On Lemay St. just west of Kester, a trash camp has been removed, then put back, then removed, then allowed back.
Residents of this tidy and pleasant section of Van Nuys know their area is not unique in the suffering brought on by government negligence.
Countless calls, emails, Zoom meetings and tweets have not changed a thing. The trash camps are a steady reminder of how far California has fallen, how pathetic the situation of law and order is.
Three months ago, the LAPD Van Nuys division held their monthly talk and all the Senior Lead Officers spoke. Our man proudly stated he had removed this trash camp, which previously was unhoused on the SE corner of Vanowen and Kester. The camp then moved itself, shopping baskets and cars, to Lemay.
I don’t blame him or law enforcement for “allowing” the trash camps. This one, like many, has been cited for prostitution, drug dealing, and indecent exposure. The police are handcuffed by law.
A neighbor on NextDoor wrote that her granddaughter was playing outside when one male vagrant came up to the little girl and pulled his pants down.
He allegedly still lives in a tent along Lemay. Why?
There are many reasons to be depressed about life in Los Angeles today. In fact, progressive, thoughtful, sensitive Councilman Mike Bonin, who famously allowed murders, trash fires and thousands of vagrants to camp out and cause mayhem during the pandemic, has said he will not run for reelection, citing his personal battles with depression.
Bless him. But let him be gone to serve his emotions first so millions in our city can awaken happier tomorrow.
Lest people who read this essay think I am advocating against the Democrats or liberalism, I instead am posturing for a middle ground of care for the addicted, and housing for the lost and beaten down.
You can arrest them, jail them, deport them, or kill them, but only if you live in China or Russia. For those of us who still believe in American ideals, the law constrains us from revenge, even as we seethe in anger and contempt for the disorder and crime around us.
But we also need local laws that apply to the entire city. We cannot stop enforcing with exceptions. Like near a school or hospital or homeless services building.
It categorically must be completely illegal to camp out and live in a public park, on a public sidewalk, to urinate and defecate outdoors. Anywhere.
We cannot parse our laws to such inanities as prohibited “within 500 feet of a school.”
Imagine if we said you could drive blindfolded, stone drunk at 100 miles an hour, if you never drove past a school?
One of the bitter ironies of Los Angeles is the amount of wasted space that exists where civilized, regulated and sanitary communities could be erected to house the unhoused.
Next to the encampment on Lemay is the sprawling parking lot of the Casa Loma College which used to be a building that was the home to the American Automobile Association.
99% of the time the parking is empty. The entire lot, building and parking, is 112,994 square feet, 18 times larger than a 6,000 square foot “single family lot.”
Home Depot sells a backyard studio building that is 10’x 12’. It costs about $45,000.
Even if that is overpriced, imagine if within the bounds of the Casa Loma parking lot an agency or non-profit built 25 of these and there was a full-time security officer overseeing this community? What if this model town became a blueprint for other humane towns throughout Los Angeles?
There are, to be sure, many objections to this, but they are often imaginary, created in the minds of fearful residents who object to new types of supportive communities which are actually superior to the “free market” ones that currently exist.
The Skid Row Housing Trust is an exemplary non-profit which “provides permanent supportive housing so that people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction can lead safe, stable lives in wellness.”
They built 13604 Sherman Way, designed by architect Michael Maltzan, in 2014. It is houses 64 people but was bitterly opposed by the community before it went up. Yet it is perhaps the most attractive building built in the entire San Fernando Valley in the last 50 years.
But there is not enough of the good stuff. The trash camps are more numerous than these white paneled residences.
For now, the trash camps along Lemay, and everywhere else in the city, are a daily dose of depression for millions who live in Los Angeles and a barbaric and cruel way to treat people who must, through choice or circumstances, live under plastic tarps along the road.