VIEWPOINT: What Goes on Behind Closed Doors Needs to be Aired

Homeless and garbage have taken away handicapped parking spaces at the Westchester Senior Center. New RVs are being brought to this parking lot, according to residents.

Westchester residents have been fighting to get the park back for children and seniors.

In a misguided attempt to help, L.A. City officials allowed the homeless to live in tents around the periphery of the park. Then later, those same officials allowed the homeless to occupy parking spaces in a lot which removed access to the senior center and the library. This is the same municipal lot where Councilman Mike Bonin’s office is located.

There have been numerous shootings and incidences of individuals exposing themselves to children in Westchester Park. Residents have complained about the drug paraphernalia and hypodermic needles left in the park. There have been almost 500 service calls to LAPD since January 2020 and does not include 911 calls.

A parking lot next to Westchester Swimming Pool was turned into a Safe Parking lot, but neither residents nor the Neighborhood Council were consulted. With the lot fenced off, park residents who wanted to use the swimming pool, had few spaces.

That lot, which could hold 25 cars, routinely had under 10. That parking agreement was supposed to expire in July, but Bonin asked for an extension from Recreation and Parks, which was granted until October 2.

This is the only park in the City that has Safe Parking. There are other areas in the City with room for these vehicles. To see locations and spaces available visit:click here.

Fall programming at Westchester is set to start on October 2, and now residents learned that Bonin has requested another parking lot, one that is 200 feet from a childcare center and park ballfields be given to 24-hour Safe Parking.

Safe Parking was instituted so that those in their vehicles could park their cars in a safe location overnight, have access to a porta potty, receive services, and then drive out the next day to either go to work or look for work.

Residents learned through public records requests that Bonin wanted to move the lot to a different area of the park and make it a 24-hour lot, which would be the first and only one in the City.

At the September 6 Westchester NC meeting, Bonin’s Deputy Director Noah Fleishman told residents that the plan was to move RVs from the Wetlands to the Safe Parking Program. The RVs along the Ballona have destroyed an environmentally sensitive wetlands that one expert said, could take years to reclaim.

Additionally, there have been shootings and at least three fires in the “No Parking” location since RVs have illegally parked on Jefferson. The occupants have been offered assistance, but most prefer their current living arrangement.

Garbage from illegal dwellers is finding its way into the environmentally-sensitive Ballona Wetlands.

One resident wrote CTN, “Information as to whether there will be a requirement that the vehicles be operable, which is always an express condition of Safe Parking in LA but does not appear to be a condition for the proposed 24-hour Safe Parking in Westchester Park.”

As one Rec and Parks Commissioner pointed out at the September 15 board meeting, this would turn a public park into a residential area. If people are not required to leave, what about cooking fires and are there accessible fire hydrants?  Has the fire department been consulted about the location? What about sanitation? Even if there are porta potties, are there places to shower? If RVs are allowed, is there a place to dump the sewage?

Westchester residents say they learned that this 24-hour lot will be funded by the county, which will pay Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Residents say they have empathy for homeless, but ordinary citizens should have the right to use the parks without fearing for their safety.

Westchester residents have now hired attorney John Murdock, who sent a letter to RAP Commissioners reminding them that parks are not zoned for residency.

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