Council District 11 candidates Erin Darling and Traci Park spoke at the Pacific Palisades Community Council September 22 meeting. About 100 people listened as the candidates addressed homelessness, the Ballona Wetlands and discretionary funding.
PPCC President Maryam Zar had sent a list of 10 questions to both candidates and after Darling and Park introduced themselves, they spent 45 minutes answering the questions.
The first question centered around 41.18, a City law which prohibits homeless encampments near schools. Additionally, if a councilmember asks for enforcement to allow access to public spaces, such as libraries and parks, homeless encampments can be removed from those spaces. Zar asked how both candidates would address that law.
Darling said that since it’s a law, he would enforce no encampments by schools, but as far as the other locations, “Government has to create beds for the unhoused. We have to create a pipeline. We don’t want to shuffle people from one space to another. We have to house people, but not warehouse them.”
Park said, “I have never waivered from my position that schools, libraries and parks are not places to house people.” She said that outreach was necessary, but public places did not serve either the unhoused nor the general public.
The candidates were asked about their plans for dealing with RVs illegally parked on streets.
Park noted that there are already city laws regarding RVs and parking and “we need to get those rules back in place,” she said. “It’s unreasonable to have large RVs not held accountable.” In addition to working with parking enforcement, she said that LAPD has a unit that works with mental health issues and those in RVs could be helped.
Darling said he would institute a five-member staff that would work with those living in RVs. “They need safe hookups and we need to stop shuffling people around.” He suggested that Safe Parking has to be a safe alternative and his team would respond to helping those in RVs.
Regarding the Ballona Wetlands, an environmentally sensitive area, Park said, “there is a half mile encampment there. I’ve spent time down there and I’ve seen the environmental degradation. I would have all the RV’s removed. This is a precious coastal area that should be protected and preserved. We need to restore access to the public.”
Darling said, “if we just push people from the Ballona, we’re pushing pollution to another place. Affordable housing is necessary. If we’re just clearing people off the street, we aren’t solving anything.”
Both candidates were asked about discretionary funding. This funding is money that comes to each Councilmember and that person is allowed to spend it at his/her whim. There is no accounting nor oversight on that money.
Both candidates promised community involvement in the process of awarding money. The current Councilmember, Mike Bonin, has spent all CD 11 discretionary funding (millions) on homeless services.
Next the candidates addressed police funding. Park would like to see staffing levels resumed to at least the bare minimum of 10,000 officers. “Work didn’t go away when funding was cut from the police department,” she said. “Now the City is going to have a high overtime bill. We also need to stop the contentiousness (regarding LAPD).”
Darling would handle it differently by hiring mental health teams and outreach people to go out on some of the calls to the police. “We need to get officers from behind the desk and back on the street,” he said. “We need to reduce response time and balance the different kinds of calls.”
To listen to the entire 45-minute Q & A, visit pacpalicc.org.