At a July 7 Zoom meeting, the Los Angeles City Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners approved a three-month extension for the Safe Parking program located at the Westchester Recreation Center swimming pool parking lot.
Initially, 25 parking spaces were granted to Community Partners to be used from July 2021 to October 2021. An extension was granted until July 4, 2022. It has now been extended for another three months. It will expire on October 2, 2022.
Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council President Paula Gerez told commissioners that the NC had never been approached or asked about the initial program implementation.
She said City boards/commissions should respect or at least listen to community input through Neighborhood Councils, which the City implemented for that purpose.
In a July 7 letter to Commissioners, she wrote “We have received hundreds of letters from our constituents opposing Safe Parking in Westchester Park.”
Gerez asked commissioners to deny the latest extension because this is the only park in Westchester, and it serves more than 40,000 residents.
“The Safe Parking program near the recreation pool and ballfields uses 25 of the 50 parking spaces in that lot,” Gerez said. “Yet the fenced in Safe Parking area is nearly empty many nights and has at most 10 cars using the fenced in lot.”
Commissioners were sent photos from different days and different times that show a mostly empty lot: many photos show the gate open and no attendant. (Safe parking is supposed to be closed after a certain time and there is supposed to be an attendant on site. Additionally, those who use the lot are supposed to be registered, and the City is supposed to be helping them find permanent housing.)
Gerez said that because of the fenced lot for Safe Parking, there are only about 17 parking spaces for those using the swimming pool.
“The NCWP does not oppose Safe Parking programs in general,” she said. “However, we strongly oppose the use of any parking lot in Westchester Park for a Safe Parking program because it uses precious parking spaces, and it attracts homeless people who live in the park full time.”
Commissioner Nicole Chase said, “I try to keep balance in mind. We have to keep the community in mind and acknowledge the community’s concern.”
Commissioners Tafarai Bayne and Lynn Alvarez said they wanted to hear from Community Partners [safe parking] in August about the progress of alerting the people who are using Safe Parking that the lot will go back to park patrons.
Commissioner Joe Halper wondered if so few people were using Safe Parking, if the timeline for taking the fence down could be expedited.
July and August are months which generally get the highest pool usage. Not having ample parking for swimmers and families is problematic.
The parking lot on the other side of the pool/senior center is a municipal lot and not under park jurisdiction. One caller said she supported Safe Parking and thought people got confused because of that lot, where there are no rules or regulations and some homeless had taken over, making it dicey to park. It is off that lot that Councilman Mike Bonin has put up barbed wire fencing.
Commissioners were clear that by passing the extension until October 2, 2022, it would not be extended: that the lot would return strictly for patron use.