Will MacArthur Park Closure Be A Repeat Of Echo Park Lake?
A notice posted at the entrance to MacArthur Park that says everyone living there must leave and remove their possessions by 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 15 has sparked outrage among some community groups and advocates for unhoused people.
The notice, posted earlier this week, said the southern area of the park — where the water feature is located — would be closed for repairs and fenced off. That drew immediate comparisons to the closure of Echo Park Lake in March.
Tom Bellino, a board member with the MacArthur Park Neighborhood Council, said when the notice was posted it was the first he had heard of the closure. He said no one reached out to community groups or the neighborhood council. Bellino is worried this will be a repeat of the Echo Park Lake closure, when the LAPD and other city workers came in after dark, erected a fence and removed campers who had defied the city’s order to leave.
He doesn’t want to see that happening in the neighborhood.
At the MacArthur Park NC meeting, LAPD is saying they're going to close the south end of the park for about 8 weeks "to reclaim the park," "much like with Echo Park," in what they described as a "Cedillo-led effort".— Tom Bellino (@tombellino) September 29, 2021
“What happened in Echo Park was disturbing,” he said. “The police activity was so violent to do that closure and I don't want our unhoused neighbors to be forced out without a permanent housing option. And I don't want a giant police presence forcibly shutting down the only green space we have in our neighborhood.”
Councilmember Gil Cedillo, whose district includes MacArthur Park, said this won’t be anything like what took place at Echo Park Lake, adding his office has been coordinating with outreach teams since January and that the notice was a “culmination of a 10-month outreach program” that he says has connected 164 people living in the park to housing since January.
How Is It Different from the Echo Park Closure?
- Cedillo said unhoused residents in Echo Park were only given 48 hours notice to leave, whereas people in MacArthur Park have been offered shelter since January.
- Echo Park notices were given 24 hours prior to closure, but his district put them up 17 days prior.
- Echo Park was entirely closed off and fenced off, but the recreational side of MacArthur Park will remain open and only the lakeside portion will be closed.
- Unlike Echo Park, all fencing will be removed when the lakeside portion reopens.
“Everybody deserves a public space, a safe, secure and clean park,” said Cedillo during a Friday morning interview in his City Hall office. “In particular my district, where it is predominantly immigrants of various legal statuses, significantly LGBT and working class. We deserve a clean, safe and secure park as much as anybody.”
Cedillo’s office said notices were given out in English, Spanish and Braille. Reaction to the news of the closure was a mixed bag among unhoused residents who spoke with me at the park. Some knew about the closure, others said it was their first time hearing about it.
Alexander Richardson, a 57-year-old unhoused man who has been living in the park for two years, said an outreach team made contact with him three weeks ago, but he hasn’t heard back from anyone yet. He’s worried he won’t hear back — and Oct. 15 is quickly approaching.
“I’ll probably just have to find another location to put up shelter,” he said.
Jose Rodriguez, deputy district director for Cedillo, said it’s not uncommon to hear that people haven’t been contacted or received follow up, but it's the job of his office to make sure people are getting connected. Rodriguez said since the notice went up on Sept. 29, 19 unhoused people in the park have been connected to housing and 12 more were scheduled for today.
“It's a commitment the councilmember has made,” he said, “to leave no unhoused person behind.”