The Westchester Senior center, which closed during Covid, and now more recently because of security concerns, has reopened with limited hours.
Around 200 residents from Council District 11, including Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Mar Vista, Venice, Playa Vista and Westchester, assembled in front of the center around 10:30 a.m. on October 19 to emphasize the need for more security.
The parking lot by the Center had become a magnet for homeless camping and for illegally parked RVs. This morning, a comprehensive cleanup took place in the parking lot.
Westchester resident Debra Huston had made a public records request for incidents at the Westchester Park, which included the tennis courts, the Senior Center, the swimming pool and the ball fields. She received 44 documents on October 18, including the two below:
“As seniors were leaving the building from Bingo, a man and a woman were arguing with another man outside. . . .the first man went to get his Pitbull and a metal pipe.” As the two men continued to argue, the Senior Recreation Coordinator kept the seniors inside until LAPD came. “Once everything calmed down, and the scene seemed safe, we escorted Seniors out to the parking lot and a few directly to their cars,” the coordinator wrote.
Earlier in a message from the Senior Center to LAPD, “The homeless man in front of our building is progressively getting more ‘off.’ He is urinating while he’s walking around the building, and he was taking his clothes off and was completely naked in front of the seniors.
“His drug paraphernalia is out many times when I walk by, and he smokes around the building as well. He’s losing a lot of weight and he does that weird thing with his mouth and jaw that meth users do. I’m worried that he may have a mental break in reality and go off on a senior or someone walking by.”
Residents have reached out repeatedly to Councilman Mike Bonin, whose office is across the parking lot from the Senior Center. Because of security concerns, Bonin had barbed wire, gates and guards installed this year.
The Westchester Library is directly across from the Senior Center, and illegal RV parking had limited patron usage of the lot.
On resident said, “I kept thinking it would get better, but it just got worse. With Bonin, this blew up. I couldn’t even come here. It became an emotional issue.”
Another resident said, “We have to turn the narrative around to positive. We’ve opened up the ball fields, tennis, lacrosse and pickleball and now we need to get the Senior Center opened.
“Compared to where we were and where we are now is huge,” said the resident who thanked the L.A. City Rec and Parks for its help in reclaiming fields because “Bonin shut us off.”
Neighborhood Council President Paula Gerez said residents need to continue to fight. “We’re getting so close,” she said, noting the community were promised signs would go up in the parking lot that would prohibit camping and overnight parking.
Even as the people assembled, “No Overnight Parking” signs were being placed in the lot.
Gerez said that gates would also go up at the entrance to the parking lot, which would be closed at sundown.
Westchester residents hope that with signs and gates, enforcement would be possible to prevent camping and make the lot safer for residents.
CD 11 Candidate Traci Park stopped by and noted that people from everywhere in the district are standing in solidarity with Westchester. She had been sent the Westchester Park incident reports.
“I’ve read the crime reports,” Park said. “None of us should put up with this.
“I’m calling on Mike Bonin to enforce 41.18. because recreation spaces belong to all of us,” Park said. “We should all feel safe. It’s unacceptable what’s been going on for far too long.
“I call on Erin Darling to enforce 41.18,” Park said. (This ordinance passed in September 2021, states that no person may sit, lie, sleep, or store, use, maintain, or place personal property, in or upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way within the distance stated on the posted signage (up to a maximum of 500 feet) of a property designated as a sensitive use. For a property to be designated as a “sensitive use”, the property must be a Public Park, or Public Library.)
People started chanting “Park for parks.”
A woman told Channel 4 that “I have lived here for 54 years, but we have never been afraid to use the senior center until now. Since all of this happened under Bonin, people are afraid to come. This is not about Republican versus Democrat. We’re trying to save the neighborhood.”
The Senior Center is now open with limited hours and meals, either hot or grab and go lunches are available to seniors 60+. Right now, the hours are Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 to 4 p.m. The Center is trying to reactivate the busy schedule that use to include billiards, TECH Help, Arts and Crafts, painting, pickleball, chair yoga, Bingo, group games (scrabble, rummy tile, dominoes and Trivial Pursuit) and karaoke.
“We still need security for the senior center, the tennis courts, and the ballfields because seniors and children are using those facilities until late into the evening when it is dark and the RVs and other vehicles that were in the lot have moved just outside the park,” Huston said.