On April 15, Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair David Card and WRAC Chair/PPCC chair emeritus Maryam Zar participated in a Zoom conference with Councilmember Mike Bonin and other CD-11 neighborhood/community councils.
Knowing that Mayor Eric Garcetti was going to release the City’s 2020-21 budget on April 19, Card emphasized that the Palisades’ major budget concerns are: 1) preserving our two fire stations and EMTs and 2) keeping our designated LAPD patrol car and our two-person LAPD Beach Patrol. He also asked that not too much be cut from the Urban Forestry Division budget and Recreation and Parks maintenance, because we need to preserve as much of our public tree canopy as possible.
According to an April 21 summary provided by the PPCC, when the topic turned to the homeless, Bonin said he had become increasingly skeptical of congregate sites for the homeless. He said homeless shelters at an additional six Recreation Centers will come online very soon, but none are in CD-11.
Oakwood (in Venice) and the Palisades are still “on the list” but haven’t been activated, Bonin noted, because they are said to be subpar in terms of meeting the City’s required conditions for the homeless.
No surprise to Palisadians that we have a “sup-par” rec center” because the bathrooms here are not ADA- accessible, nor is the playground. There have been issues with broken pipes resulting in sewage spills in the gyms.
Bonin also noted that there have been staffing shortages at the current Recreation Center shelters.
Circling the News wrote City officials on April 20, asking if staff had been trained to deal with the mentally ill, given that so many of the homeless have mental issues. There has been no response yet.
Bonin said some of his staff have been drafted to serve in homeless shelters (the only shelter open in CD-11 is Westchester) and noted that Garcetti has the power to invoke the emergency worker program to take staff from departments.
At his town hall meeting on April 18, which was open to the public, Bonin said he planned to get more motels and hotels to take homeless. Motels/hotels are private businesses, so CTN is unclear how those businesses could be forced to take transients. Today in Bonin’s email message to constituents, he said that he is “frustrated that more hotels have not participated in the program.”
At last Wednesday’s Zoom conference with Card, Zar and others, Bonin acknowledged that since the beach restrooms at Will Rogers State Beach are now open during the day and Porta-potties are in place, this might be a promising location for individual homeless tents to be placed with proper distancing, as is being done in Tampa Bay. He will work with County officials to determine if this can be accomplished here.
Another alternative is to take the 500 RVs from FEMA that are currently unused and place them in the parking lot as homeless shelters.
Currently, anybody who would like to walk, jog or ride bikes along the ocean is forbidden from doing so because of the Covid-19 restrictions. People who just sit at water’s edge, or lone fishermen or surfers or paddleboarders are also banned from the beach. This week, people who live in apartments downtown with no air conditioning, whose day labor, cleaning and other jobs have disappeared, will not be allowed to access the beach during the predicted 90-degree weather.
Instead, Bonin is talking about taking people who are mentally ill, or who have drug addiction issues, and who pay no taxes and give them the most desirable location in the City—with ocean views.
My point here is not about dealing with our most vulnerable, nor about empathy for the homeless (CTN has nothing but compassion for those who suffer mental illness) but about fairness.
The strategy by the City and Bonin should be to treat all people fairly, whether they be Hollywood stars, CEOs, hairdressers, fitness instructors, construction workers or the mentally ill homeless people.
Open the beaches for everyone or keep them closed to everyone.