Today, the City Committee on Poverty and Homelessness, chaired by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, passed Motion 21-0350, drafted by himself and Councilman Mike Bonin that would explore the feasibility of using the beach parking lots and the parks to house the homeless.
Thank goodness neither an IQ test nor common sense is a requirement to be a politician or City Hall might be empty.
More than 80 members of the public waited to comment, with the majority wanting to address the idea that beaches would be taken away from lower income Los Angeles residents—and parks, which provide the only greenspace for kids who live in apartments.
Only about 20 speakers were allowed, because Ridley-Thomas wanted to ensure he had a quorum on his committee for votes (Kevin DeLeon, Joe Buscaino, Monica Rodriquez and Nithya Raman). It seemed some members had to leave. Ridley-Thomas reminded people at the beginning of the meeting, that the motion was only to “look at the feasibility of sites.”
One soon realized that the thousands of people who signed petitions against this motion – or asked that the beaches and parks be taken out of consideration didn’t know how to play the City Hall public comment game.
Homeless advocates understand that when someone asks to make public comment, as well as speak on a specific agenda time, they can have two minutes to talk, instead of just one minute.
One of the early speakers pointed out that “I support passing this through committee, because it’s only about feasibility. Capitalism is the problem.”
To which Ridley-Thomas said, “May the Lord Bless You and Keep you.” That was surprising, because no other speaker received a blessing.
That speaker was followed by another person who “echoed the last caller” because the Westside is a “support desert” and that everyone on the Westside was a NIMBY (not in my back yard).
Another homeless advocate (I’m slightly confused—are these advocates for keeping the people homeless?), noted that any housing given to homeless should not have a special enforcement zone because these areas are “more like prisons than homes.” At the tiny villages that have opened in North Hollywood, any alcohol, drugs or weapons must be left in the lockers outside and there is a 10 p.m. curfew.
Another resident who was in favor of the Bonin-Ridley-Thomas motion said, “the status quo has been failing us for some time” and that poverty was the reason for the homeless and that “crime is greatly exaggerated.”
That person was followed by another advocate who called people on the Westside NIMBYs, and yet another person said, “This motion doesn’t go far enough. The City of Los Angeles has been criminalizing poverty for decades.”
A Mar Vista resident spoke against the motion and noted that Mar Vista Park is used by thousands of residents on a weekly basis. “I’m sympathetic to the homeless, but who’s looking out for us? Who is looking out for the residents?”
Several residents pointed out that there are many underutilized properties in the City that have not been explored but should, and that parks and beaches should be left off the list for homeless sites. A second person also urged the committee to “review the list of surplus properties. You have the tools at your disposal, but you’re not using them correctly.”
One speaker against the motion said, “We’ve worked hard to keep our beaches clean. It’s an environmental issue, look at Venice with its dirt, trash, feces and needles. Safe camping is extremely unsafe.”
Of the 20 people who spoke to the motion, 12 were in favor of the Bonin proposal and eight were against it.
Unfortunately, apartments for the homeless are seen as the Holy Grail by the City: if only there were enough housing, that means there will be “happiness, eternal youth and sustenance in infinite abundance.” The streets will be free, and everyone will live happily ever after.
Wait, what about the mentally ill or those that use drugs? A 2019 L.A. Times story said, “The Times, however, found that about 67% [of the homeless] had either a mental illness or a substance abuse disorder.”
The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness can tell you of the efforts they have made to house the mentally ill. Some like Timmy had a place, but then left housing and came back on the streets, where he died. Some like Ruby, who has been offered services, but likes to sleep by the library.
Housing is not going to fix the homeless problem, changes in drug and mental illness laws might.
In the meantime, the City is going to do a feasibility study about putting homeless on a state beach.
Maybe we need to start paying politicians like we do waiters/waitresses. If they do a good job, we give them a tip, and if they put forth idiotic proposals like this one no salary/no tip.
If our Council members had common sense, they would see the rich can fly anywhere they want for vacations—this isn’t about NIMBYism.
It’s the poor, the working class that need the relief the parks and ocean provide—and every weekend one sees the long strings of cars on Interstate 10, as kids and adults come for a “mini” vacation.
It is time that our elected officials stop listening to special interest groups and started listening to the residents they represent.