Safe Parking: The Emperor’s New Clothes

Hans Christian Anderson wrote a folk tale about an emperor who is obsessed with fancy new clothes, and spent lavishly on them at the expense of the state.

Two con men, posing as weavers, offer to supply the emperor with magnificent clothes that are invisible to those who are incompetent or stupid. The emperor hires them, and they go to work.

A succession of officials, and the emperor, visit the weavers to check on progress. Each sees that the looms are empty but pretends otherwise to avoid being thought a fool.

Finally, the suit is “finished.” The emperor, clothed in his new outfit, sets off in a procession before the whole city. The townsfolk who don’t want to be taken for fools, comment on the beautiful suit.

Finally, a child blurts out “he’s not wearing anything.” The people realize they’ve been fooled. But the emperor doesn’t want to admit he was wrong and continues to strut down the street.

This sounds like the tale of helping the homeless in Los Angeles.

Safe Parking is just one program that purports to help the homeless.It sounds like a good idea. People who have lost their apartments/homes and are living out of their cars are given a safe place to sleep at night.

Participants are supposed to be offered restrooms and showers and laundry facility (or assistance connecting to laundromat services) and help finding a permanent place to live.

LAHSA adopted the program, and lots were opened.

There were some requirements for people participating, such as a driver’s license, car insurance and vehicle registration (or be open to having someone help them get a registration). To access the program, those living in their cars needed to go online and register.

In 2022, CTN reported in a story click here that  in L.A. County, there were 633 Safe Parking spaces in 27 areas, including 10 lots in LA. City.  In West L.A. there were three lots providing 100 spaces: Westchester Park (25), West Los Angeles (50) and Sawtelle (25).

Westchester Park has been closed, but people are still illegally parking there overnight. The Sawtelle lot, near the municipal building is still open, and a new lot on La Cienga, near 111th Street was opened. The spaces listed at each lot used to be available, but are no longer listed.

How many people does this program serve and what is the cost to taxpayers?

SAWTELLE SAFE PARKING:

At 7:25 p.m., only the guard car was parked in the Sawtelle Safe Parking location.

Thursday, April 25, this editor drove to the Sawtelle Safe Parking lot. At 7:25, there was a guard putting on his uniform and I asked if this was the Safe Parking lot because it was empty and there appeared to be no facilities.

The guard told me I could not park there without a permit and go onto a computer to get it. He said his job was checking permits when people drove in.

I asked him about how many people parked there every night and he said he could not say because it was a privacy issue.

Parking on the street, this editor watched four cars go into the lot by 7:45 p.m. There was no gate to secure the lot.

On April 30, a resident drove through that lot at 5:15 a.m. and counted 12 to 14 cars.

LA CIENEGA SAFE PARKING:

The La Cienga Safe Parking lot photographer at 7:40 p.m. It can accommodate a large number of cars.

Tim Campbell in his April 28 Westside current story (“Unraveling the Knot: Discrepancies in LA’s Safe Parking and Homelessness Program Metrics and Billing”) click here reported that “I could not find any mention of how many spaces are in the lot [La Cienega].  It’s interesting that SPLA’s (Safe Parking L.A.) narrative on the City’s performance website mentions the lots are generally underutilized and there’s plenty of room to open car doors at night for air. If they don’t report the number of spaces versus usage, there is no way to tell if the lot is being used to maximum benefit.”

CTN drove to the La Cienega lot, Wednesday, April 24. The lot, difficult to find, is located north of 111th Street and is on airport property.

There is a gate, and at 7:33 p.m., there were two men, putting on “official” guard jackets. There was one additional car parked. There were two port-a-potties and a portable hand washing sink. There were no showers, no laundry facilities.

This editor asked the guard “how many people do you normally get?” He said it depends, sometimes as many as 50. As I was leaving at 7:40 p.m., two additional cars drove in, making a total of three “guests.” That lot operates from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. according to airport documents.

A resident drove by the facility at 4:30 a.m. on May 2, and reported nine cars—one or two were probably the guards. The gates were locked.

The cost for this parking lot? Campbell reported in the audit, “The contract (C-145058) amount listed on the invoice matches the contract amount of $676,028, but note the contract is not for a full year; it is for the eight months between October 1, 2023, and May 31, 2024. Projecting $676,028 over 12 months would make the contract total $1,014,050. The contract does not specify a site, but the contract amount matches the contract amount stated on the La Cienega invoice.”

On May 9, the LAWA Board of Airport Commissioners voted to extend the contract through May 31, 2025. They were told that “Since the lot opened on June 1, 2023, enrollment numbers have been on par with, or slightly above, other Safe Parking Program lots. Overnight participant usage rates have ranged from three to 22 vehicles, and lot operations have proceeded without any incidents or known impacts.”

Campbell was asked “in any of the reports you’ve read, is there a total given for money spent on Safe Parking?

“That’s almost impossible to answer,” he said. “SPLA has a parent NPO (nonprofit organization) called Community Partners, and the City’s contracts database contains contracts under both names. Worse, the City doesn’t seem to enforce nomenclature conventions, so the contracts are entered under various names like Safe Parking LA, Community Partners/Safe Parking, Safe Parking Los Angeles, etc.

“That makes it exceedingly difficult to find all of the current contracts with SPLA, or what the locations are,” Campbell said. “LAHSA has a list of Safe Parking locations, but it doesn’t include the one by LAX.

“It could be the City contracts with SPLA, but so does LAHSA,” he said. “And the only way to get a LAHSA contract is by making a public records request; they don’t have an online contract database.”

That means because there’s no available data for the effectiveness of Safe Parking, there are no metrics for cost per vehicle or the number of people who find permanent housing.

Bottom line: Angelinos don’t know the number of people participating in Safe Parking; how many people have been housed; or how much the program is costing the City/County of Los Angeles.

Is the Emperor wearing clothes? Here’s the kicker, those driving vehicles into lots cannot be screened for sobriety or lack of because Safe Parking falls under Harm Reduction.

 

LOOKING TO UPDATE:

In its initial 2022 story, CTN found the following, but could not find out the cost nor the source of the money:

Financial Assistance for those in Safe Parking include:1. State minimum insurance, 2)  Licensing fees including title fees and smog checks, 3) Storage fees, 4)Car payment arrears, 5) Emergency Transportation assistance that includes automobile repair, public transportation, gas cards, vehicle tow, vehicle salvaging and impound fees; 6) Gift cards for food, groceries, and gas in the amounts of: up to $200 per individual and up to $500 for a family with children, 7) childcare services, 8) general housing stability assistance, 9) motel/hotel stays and 10) employment assistance and support.

 

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6 Responses to Safe Parking: The Emperor’s New Clothes

  1. Jim McCashin II says:

    If we add Financial Assistance for those in Safe Parking to how many other welfare programs, is it any wonder that people don’t work?

  2. John Alle says:

    Informative and well-researched article. Thank you. There is a continued lack of transparency about how the funds are being spent. There is no itemization. The Safe Parking Sites pose a huge danger to our sewage and water reclamation systems. These sites do not have restrooms. Cooking supplies, food, urine and feces are left behind.

  3. John Alle says:

    LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) took local control of the annual Homeless Count away from many of the 88 cities in LA COUNTY, Santa Monica included, and did not count, verify or estimate the number of homeless persons inside the RV’s, trucks and cars parked in these lots. In Santa Monica, LAHSA reduced the number of those counting, excluded monitoring by the respective cities, and counted homeless between 8 pm and 12 midnight, hours that the homeless do not settle down on the streets, parks and alleyways. They did not include those on the beach. Three major and simultaneous resignations by executives at LAHSA 3 weeks ago as well. Follow the money…

  4. sarah says:

    Sue –
    Excellent reporting. This is yet another example of the shameful homeless “business.” Millions/billions of publicly funded dollars are allocated for these programs; they fail miserably and help very few of the intended “clients.” Somebody is getting this money, but it is impossible to know who. Maybe the weavers of the emperor’s clothes?

  5. Clifford says:

    Where the money goes is not studied because they don’t want to study it. Follow the money…

  6. Kathleen Jensen says:

    Sue,
    Thank you for this detailed list of assistance provided to people in the Safe Parking program. I doubt many people know anything about this list. Where’s the oversight for spending from the last multi-million-dollar funding pot of money for Inside Safe? Who will step up & invest? https://abc7.com/post/mayor-karen-bass-asks-private-sector-to-invest-in-la-and-help-solve-homelessness/14785592/
    How can anyone follow the money between the City of LA and LA County? This is a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking aka: Cluster F**k.

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