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LA residents blast proposed homeless campsites at beaches, parks

A proposal to tackle homelessness in Los Angeles with temporary homeless encampments at government-owned parks and beachfront lots is prompting fierce blowback from residents — who fear it’ll turn public spaces into hotbeds for crime without addressing the underlining issues causing homelessness.

The plan put forth by Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin seeks to allow homeless people to pitch tents and receive social services at family-friendly outdoor spaces across the Westside — including Westchester Park, Mar Vista Park, Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey and Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades.

The proposal, slated for a City Council vote later this month, also calls for a temporary site for single-occupancy “tiny homes” or safe camping areas at a county-owned parking lot in Marina del Rey, as well as property at Los Angeles International Airport.

But the plan has sparked a massive recall effort by residents who claim that their local parks and beaches are already inundated by tents, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Parents are frustrated,” Matt Stayner, a 54-year-old father of four who lives by Westchester Park, told the newspaper. “We’ve lost our park. We’ve lost out park and I would like to see action.”

Stayner said he and his wife stopped sending their daughters to the park unaccompanied following the rise of homelessness there.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin has been advocating for homeless people to live in tents in city parks and beaches.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin has been advocating for homeless people to live in tents in city parks and beaches.
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And Stayner is not alone. Residents in Mar Vista told CBS Los Angeles they’re also seeing a growing number of homeless people camping out at Mar Vista Park — and they are concerned about safety.

“It’s concerning when you think that the kids are at the age that they could be going to the park and playing and you have to keep an eye on them,” resident Joanna Palmieri told the station.

“I’d like to tell Councilman Bonin please do not do that,” said Howard Lieberman, of Mar Vista. “Please be mindful of the health, safety and appearance of the neighborhood.”

Bonin’s call for the homeless camp sites has now sparked a petition signed by more than 19,000 people who fear their communities could follow in the footsteps of Venice, the Los Angeles neighborhood racked by increased crime and several fires.

“These ‘homeless shelters’ might sound reasonable from the watered-down verbiage of its marketing plan … but they are not being presented for what they actually turn out to be,” the petition reads.

“This is not how we ‘take care of the homeless,’” it continues.

A separate online petition signed by more than 10,000 people seeks to recall Bonin.

Meanwhile, Bonin told the Times his critics are jumping the gun before the city fully examines his proposal.

If ultimately approved, Los Angeles officials will look at each space and determine if it’s viable to serve the homeless, he said.

“I’m not an enthusiastic booster of any of these locations,” Bonin said. “But there isn’t a better alternative on the Westside. And if there is, I am definitely eager to hear it.”

If a portion of a park is determined to be a fit for overnight homeless camping, Bonin told the Times the city’s laws on camping and tents would be enforced in the remainder of the parkland.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin wants to hear other alternatives to placing homeless people into public parks and beaches.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin wants to hear other alternatives to placing homeless people into public parks and beaches.
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino cast the lone vote against Bonin’s proposal Thursday when it went before the city’s Homeless and Poverty Committee — but the process of evaluating the locations is expected to take several months, the Times reported.

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