as ever and for the first time in decades, can truly enjoy his city. He gets to spend more time with his son and daughter and has been in a steady relationship with a woman for over a year. He also enjoys his new work getting unions to invest money in local projects around transit lines to relieve traffic and smog .
On November 8, 2007, Hahn's official portrait was displayed in the Hall of Mayors Portrait Gallery on the 26th floor of City Hall. The event was accompanied by ceremonies on the 26th floor as well as before the City Council .
In May 2008, Hahn said that he had submitted paperwork requisite for the pursuit of a judicial appointment by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Noting that he found himself missing public service, Hahn said he'd also spoken personally to the governor about his interest in becoming a judge. On November 5, 2008, Schwarzenegger appointed Hahn to fill a vacant judgeship in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Hahn presently presides over Traffic Court cases in Santa Monica.