Recreation and Park Board Commissioner Joe Halper, a Pacific Palisades resident, asked two important questions at the RAP meeting held virtually on June 17.
During the meeting, the five-member board considered and then approved putting tiny homes for the homeless at the Eagle Rock Recreation Center, which seemed to go in the face of RAP’s stated purpose: “with a focus on families and youth development.”
“When there is a placement of homeless, is there an evaluation of the occupants, because of its close proximity to the park?” Halper asked. “Is there screening?”
Numerous residents asked the same question. Since the site would be established on an overflow parking area at the park, it meant that children would come into contact with the residents of these tiny homes.
Residents who take their children to the park repeatedly asked, “Will there be mandatory background checks? Will those with criminal records or social predators be allowed on the park land?”
One commissioner asked, “Who are we welcoming to these tiny homes? Are we screening for behavior, for those on drugs, for those who want to work?”
Commissioners, and parents who want to protect their children from possible predators, were told that the City does not have a Department of Mental Health and that “Recreation and Parks does not get involved with screening.”
RAP commissioners were also told that this would be a temporary project, three years maximum, but that there would have to be significant money spent on infrastructure, including utilities. Halper then asked another question that no one had raised: “When these sites come down, do we have plans for the area?”
One staffer responded, “The City’s investment benefits far outweigh any costs.”
But no specific plans were given for the area after sewer lines and electricity were installed. Would it all be torn down again and returned to the original purpose? Recreation and Parks General Manager Michael Shull was asked that question in a June 23 email from CTN. If he responds, this story will be updated.
The staff report to approve the Eagle Rock project noted other tiny homes that have gained emergency approval at other parks: North Hollywood Park on Chandler Boulevard, which began operation in 2021; the Valley Plaza Park on Laurel Canyon Drive, which is currently under construction; the Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, which completed construction and began operations in June 2021; Strathern Park West (approved in February 2021), and in April 2021, the Board approved the construction and operation at Arroyo Seco Park.
One commissioner asked, “Has there been a survey done of those homeless in the immediate area to see if they would take a tiny home?”
“No,” was the answer, but one staff member acknowledged that “There are those who choose not to be in facilities.”
Another commissioner wanted to know if other tiny home villages that have been opened were at capacity.
“About occupancy, I have no idea,” a staff member responded. “We would bring people from other areas because we want to maximize investments.”
Some of the residents and activists said that the proposed location was already being used by the homeless and hoped that by offering tiny homes, it would get them into housing.
Others wanted more information about the amnesty lockers. To enter the tiny homes, alcohol, drugs and weapons must be stored in lockers outside of the tiny home village.
Resident after resident cited safety concerns for children and wondered if there could be an increased LAPD presence.
“For those of us who are trying to raise a family and want to use the parks, will the homeless be able to store drugs and weapons?” one asked.
“How do you protect children and park patrons? I’m concerned about safety,” was a common public sentiment.
One resident pointed to the Venice bridge housing disaster, where some homeless, in addition to living in the bridge housing, also have tents outside. At this site, housing did not eliminate encampments, but rather they have grown.
“Will the people who chose not to move in be allowed to put up tents next to a tiny house?”
“There shouldn’t be an encampment, a tiny city, next to the tiny homes,” another said, and asked for additional police, security and resources.
One resident pointed out that the North Hollywood site has “turned into a homeless encampment outside of the tiny homes. The whole community has turned into an encampment.” The person said there was massive drug dealing and concluded, “Why is our safety, the safety of our children, being put at risk?”
Yet another Eagle Rock homeowner, who said they lived five blocks from the park said, “This is an excellent location. This is exactly what we need in this underused space.”
Another resident pointed out, “There is no exit strategy – it is not fair to them [homeless]. They deserve actual help.”
The RAP commissioners agreed to the three-year temporary tiny village at Eagle Rock.