ECHO PARK –– Two and a half years ago, B.J. Dini and Simon Johnson first parked their bus by Echo Park Lake and set up shop for meditation, tarot readings and birth charts. The bus has since been painted purple, spawning a Facebook presence called The Purple Party, which welcomes people from across the political spectrum. But the purple bus might soon have to find a new place to park.
Once the city starts enforcing new restrictions on persons living in vehicles, the RVs, campers and cars used as homes around the lake will have to move on. That includes the purple bus, which Dini says may be heading for the desert, maybe Joshua Tree.
The City Council passed an ordinance last fall saying people could not sleep in vehicles overnight in residential zones or within a block of a park or school or day care facility. During the day, people living vehicles must stay at least one block away from parks and schools. While the ordinance became effective early this month, the city said the LAPD won’t begin enforcement until early February. That has prompted Dini to show up at recent Echo Park Neighborhood Council meeting to express his concern about the law and present a letter that reads in part:
“We invite the LA City Council to consider ‘vehicle dwellers’ on a case by case basis and perhaps issue licenses or permits to those exceptional buses, RVs, etc. which are living works of art and only add to the tourist attraction/value of the property and serve some kind of community function such as a lending library, meditation center, temporary housing and feeding of park residents who would otherwise have no shelter.”
Aside from a rotation of guests, the occupants of the bus consist primarily of Dini and Johnson, who’ve lived and been activists in two other neighborhoods that are also no longer affordable – a warehouse space in San Francisco’s Mission District, then another warehouse space in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York. “I feel like people my age are looking to mobile living,” said Dini, who is 33.
When Dini and Johnson first arrived at Echo Park Lake, it seemed particularly serene in contrast to Brooklyn. Purple flowers bloomed throughout the park that season, so that became the color for the outside of the bus and the interior fabrics.
“It sort of feels like an organic outgrowth of the lake,” Dini said.
Purple also gave it’s name to their Facebook group name “The Purple Party,” as the group became more politically active in Echo Park. They joined a homeless brigade, where Dini got himself detained by police after appearing with a sign that said “Jesus was a homeless prophet just like me.”
Dini and others have also been active at Echo Park Neighborhood Council meetings, in response to the new city ordinance. But at the last meeting – in a development that would surprise no one who has ever attended a neighborhood council meeting – Dini said the council spent most of the time discussing condo developments, relegating the homeless issue to the very end when most people had left.
“I love this city,” Dini said. “It’d be a shame to leave.”
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Jesús Sanchez, Publisher
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