NELA NEWS

Original Article Created By Elijah Chiland For Curbed Los Angeles

A planned bus rapid transit project linking North Hollywood and Pasadena is the latest rapid bus proposal to ignite controversy among neighbors.

A standing-room-only crowd packed into a public meeting about the project in Eagle Rock Saturday, after supporters and opponents of the project launched dueling petitions for and against a proposed route along Colorado Boulevard.

“Yesterday’s meeting more closely resembled an episode of the Jerry Springer Show than an official public information session,” architect and Eagle Rock homeowner Michael MacDonald wrote in a letter to Metro and shared on Twitter.

Like the San Fernando Valley’s successful Orange Line, the bus would travel in dedicated lanes—allowing it to speed past cars caught in gridlock during peak traffic hours.

That’s alarmed some Eagle Rock residents and business owners, who argue that putting bus-only lanes on Colorado Boulevard would worsen traffic and divert drivers onto smaller, residential streets.

A website created by opponents accuses Metro of “throwing Colorado Boulevard under the bus,” at the expense of drivers.

 

The agency previously considered a version of the project that would have run primarily along the 134 freeway, virtually bypassing Eagle Rock altogether. Metro staff estimated that this alignment would shave nearly a half-hour off the length of an end-to-end trip, but would limit ridership and reduce transfer opportunities to and from the bus line.

The agency is now pushing forward with a route oriented along surface streets—one that the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council voted to support in 2017.

But some residents want Metro to revisit the freeway-running concept. An online petition calling on the agency’s directors to keep the freeway option in the mix had garnered just over 700 signatures as of this morning.

Resident opposition to the Colorado Boulevard alignment appears to have inspired a wave of support for the street-running option, which advocates say would provide crucial new transit options for riders in the area.

A rival petition urging Metro to bring bus-only lanes to Colorado Boulevard—along with “streetscape enhancements” and better pedestrian infrastructure—had more than 850 signatures Tuesday.

Eagle Rock isn’t the only place where proposed bus-only lanes along Colorado Boulevard have proven controversial.

In April, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek urged a Metro committee to abandon study of dedicated bus lanes from Old Town Pasadena to Pasadena City College, suggesting that doing so would be a “terrible mistake.”

The concerns of residents and city officials have delayed the start of environmental review on the project, which the Metro board was scheduled to initiate in April.

It’s unclear if that will affect the project’s timeline. One of 28 projects that the agency aims to complete in time for the 2028 Olympics, the bus line is now scheduled to open in 2022.

The last of five July meetings on the project is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Glendale Central Library, 222 East Harvard Street.

Original Article Created By Elijah Chiland For Curbed Los Angeles

Happy Foot Silverlake

Original Article Created By Roger Vincent For LA TIMES

There’s something about the revolving sign on Sunset Boulevard that pulls you in, this tacky talisman for Silver Lake that sticks in people’s minds.

It’s a before-and-after ad for Sunset Foot Clinic, with a cartoonish drawing of a mournful foot character clinging to crutches on one side and a limber, smiling foot on the other.

But this is no ordinary commercial signage.

Local legend says that if the turning panel shows you the “happy foot” as you approach, you will have a good day. But if your first glimpse is of “sad foot,” you might want to turn around and go back to bed.

The sign, which has been there since about 1985, even prompted a nickname for the neighborhood around Sunset and Benton Way: “HaFo SaFo,” for Happy Foot Sad Foot.

Now, the display’s days are few. It will disappear when the clinic hotfoots it to a new location in September.

Some people are already mourning its loss because it reminds them of an earlier era when Silver Lake was considered bohemian and attracted many creative types who couldn’t afford to live in more prosperous parts of the city.

“The Happy Foot Sad Foot sign leaving is going to be sort of tragic because it’s such a connection to a kooky, weirder time in the neighborhood,” said artist Billy Kheel, who has created felt ornaments and two-sided pillows that mimic the sign.

“I keep the happy foot side toward me,” Kheel said, “just because it’s charged with this superstitious power.”

The keeper of the totem for the last dozen years has been Thomas Lim, a podiatrist who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and studied at UCLA. After serving a residency in New York, he decided to hang out his shingle in Los Angeles and bought the practice on Sunset Boulevard where he is the main physician.

“That sign was a happy accident,” Lim said. “I didn’t realize how iconic it was.”

Then patients started conversations about it, including one who announced that he would be leaving directly for Las Vegas after his appointment.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going or not,” the man told him, until he was emboldened by seeing the favorable side of the sign.

Happy Foot Silverlake

Other people walked in off the street to ask if they could buy T-shirts emblazoned with the goofy anthropomorphized feet. Lim doesn’t sell merchandise, but has noticed other entrepreneurs hawking HaFo SaFo shirts, lapel pins and other footy items online. He doesn’t mind.

“It’s like Sriracha,” he said, referring to the popular hot sauce that has never been trademarked by its creator Vietnamese immigrant David Tran. “Let it grow on its own.”

Lim’s lease on the Sunset Boulevard spot wasn’t renewed, he said, so the practice will move about a mile and a half to the intersection of Virgil Avenue and Beverly Boulevard.

The city considers revolving signs distractions for drivers and no longer allows them to be erected (the existing sign was grandfathered into regulations) so Lim can’t replicate the kitschy come-on in his new location.

He may miss out on attracting patients such as Carol Richards, who lives nearby and decided about a year ago, “I’m going to try the happy foot sad foot” for help with calluses, she said.

She likes Dr. Lim and also has affection for the revolving billboard that is so old that it lists a phone number without an area code.

“I love it because they don’t make signs like that anymore,” Richards said. “To me, it’s comforting.”

Former Silver Lake resident Angela Chvarak Jung finds the sign “a great symbol” of the community.

“It’s almost like artwork,” said Jung, who is herself an artist. “Like a cultural symbol that moved in the air.”

She and her boyfriend dressed in costume as happy foot and sad foot for Halloween a few years ago “because we just loved it.”

The panels of the beloved sign are too big to affix to his new office, Lim said, so he may donate them to a museum, if one will have them.

The revolving sign will soon advertise a new tenant that will take over the clinic space, said Dipak Patel, an owner of the property that is dominated by a Comfort Inn hotel.

“My son is opening a restaurant,” Patel said.

His son, Avish Naran, is a chef trained in Napa Valley who described his restaurant concept as “refined Indian bar food” in a video he posted online.

Patel said the menu’s items may include “pizza, ribs and pastas with an Indian twist.”

“I’m happy for my son, but kind of sad the tenant is leaving also,” Patel said.

The happy-sad motif will live on in the new restaurant’s advertising.

The eatery has yet to be named, but its new advertising panels in the revolving sign will somehow reflect the theme that the corner of Sunset and Benton is known for, Patel said.

“We’re trying to incorporate what was, for so many years, the happiness with the sadness.”

Original Article Created By Roger Vincent For LA TIMES

Original Article Created By NBC Los Angeles

A report of a man with a knife and machete led to a shooting and standoff at a 7-Eleven Tuesday night northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Officers were called about 6:45 p.m. to the area of Commonwealth Avenue and Temple Street, according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Mike Lopez. A 911 caller said a man was threatening housemates with a knife and machete.

“Upon arrival, an officer-involved shooting occurred,” Lopez said.

The man then ran into a nearby 7-Eleven, still holding at least one knife. Lt. Chris Ramirez said officer used less-lethal weapons and took the man into custody.

Original Article Created By NBC Los Angeles

NELA NEWS

Original Article By Page Austin For Patch

Department of Water and Power customers can now get live updates about power outages affecting them delivered straight to their phones

A power outage notification system unveiled Tuesday by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Tuesday will text or email customers when a power outage is reported in their neighborhood. They’ll also receive information about estimated times for repairs and service restoration.

To sign up for the alerts click on the Outage Alerts tab at ladwp.com. Customers can choose between English and Spanish alerts, and they can enroll for notifications in as many as three neighborhoods within DWP’s service area.

“Last July, Los Angeles experienced extreme heat coupled with record- breaking electricity demand that resulted in prolonged power outages,” DWP General Manager David Wright said. “That experience brought home the need for a message alert system to better inform customers of the status of outages.”

Customers can report outages at the DWP’s web-based outage management system at www.ladwp.com/outages, or by calling 1-800-DIAL-DWP. The most up-to- date information on power outages can be found on DWP website or on Twitter at @LADWP.

“The DWP is one of the most reliable utilities in the United States. But sometimes the power goes out, especially during our warm summer months, and it’s our job to let Angelenos know when the lights will turn back on,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Original Article By Page Austin For Patch

DLTA NEWS

Original Article By Jamie Feldmar

“I know the words ‘sake bar’ can come with some baggage,” says Courtney Kaplan, the beverage wiz behind the hit Japanese restaurant Tsubaki in Echo Park. “But this one is going to be fun, I promise.” Along with her partner in business and life, chef Charles Namba, Kaplan is on a mission to upend stuffy stereotypes about Japan’s traditional rice wine at the couple’s newest venture, Ototo, which opened in late May.

Located next door to Tsubaki, Ototo (Japanese for “little brother”) serves as a more casual counterpoint to its sibling, with an emphasis on sake, wine, beer, and requisite drinking snacks. “The goal is to hang out and treat it like a regular bar,” Kaplan says. “We want to do what wine bars did for democratizing wine, making it more accessible and fun.”

DTLA NEWS

The barrier, as she sees it, is that even people who like sake often don’t know much about it. Ototo aims to reduce the intimidation factor. That means freely pouring tastes from the list of 50-plus bottles and writing menu descriptions that balance info with entertainment. “We’re not too bogged down in jargon about rice polishes or sake grades,” Kaplan says. “I want people to feel a sense of adventure when they take a sip.”

That said, there’s plenty for sake nerds to dig into. “Sake often gets pigeonholed—most people experience a very specific style—and I want to show how broad it can be,” she says. As savvy drinkers continue to seek the story behind what they imbibe, she sees an opportunity to push sake into the spotlight. She’s particularly excited about showcasing varieties like Fukucho, a sake crafted in Hiroshima by a female master brewer who single-handedly revived an extinct heirloom rice breed over the course of a decade. There’s also “young, hipster-style” sakes like the Takachiyo 59 series, which consists of three identical sakes, each made with a different type of rice. The beverage menu is rounded out by shochu (a distilled grain liquor), natural wines from the U.S. (in contrast to Tsubaki’s all-French list next door), and craft beer, including a possible collaboration with Eagle Rock Brewery.

DTLA NEWS

In terms of food, sake is a natural pairing for savory, umami-heavy foods and, according to Kaplan, offers far more flexibility than wine. Namba is developing a snack-oriented menu with dishes like oden, a comforting simmered stew of sorts; a katsu-style fried-chicken sandwich; and the gloriously decadent griddled cabbage pancake okonomiyaki. Oh, and cheese, which Kaplan notes is a natural foil for sake, because both contain high amounts of amino acids and glutamates. (Other foods with a similar makeup include oysters and tomatoes, which means “pizza is a fantastic sake pairing, too.”)

The idea at Ototo is to offer something for everyone and maybe broaden horizons in the process. “If you’re waiting for a table at Tsubaki, you can come next door and have a drink and a quick snack; you can drop in for a glass of sake before a Dodgers game; or you can make a night of it here,” Kaplan says. “It’s a flexible spot for the neighborhood.

Ototo, 1360 Allison Ave., Echo Park.

Original Article By Jamie Feldmar

NELA NEWS
 Original Article By Mark Nero For Patch Eagle Rock

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is inviting the public to attend a series of public meetings regarding the North Hollywood to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit Project.

At the meetings, which are being held next month in North Hollywood, Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Burbank and Glendale, Interested members of the public can learn about the project and provide input for the project’s upcoming environmental impact report.

NELA NEWS

The $267-million, 18-mile project aims to build a Bus Rapid Transit line that would connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, traveling east-west between the North Hollywood Station and Pasadena City College with stops in downtown Burbank and Glendale.

The project’s goal is to provide a fast and affordable bus line that will service a corridor that sees more than 700,000 daily trips. The new line would utilize electric buses.

Metro recently completed an Alternatives Analysis and is now evaluating a refined set of routes and station locations as part of the Environmental Impact Report. Throughout the environmental process Metro will continue collaborating with cities and communities along the corridor.

The public meetings are designed to solicit input from the community pertaining to environmental issues, route options, mitigation measures and other issues that should be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report.

Content will be the same at all five scoping meetings. The meetings are planned for:

North Hollywood
Tuesday, July 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Lankershim Arts Center
5108 Lankershim Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA, 91601

Pasadena
Wednesday, July 10, 6-8 p.m.
Pasadena Senior Center
85 E. Holly St.
Pasadena, CA 91103

Eagle Rock
Saturday, July 13, 1-3 p.m.
Eagle Rock Plaza
2700 Colorado Blvd., Suite 236
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Burbank
Monday, July 15, 6-8 p.m.
Buena Vista Branch Library
300 N. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91505

Glendale
Wednesday, July 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Glendale Downtown Central Library
222 E. Harvard St.
Glendale, CA 91205

Spanish translation will be provided. ADA accommodations and other translations are available by calling (323) 466.3876 or California Relay Service at 711 at least 72 hours in advance.

For additional project information or to provide feedback, visit the NoHo-Pasadena BRT Project website at https://www.metro.net/projects/noho-pasadena-corridor/.

 Original Article By Mark Nero For Patch Eagle Rock

NELA NEWS

Original Article By Farley Elliot For LA EATER

Goodbye burger

Silver Lake burger restaurant Hache is closing after five years. The Sunset Boulevard eatery will close its doors for good as of this coming Sunday, with ownership saying: “We really appreciate everyone who came through our patio and who hung with us through the good, the bad, and the yummy times.” The land is rumored to be slated for redevelopment.

Big names

Food & Wine takes a look at five great big Los Angeles restaurant openings for this summer, starting with Tacos 1986 and winding through Bon Temps, Birdie G’s, Antico, and Pizzana in West Hollywood.

French updates

Things are coming along at Pasjoli, Dialogue chef Dave Beran’s upcoming Santa Monica French restaurant. It looks like he’s still targeting an opening sometime in late summer, too.

Keep it spicy

The Hotville Chicken crew is heading back down to Long Beach for another pop-up at Beer Belly. Kim Prince’s seriously spicy bird will reemerge July 19, 20, and 21.

A delicious event

Delicious Little Tokyo returns on July 19 and 20. The two-day event features not only lots of restaurants from in and around Little Tokyo, it also offers live music, demonstrations, giveaways and more.

On the low

Los Angeleno has a fun feature out on Stubborn Nail, an underground bar of sorts that serves what may be some of the best cocktails in the greater Glassell Park area.

Come to Commerson

Speaking of cocktails, Mid-City restaurant Commerson is hosting a craft cocktail class tonight. Tickets for the event run $35, and include drinks, of course.

Original Article By Farley Elliot For LA EATER

NELA NEWS

Original Article By

Here’s your weekly rundown of Eastside dining and shopping news.

Longtime Silver Lake staple Café Tropical is under new ownership, Eater LA reports. The 44-year-old Cuban style café has been taken over by the team behind El Cochinito, a family run Cuban restaurant located a few blocks west of Café Tropical. You won’t see much of a difference though. The plan is for the two businesses to overlap operationally while keeping Café Tropical as is, with the exception of a possible curbside take-away window. Café Tropical is at 2900 Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake.

Relentless Brewing has branched out from Temecula and has opened a second location in Eagle Rock, Eater LA reports. There’s no real brewing happening at this location though, but rather, the beer is shipped from its Riverside facility. Aside from the beer, Relentless Brewing also features cocktails and a limited food menu. Relentless Brewing and Spirits is at 2133 Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock.

Los Angeles’ best pizza is found in a parking lot in Silver Lake, Los Angeles Insider reports. The concept comes from Chef Eleodoro Lopez, who makes his wood-fired pizza in the back of his pick-up truck with an oven he ordered from Italy. Check him out most evenings in the parking lot between Coronado Street and Benton Way in Silver Lake. 

A few weeks back we reported that Lowboy bar was preparing to open in the former home of The Lost Knight (and before that, Barragan’s Mexican restaurant). Well, it turns out Lowboy will be part of a trio of establishments — two bars and a restaurant — that will open in the Lost Knight building, reports Eater LA. Lowboy will be joined later this summer by a restaurant called Adamae and an “upscale cocktail experience” called Las Flores.  

We know that opening a restaurant usually takes longer than planned. But almost four years? That’s how long demolition and construction has taken at a former Echo Park brick building being converted into an Italian restaurant. The owners of Etti, described as a combination of “traditional Italian gastronomy with the sensibility and seasonality of Southern California,” even began looking to hire workers in late 2016. Now, after an ambitious renovation that involved digging out an entirely new basement, it looks like Etti is finally close to completion. Etti’s one-page website doesn’t reveal much, but the Instagram of Stayner Architects, located down the block, provided glimpses of a soaring ceilingmarble finishes and other high-end touches. Let’s hope Etti will be worth the wait. Etti will be at 1509 Echo Park Ave. in Echo Park.

That’s it for this week’s Shopper & Diner Report!

Original Article By

NELA NEWS

Original Article By Joel Sappell For Boulevard Sentinel

On a recent bright Saturday afternoon, a day for play at the Eagle Rock Recreation Center, the new dog park was a swirl of fur and the picnic tables were packed with families.

Into this carefree scene wandered 64-year old Lani Johns, who lives in a homeless encampment directly across the road.

Johns haltingly jaywalked her way into the middle of Figueroa Street, her sights set on the recreation center’s public restroom. Cars zipped past in both directions as she waited for a break in the traffic. No one slowed or stopped for the slouching woman in flip-flops, a blur of a person.

In a larger sense, this is what life feels like for her and thousands of other unsheltered people across Los Angeles. As encampments have become a flashpoint for one of the most perplexing and contentious issues of the day, the people who live there say they’re reduced to stereotypes, their unique circumstances and hopes invisible.

“We really just want to be normal people. We don’t want to hurt anybody,” says Johns, a former dog groomer who says she lost her South Pasadena apartment several years ago after her mother died and her daughter moved in with a boyfriend in the Antelope Valley.

Like other residents in her Eagle Rock encampment, Johns says she grew up in the area and does not want to move downtown for the only available housing or overnight shelter.

“We love this place, just like you do,” Johns says of the neighborhood, although she admits there are plenty of bad actors living on the street. “There’s good and bad with everything,” she says.

NELA NEWs

The most recent greater Los Angeles homeless count, released in early June, has only fueled public frustration over the growing encampments and what to do about residents like Johns.

Although more than 21,000 people were housed and hundreds of millions of dollars spent in 2018, homelessness rose by 16% in the City of Los Angeles and 12% countywide. Simply put, the system could not keep pace with the numbers of people tumbling into homelessness, the result of an unprecedented affordable housing crisis, says the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, or LAHSA.

In Eagle Rock, where homelessness dominates the civic debate, there are two large encampments. One is on Figueroa, north of Colorado Boulevard. The other is under the 2 Freeway on Broadway.

In June, the Boulevard Sentinel took a deeper look at these encampments to better understand the experiences of people living on the streets and the intensified efforts of government to confront the challenges they pose. The paper spent hours talking with Eagle Rock encampment residents and interviewed key players in the fight against homelessness, including service providers, government leaders and police.

In the shadow of the 134

Residents of the Figueroa encampment know they’re not wanted.

One recent night, someone rained firecrackers on them from an overpass along the 134 Freeway. Nerves were rattled, but no one was injured. On another night, paintballs fired from a passing car just missed a number of residents.

“They think we all steal and do drugs,” says a sturdily built, self-possessed young man in his early 30s who says his name is David. “There are people living in their houses doing more drugs than we do. They’ve got their pharmaceuticals, their liquor, their Adderall.”

David says he’s been on Figueroa for more than a year, since losing his job providing home care for an older gentleman in Glendale. “This is my family now,” he says, nodding to the half-dozen or so tents along the littered sidewalk.

Standing next to David is a gaunt and dusty 34-year-old who calls himself Pedro. He says he’s been homeless for seven years. His eyes are sunken and sad. He acknowledges that he’s a heroin addict.

“One thing I do well is drugs,” he says softly. “I’ll be honest, I get bored. That’s why I do it. ”

Asked what he’d like to say to those in the neighborhood who want to see him and his encampment gone for good, Pedro responds: “I don’t care what they think or want. I’m just trying to survive.”

The two say they take care of each other in ways big and small, like others do in their homeless community. “I got the milk one day, he got the cereal,” says Pedro, as he reaches into a bag of Fruit Loops.

Pedro and David insist that contrary to perceptions, they survive not by stealing but by recycling every last can and bottle they can find.

“I’ve never worked so hard for so little,” says Pedro.

Relentlessly reaching out

Nela News

For years, Monica Alcaraz has been an outreach worker in Northeast Los Angeles, first as a street-level volunteer and now, thanks to funding from the voter-approved Measure H sales tax, as a coordinator of multi-disciplinary teams through Exodus Recovery, a mental health and homeless services agency.

During that time, she says, “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want housing.” But getting them off the street is another matter.

The outreach teams, which offer services to people in various stages of homelessness, include a nurse, mental health clinician, substance abuse counselor and case manager, with other specialists summoned when needed. The engagement process is relentless, Alcaraz says, requiring countless visits to establish trust and momentum.

The goal is to get people indoors—whether it’s into a shelter bed, “bridge” housing for those who need temporary help getting back on their feet, or permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people with a diagnosed mental health or physical disability. Once indoors, Alcaraz says, people are more likely to access services and work to keep their housing.

The stakes are life and death.

One elderly woman, who refused repeated offers of help last year, died just feet from the baseball fields of the Eagle Rock Recreation Center. Alcaraz was there when paramedics tried to save the woman, who was at least in her 80s and had started living in a tent after losing possession of an RV.

“This is a lady who lived in Eagle Rock probably most of her life and she lost it all,” says Alcaraz.

Another resident of the Figueroa encampment, a gravely sick veteran, narrowly avoided a similar fate. Outreach workers reunited him with his family. “He looked like he was going to die,” Alcaraz says. Today, he’s living in better health with his family in Northern California.

Alcaraz also says that, over the past several years, six people from the Figueroa encampment have been successfully placed in permanent supportive housing, with more possibly on the horizon.

On Broadway, a different story

The Broadway encampment presents another set of challenges. The population there, Alcaraz says, is more fluid and less approachable—characteristics that other homeless advocates (and the Boulevard Sentinel) have encountered as well.

“It’s a different feel there,” says Alcaraz.

An older man named Andy, who was evicted from his Pasadena apartment and now lives in a small green tent at the encampment, says most people there keep to themselves because they’ve been disappointed by past offers of help and “feel judged all the time.”

The prevailing attitude, he says, is: “Who is anyone to judge us?”

Unlike the loosely structured Figueroa encampment, this one is largely run by an Eagle Rock native named Art Garza, who functions as a sort of landlord and has told outreach workers he’s not going anywhere.

In January, Garza pleaded no contest to a charge of rape of an unconscious 22-year old woman at the encampment. Under the terms of his plea, he was released for time-served—roughly the year he spent in custody awaiting trial—and was ordered to register as a sex offender.

While Garza was behind bars, the encampment largely disappeared. Now he’s back and so are nearly a dozen tents.

Nela News

LAHSA, which has its own two-person engagement teams, says it visits the Broadway encampment about once a month, compared to once a week or more for the Figueroa encampment. The homeless people living on Broadway have largely rejected LAHSA’s services, says Victor Hinderliter, the agency’s associate director of access and engagement, and “we don’t push too hard.” In contrast, he says, LAHSA recently helped someone along Figueroa get into a single room occupancy hotel downtown.

Homeless advocates say that one of the biggest obstacles in getting people off the street is that many encampment residents do not want to leave communities where they were raised, have family ties and feel safer.

But in Northeast Los Angeles, like many other parts of the city, there are no overnight shelter beds and no available permanent supportive housing units in which to place them. Without neighborhood options, Alcaraz says, the encampments will not go away.

Councilman José Huizar’s office says that situation could soon be changing.

Plans are moving forward to create emergency housing in Eagle Rock for about 12 homeless families at the dormant St. Barnabas Episcopal Church on Chickasaw Avenue. Huizar has asked city financial officials to explore funding options to help LAHSA with the building’s potential conversion.

The councilman’s spokesman, Rick Coca, says “there wasn’t anybody who stood up and screamed” when the idea was discussed at an Eagle Rock community meeting on homelessness in May that drew about 100 people. It was an encouraging sign, he says, that residents are “open to a conversation” about increasing homeless housing and services in Eagle Rock.

Rules of encampment engagement

Despite growing calls for stronger action, Los Angeles authorities cannot simply dismantle encampments and oust their residents. Federal courts have ruled that people have a right to sleep on public sidewalks if there is not enough housing or shelter for them.

But local authorities can intervene to protect public health and safety. In Los Angeles, that includes sanitation sweeps, which, under municipal codes, must be posted at least 24 hours in advance so encampment residents have time to remove their belongings.

Prior to any cleanup, LAHSA representatives are required to visit the encampment and verify that residents have been offered services.

The most recent records available show that sanitation crews visited the Figueroa encampment nearly 20 times between March 2017, and the end of January 2019. They visited the Broadway encampment, which is generally cleaner, 11 times during that span.

Teams led by the Los Angeles Police Department also are authorized to make “rapid response” interventions without advance notice to remove unsafe or oversized belongings and to ensure 36-inches of sidewalk passage, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In recent weeks, however, as encampment conditions have rocketed to the forefront of the homeless debate, city and county leaders have conceded that more needs to be done. And quickly.

On June 7, the county’s public health officer informed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office that toilets and hand-washing stations must be placed at encampments to reduce the potential spread of disease. City sanitation officials, meanwhile, have vowed to intensify cleanups and seek funding for mobile bathrooms and trash bins.

At the recent Eagle Rock community meeting on homelessness, attendees were asked to prioritize services they’d like to see and possible locations for them. Topping the list were mobile toilets and showers, with one favored location being an Eagle Rock Recreation Center parking lot a short walk from the Figueroa encampment.

Huizar’s office says that before committing to the recommendations, the councilman is awaiting results of the “Pit Stop” pilot program he has championed, which has placed attended mobile bathrooms at five locations across the city. At that point, he’ll share the information with Eagle Rock stakeholders “so we can make a collective decision on what serves the community best,” says Coca.

Uneasy neighbors come face-to-face

Senior lead officer Fernando Ochoa of the LAPD says he gets a pretty good sense of public attitudes towards Eagle Rock’s encampments when he accompanies sanitation crews on sweeps.

“Out of ten cars that go by,” he says, “seven will give you a thumbs up. The other three, they’ll give you the other finger and tell you to leave them alone.”

Increasingly, Ochoa says, officers are caught between neighborhood complaints and legal restraints—especially when it comes to the Figueroa encampment, which shares close quarters with the popular Eagle Rock Recreation Center. Ochoa says needles have been found throughout the city-owned park—on the playground, the ball fields, the picnic areas.

Ochoa says narcotics use is endemic to the encampments. But to arrest someone for drugs, there must be an outstanding warrant, he says. Otherwise, police can only write a citation to appear in court and book the drugs as evidence.

“The public can’t believe that if we come across someone with heroin, we can’t take them to jail,” Ochoa says.

Ochoa and others say complaints about the encampment escalated in May after the long-awaited opening of the dog park. To get inside the entrance on Figueroa’s west side, visitors unhappily found themselves sidestepping tents and trash on the sidewalk.

Angry complaints already had been flowing in to Huizar’s office from teachers and parents of a nearby charter school whose students were regularly navigating the encampment to enter the adjacent recreation center sports fields for their physical education.

Alcaraz says she knew the dog park’s opening—and the public’s sudden close encounter with Eagle Rock’s homeless population—was going to be an issue.

“Oh my God,” she quotes dog owners as saying, “I have to walk through this? My dog has to walk through this?”

Nela News

To help resolve the impasse, Alcaraz says, she encouraged encampment residents on Figueroa’s west side, nearest the dog park, to move and join the tents on the other side of the street. “Let the sidewalk be clear,” she urged them. Today, with that sidewalk empty and clean, “the complaints have gone down,” she says.

On a grander scale, of course, the Figueroa détente “is a small sort of thing,” says Huizar spokesman Coca. “But for people living their lives, whether it’s the homeless people or people trying to watch out for their kids, we found a little compromise we can work with and build on.”

Call it a work in progress.

Recently, a new complaint surfaced about a shoeless encampment resident named Jason, who’s been passing time on the dog park’s new benches. Officer Ochoa says some park-goers “didn’t like him touching their dogs.” Ochoa used it as a teachable moment.

“Unless he’s committing a crime,” Ochoa says he told them, “we can’t tell him to leave, we can’t write him a citation, we can’t arrest him for just sitting there and we can’t force him to leave the dogs alone.”

“I just can’t go to Skid Row”

Lani Johns is undertaking her own encampment sweep.

A young man from Highland Park, Bernardo, who says he sometimes helps the homeless people along Figueroa, has just delivered a new broom to Johns, and she’s wasting no time attacking the sidewalk and gutter.

Johns may not have a house, but she takes pride in her home.

On this particular June day, Alcaraz has come to the encampment, too. Outreach workers have been gently coaxing Johns for months. She tells Johns that there may be housing for her downtown. Johns says she’ll take a look.

But later, talking to a reporter while tightly hugging her beloved Chihuahua, Apple, she says, “I just can’t go to Skid Row. I’m a tough old bird, but I’m not Skid Row tough.”

She’s also worried about what might become of one of her two daughters, who, confronting personal and financial problems, left her Antelope Valley boyfriend and has now been living in her own tent at the encampment for several months.

“It’s hard to talk about,” Johns say. She says she’s just grateful that, despite everything, her two girls are still in her life. “I’m so proud I never lost my kids to the system.”

As Johns talks and tidies, a gleaming gray Maserati comes to a fast stop along the painted island on Figueroa. The juxtaposition of car and encampment is jarring.

The driver, whose arms and neck are covered in colorful ink, waves Bernardo over. In less than a minute, the Maserati has roared back into traffic and Bernardo has returned to the curb—with a $100 bill.

He quotes the Good Samaritan as saying, “Look, just take care of some of the people over there.”

Johns, who has moved down the street, broom in hand, is unaware of the unfolding events. Bernardo calls out to her. “Come on! Come with me!”

“Where we going?” she shouts back.

“We’re going to the market,” he says.

With that, the two cross the street, climb into Bernardo’s small blue Nissan and disappear along Figueroa Street.

Nela News

Original Article By Joel Sappell For Boulevard Sentinel