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Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, introduced two motions on April 6 related to the temporary closure of Echo Park Lake for repairs in March after 209 formerly unhoused individuals at the park were placed in shelters or transitional supportive housing.
“For over a year, my office has diligently worked to respond to the myriad challenges at Echo Park Lake – the lack of adequate shelter or services for the unhoused population, the dangers to public safety found throughout the park and the growing list of repairs necessitated by the park’s deteriorating conditions,” O’Farrell said. “From the outset, I made a commitment to find transitional housing for everyone at Echo Park Lake who wanted it, no matter how they got there or where they came from. We must bring help to the most vulnerable among us while restoring safety, security and balance to this shared community resource.”
Since January 2020, O’Farrell said he has funded essential services to people experiencing homelessness at Echo Park Lake including dedicated outreach to unhoused individuals; 24-hour accessibility to restrooms, showers and hygiene stations; laundry vouchers; storage bins; and safe parking for people living in their vehicles. The services were provided as conditions became increasingly unsafe at Echo Park Lake, he said. In addition to five fatalities that occurred at the park in 2020, preliminary analyses conducted by city personnel found approximately 30 pounds of sharp objects including hypodermic needles, 400 pounds of biological waste and 43 tons of solid waste. Weapons, including firearms, were also found, but exact totals were not immediately available.
O’Farrell’s motions call for the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Sanitation and Environment, to report on damages and estimated costs of repairs to Echo Park Lake, including rehabilitation efforts of natural habitat, and a full accounting of personal property now being stored for individuals formerly camped in the park. The councilman also sought a description of items voluntarily discarded on their behalf.
The motions also call for the Los Angeles Police Department to report on all public safety issues at Echo Park Lake from January 2020 to the present and to report on the community safety activities on March 24-26 when demonstrators protested the removal of the unhoused individuals, including an outline of the decision-making process for the required public safety response. They also instruct the city’s Information Technology Agency, with assistance from the Chief Legislative Analyst and Los Angeles City Attorney, to identify, organize and give a presentation to the council on communications reported to city agencies, departments and offices about Echo Park Lake and the planned housing and park closure, focusing on credible threats of violence to city personnel or property.
O’Farrell said efforts to house people experiencing homelessness at Echo Park Lake was a months-long process and the result of an unprecedented collaboration between government and nonprofit partners to identify resources that would ensure long-term transitional housing opportunities for unhoused individuals. In addition to existing transitional housing options. The housing was made available through Project Roomkey, A Bridge Home and the construction and acquisition of a newly-opened Project Homekey site on Hoover Street that is housing 35 residents. The councilman also secured a safe sleeping site for people in vehicles, and 38 tiny home cabins on Alvarado Street.
O’Farrell’s office also contracted with the nonprofit Urban Alchemy to provide outreach services. The Urban Alchemy outreach team worked daily at the park beginning in late December to develop relationships and build trust, and their work will continue in the 13th District.
O’Farrell also made a commitment to Echo Park’s community of residents, businesses and other stakeholders to return the park to a condition commensurate to its 2013 reopening following a $45 million renovation funded by Proposition O. The commitment was accompanied with O’Farrell’s insistence that no restoration could begin until dignified housing and a path to wellness was identified for all unhoused individuals in the park.
For information, visit cd13.lacity.org.
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