On March 20, Councilman Mike Bonin announced that Mayor Eric Garcetti had ordered the use of 42 city recreation centers to temporarily house people experiencing homelessness. Five of the facilities were on the Westside, including the Palisades Recreation Center (but not the Rustic Canyon Recreation Center).
Residents of Pacific Palisades had been dealing with an influx of homeless people from 2014 into 2017. When the City failed to act to help the homeless or to stop them from setting fires in their hillside encampments that threatened several neighborhoods, residents acted by organizing the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness. With donations from individuals, organizations and churches in the community, the PPTFH was able to hire two social workers who began interacting with homeless individuals, and this eventually stemmed the flow and helped nearly 100 individuals get off the streets and into some sort of housing.
The idea that the City would take people it had not helped, transport them to Pacific Palisades and put them in a gym (against CDC guidelines), resulted in fierce opposition from the Community Council, the Pacific Palisades Residents Association and more than 2,000 people who signed a petition that was sent this week to Garcetti and Bonin.
No homeless have been placed here, yet, but in addition to opposition from many residents here, I suspect that one important reason for the delay is that City officials must have realized–on close inspection–that the Rec Center’s aging infrastructure is a major impediment.
This past summer, for example, sewage backed up into the small gym and office area, twice, a problem that was finally reported at the Park Advisory Board meeting in October. In addition, the two toilets in the small gym are not handicapped accessible and need to be upgraded (the playground, too).
Last Thursday, March 26, a water leak outside the front of the small gym was found. The water had to be shut off as workers tried to find the leak. The pipe was temporarily repaired to allow water to be turned back on Thursday evening.
Rec and Park employees found the source of the problem and today, March 31, they began digging up the concrete in front of the building for permanent repairs.
According to what the repair crew told park director Erich Haas, the pipe will have to be replaced.
So it’s ironic that our Recreation Center probably does not qualify to house the homeless because of the condition of the building. Oh, and the gas line, which supplies heat, was under repair last week, too. A new one had to be installed to heat the small gym and run the kitchen stove.
(Editor’s note: There should be Quimby funds available to help upgrade this park. Those funds are derived from new-construction fees and are supposed to stay in the area where the fees are generated, and used for developing parkland and recreational facilities. In 2019, it was discovered that the funds were taken from Rec Centers and funneled into a proposed Venice Pier project. Once CTN discovered that money was being taken away from the Palisades, Councilman Bonin and RAP General Manager Michael Shull agreed to return the money to individual Rec Centers. Now those Palisades rec funds have once again disappeared and do not seem to be slated for this park, which desperately needs attention.)