Letter to a Midwesterner Explaining the Palisades Fire and Homelessness

Dear Mom,

Photographer Lesly Hall took this photo of the Palisades fire.

You may have heard that we had a brush fire in Pacific Palisades. Even though the brush hadn’t burned in nearly 60 years, we were lucky because there were no winds and no structures burned.

They caught a guy who was seen lighting fires. He is homeless and doesn’t speak English, but no one wants to say where he is from—probably because they don’t want to embarrass his family.

I know if I had a 48-year-old son with a hole in his chest from a bullet or a knife wound, who was walking around setting fires, I wouldn’t want my name associated with Ramon Santos Rodriquez or Ramon Flores Rodriquez or whatever name he was using.

Initially they set his bail at $75,000, but once they found out he was mentioned in several law enforcement databases, that went up to $350,000.

I know you’re probably wondering how he got here, and has he had his Covid-19 shot? That I can’t tell you, because the interpreter who spoke to him didn’t ask about the vaccination.

How did he get here? Here’s one theory. You may have heard that Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, who is my representative, wants to convert a beach parking lot into a homeless site.

I suspect that Ramon may have heard about that wonderful opportunity to live on the beach in a tiny home, but he took the wrong turn and went several miles up a road to the Highlands. Once there, he realized there were no hotels, no supermarkets, no drugstores.

He got lost on a hiking trail, but he had some matches, so he could light the way. As any novice hiker might tell you, you can end up going in circles and in that heavy and dense brush, he needed to light more fires to try and figure out how to find his way back out of there to the beach—and the tiny home.

That’s probably why he pleaded “not guilty”—this wasn’t arson, it was survival.

The Will Rogers Beach parking lot served as the command center for the Palisades Fire.
Photo: Shelby Pascoe

But, then it got complicated because the City and County firefighters established a staging area on that parking lot where Bonin wants to house the homeless.

Now that the brush fire has been extinguished (it burned more than 1,000 acres) and Ramon is in jail, the City Council on Wednesday will address Bonin’s proposal to turn the beach parking lot and several parks into homeless centers. (If there’s another fire, I’m sure they can stage those firetrucks on Temescal Canyon Road.)

Mom, this might seem odd to you, but people who do not work, who are mentally ill, and who are addicted to drugs, apparently deserve beach-front property. I expect the Council to back Bonin’s motion to take away recreation sites from lower-income residents, who drive here from all over Los Angeles.

I remember when our family of seven was living in a four-room apartment and going to the parks on a Sunday, because it was free and the only entertainment we could afford.

Now, poor people can simply look at the beach as they drive by. They can always wave at the homeless—or try to not to hit them when the transients run across six lanes of heavy traffic.

Poor people living in apartments near designated homeless parks won’t be able to let their kids outside, but let’s stay positive: they will be able to look out their windows.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Safe Parking. That means if you’re homeless and have a car, you can park it anywhere and live in it. As a Midwesterner, you might ask the obvious question, “Where do they go to the bathroom?” The obvious answer, “Wherever they please.” The other day a neighbor complained because her two young children saw a man peeing near her yard.

I always say, “Look on the bright side. At least there weren’t two men peeing in her yard—not yet anyhow.”

You may have heard that so many people have moved out of California that we have now lost a representative to the U.S. Congress. But not to worry, once the word gets out to everyone in America that they can live on the beach and receive three meals a day—problem solved.

Take care of the cat, hope your garden is doing well.




This entry was posted in Accidents/Fires, Councilman Mike Bonin, Crime/Police. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Letter to a Midwesterner Explaining the Palisades Fire and Homelessness

  1. Cristina S says:

    Thank you for keeping humor alive! It seems to be a rare commodity these days!

  2. Abe says:

    Who wrote this? It’s so horribly written!!

  3. Noma says:

    When institutional care was deprived from mentally incompetent persons, it has caused many problems, not only to their family, the general public as well as the mentally incompetent person.

  4. Alison says:

    I can’t wait for your Mother’s reply!

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