VENICE- Despite a noticeable absence from Councilmember Mike Bonin and his office, the homeless encampments at Centennial Park have been cleared.
Los Angeles Recreation and Parks, Mayor Eric Garcetti's office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Sanitation Department all stepped up to help clear encampments at Centennial Park after nine months of occupying the area.
The once cluttered park with over 60 tents and makeshift homes is now an empty pathway.
A wire fence has been built around the former campground on Tuesday late afternoon.
A city worker who asked to remain anonymous told Westside Current that he had never seen so much garbage. "When the heavy lifting started, we saw rats coming from underneath and around the tents. It was filthy. There's a lot of work that needs to be done."
Residents who once occupied the area are said to have been rehomed at the Cadillac Hotel, received hotel vouchers or were placed at the Venice Bridge Home.
A police presence will remain on the property throughout the week.
"It was a group effort. Park rangers, LAPD, sanitation and St. Joseph workers were on the scene for about a week before the park was finally vacant and taped off Monday late afternoon," described the city worker.
Recreation and Parks explained that installing the fence was just the beginning of the beautification process. Following the temporary closure of the Park for the initiation of the Project, RAP Staff will perform a detailed assessment in order to identify if any additional improvements are needed at the park.
According to city officials, the cost to rehabilitate the area will be up to $500,000.
"Nobody and everybody is in charge of the park," explained a resident who asked to remain anonymous. "Even though Recreation and Parks has justification over the park, they can't just go in there and tell people to leave. They can't operate in a vacuum.'
This same individual said she sent countless unanswered emails to city officials, including councilman Mike Bonin and Jose 'Che' Ramirez who was named new Deputy Mayor for City Homelessness Initiatives by Mayor Garcetti in 2020.
"Not one person responded to our emails. Not one. Do you know how frustrating that is? Centennial Park was not safe for the unhoused nor the housed. The notion that leaving those in the encampment alone, rather than finding an actual solution was inhumane and unacceptable."
"The bad publicity ultimately prompted the mayor to say enough is enough," said
Bert Fallon, a member of the Friends of the Venice Library. "We have seen this time and time again. Look at the Venice Beach Boardwalk, Penmar Park, and Westchester Park. Only after these areas became such an embarrassment did the politicians take action. Ultimately it was the recent fire that ignited this long-overdue clean-up."
When asked why it took so long for the cleanup to happen, the answers from "it's a process" to "you know what the city's like?!" But one notion that comes up repeatedly is Councilman Mike Bonin, who, according to multiple people, thwarted efforts to clean the park numerous times.
"Bonin wanted the situation left as is," said Fallon. "He said these encampments exist because there is no housing, so why is it that in the last few days, enough housing was found for anyone in the encampment? How did that happen?"
"None of this could have been done without the ongoing support of the community," local Charles Whobrey told Westside Current. "We are a strong community and we will continue to fight for justice, justice for all. It's not us against the homeless. It's us against anyone in office who isn't looking out for the people they serve, including the homeless."
"I am just grateful that the park has been cleared, that the library can once again fully operate and that those now in shelters can get the help and assistance they need," Fallon added.