As homeless encampments have littered public spaces with drug paraphernalia and human waste, public safety concerns have forced out extracurricular activities once enjoyed by residents seeking green refuge in inner cities.
It’s unclear whether the latest plight to clean up Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park will be met with similar controversies seen across the city in months’ past. Hundreds of protesters blocked city crews trying to clear a homeless encampment in Echo Park in March and dozens were arrested.
And ironically on the other side of the spectrum, a “safe camping” program meant to protect tents from being removed in Venice Beach drew outcry from residents and vendors alike, as some called for the recall of L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin over the initiative.
Launching a 2020 mayoral bid centered on addressing the state of homelessness, L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino spoke to supporters in Venice Beach in June – before a homeless woman drew a knife feet away, announcing she would start killing people, and several police officers tackled her to the ground. A fed-up Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva butted heads with Bonin again by sending foot patrols to the boardwalk and demanding tents be out by July. The councilman organized efforts to move about 200 homeless people into motels.
L.A. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo said that MacArthur Park will be closed starting on Oct. 15 for about ten weeks, as the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks will catch up on necessary maintenance delayed during the coronavirus pandemic, the Los Angeles Times reported. His office counted about 45 tents scattered across 32 acres of the park divided by Wilshire Boulevard on Sept. 29.
Seeking to differentiate his cleanup effort from the contention seen in Echo Park, Cedillo explained that homeless people camping in MacArthur Park were given notice weeks in advance of the closure. Between January and the end of last month, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and the homeless agency PATH had already assisted in relocating more than 160 people from MacArthur Park into shelters or other housing.