Safe Parking

Circling the News: On January 11 at 5a.m., this was the far side of the Safe Parking lot and only had nine vehicles.

WESTCHESTER -A coalition of Westchester residents is asking the Board of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks to hit pause on a project that Bonin is pushing with little to no regard for the community.

An attorney representing the coalition sent a letter to the LA City Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners Wednesday asking them to hit pause on a 24/7 homeless parking plan at Westchester Park that Bonin is asking to be pushed through.

Attorney John Murdock listed six reasons he says the board should do more homework before approving homeless parking at the park. Among the list of concerns, homeless parking is not consistent with the park's purpose, a lack of due process, wrongful disposition of park assets, a lack of RAP staff investigation, a proposal that protects the city but not the parks and a clear disregard for the city's newly adopted anti camping law.

Background

In early September, Westchester residents were surprised when a Bonin representative told them the council member has plans and is working with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), to use the entire parking lot adjacent to the Westchester ballfields and the recreation pool at Westchester Park for 24-hour Safe Parking.

"No one from Bonin's office told us what they were planning," said the president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester and Playa, Paula Gerez. "We asked multiple times to keep us included in the conversation but that didn't happen."

The lot is currently being used for safe parking. Initially, 25 parking spaces were granted to Community Partners for use from July 2021 to October 2021, with no notice to the community or the neighborhood council. A decision the community was kept in the dark about.

Two extensions were granted, pushing the expiration date to October 2, 2022. That was for 25 parking spots. Neither the Neighborhood Council nor the community was notified of, or included in these public processes.

Now, Bonin wants to extend the permit and expand it to 24-hour safe parking for 15 vehicles, including RV's that will be relocated from Ballona Wetlands. Bonin has informed Recreation and Parks that if this request is approved, he will remove the more than 20 vehicles used as dwellings in the parking lot that serves his field office, a branch of the City library, and the senior center. This promise is in no contract with Recreation and Parks.

The decision was made even though the City Administrators' Office CAO stated the park was infeasible for safe sleep last August. The findings were part of a feasibility study requested by Bonin regarding putting up temporary homeless housing and safe parking at several westside parks and beaches.

That was last August; now, Bonin is bypassing what the city found and continuing to push his agenda forward.

"While the proposal by Councilmemnr Bonin is salutary in purpose, it is arbitrary and actually foolhardy in refusing to acknowledge the reasons Westchester was rejected [by the CAO] as unwise and infeasible," Murdock said.

Bonin is doing all this while keeping the community out of the process. "Bonin and his entire staff have refused to meet with constituents, respond to constituents' emails or phone calls, or share any information with constituents who oppose his plan." stated Debra Huston, a Westchester resident and now community activist.

"Unfortunately, the Councilman has refused to listen to his constituents as well as the CAO, as the emails in your file attest to the residents being stonewalled," stated Murdock. He also highlighted the public records request to be made to find out what was being discussed behind closed doors.

Not so Safe Parking

Murdock noted that the existing "safe parking" program at the park has "failed miserably" due to a lack of oversight and enforcement. He provided the commissioners with a file of an "astonishing number of reports of incidents of nuisance, violence, rape, threatening behavior, and child endangerment witnessed by residents and reported to anyone who could be reached.

Also highlighted are the violations of the ADA restriction in the parking lot "clearly visible to anyone."

"The property designated for this program is a parking lot for the public, not a home for the homeless."

Anti Camping Law

Murdock also noted that the anti-camping law that was voted in by the City Council last year–and states explicitly that sensitive areas where camping should not be allowed: parks, libraries and daycare centers. All three of these are well within the 500 feet of the parking lot earmarked for safe parking.

Murdock is asking the board to postpone or continue Thursday's hearing and asking the commissioners to properly evaluate the past performance before allowing the private entity to "undertake an expanded operation in total control, 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"In other words, the entire city asset is being given over to an operator whose poor performance has not been revealed to you in the staff report, but whose performance is shown in public correspondence to be absent in any enforcement or protection from the public."

RAP Meeting

A meeting with RAP commissioners is being held this morning to vote on the safe parking. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. Click here for the link to the agenda.