Video: Fight Breaks Out Over Access To Silver Lake's Public Stairs
A fight broke out at the base of a locked-up public staircase in Silver Lake this weekend. Facing off were a group advocating to open the public staircases to the public and a neighbor who complained they were "creating a hardship for the people who live here for your convenience."
On the side of public access were the folks behind The Big Parade, an annual two-day event that leads a big group up and down 80 public staircases over 35 miles in Los Angeles. This weekend The Big Parade started at Grand Park and ended up at Skylight Books. It's like a marathon but with less running and more local history—and a heaping dose of activism.
The public staircases of Los Angeles are useful thoroughfares now for people who live in the hills and want to get up and down to main streets like Sunset—but they were especially crucial in the time before cars. Over time, the city started closing some of these routes, after neighbors complained about burglary attempts, drug deals, loitering, poor maintenance and excessive trash. Some of these staircases have been closed 30 years. The Big Parade, including local staircase expert Bob Inman, put up signs calling for the staircases to be reopened along their route:
It seems that one resident didn't like that. A very heated argument broke out at the base of the Parkman-Westerly Terrace stairs, which were closed in 1990. Some nearby residents were gifted with keys to the locked-up stairs, which riled public advocates who saw private property owners being given exclusive access to public property. Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch looked into the issue in 2011 and a rep from Councilman Tom LaBonge's office said that the stairs were closed because of safety and sanitation, gangs and poorly lit stairs and said that to reopen them would "requires some get-togethers and discussion."
The stairs are still closed but there was certainly some discussion this weekend. The resident fired back at the group: "What is happening is you are choosing to try to open the street that is putting my family and everybody else at public risk."
Advocates argue that these should be opened not just because they belong to the public but because they actually improve the quality of the neighborhood. Charles Fleming, author of Secret Stairs, told Patch: "It's shocking to me how few people know about the staircases at all. Stairs are heavy pedestrian areas that would allow active, healthy use by citizens."
Here's the group listening to a history of the stairs at the top of the closed staircase:
The Parkman-Westerly Stairs weren't the only ones targeted for reopening during the walk:
Those signs aren't official unless you consider the Department of DIY official (we do):
There were calls for an ordinance to reopen all the staircases:
Hearing about need for citywide stairway ordinance, & need to take crime off the table. We don’t close streets to cars where crimes occur— Big Parade LA (@bigparadeLA) May 3, 2015
Or else more drastic measures may be considered: