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Echo Park library branch lot could become “safe parking” site for the homeless

Edendale Branch Library parking lot

The parking lot behind the Edendale Branch Library

By DORESA BANNING

Echo Park  –The parking lot of the Edendale branch library on Sunset Boulevard is being considered as a place where qualifying homeless people living in a vehicle may park overnight. Were the site deemed viable and approved, it would become the first so-called “safe parking” location in Echo Park and could open to parkers sometime next year.

“The goal is to provide a safe, dedicated space for those living out of their vehicles, with access to restroom facilities and wraparound supportive services, until the individuals are able to obtain more permanent housing,” said Tony Arranaga, communications director for Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District councilmember.

Such a place hopefully would help keep the homeless from parking on streets in residential areas — an ongoing problem, said Emily Kantrim, program coordinator at Safe Parking LA, a nonprofit organization that provides safe parking options for vehicle dwellers.

About 1/3 of Echo Park Homeless Live in Vehicles

Currently, about one-third (166) of the number of unsheltered homeless people residing in Echo Park (488) live in a car, van or recreational vehicle, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2018 Homeless Count.

“The downside is kind of not recognizing that people are in your neighborhood in their vehicles right now,” she added.

Safe parking also would get some of these individuals closer to resumption of living in a home, as the ones who qualify are required to work toward attaining that goal.

“Safe parking does not solve your dilemma, but it relieves this constant anxiety and burden of where am I going to be and how do I not fall further into homelessness,” Kantrim said.

Potentially Controversial Proposal

The concept is not without controversy, however. Typical concerns include costs, parkers not leaving when they should, and potential trash and sanitation problems, vandalism and crime.

Located near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street, the Edendale library lot is one of many properties under review, after some Echo Park citizens suggested it for safe parking, Kantrim said.

“We’re very far from still figuring out if that would be a viable location,” Kantrim said.

How Safe Parking Could Work

Specifics haven’t been established because the idea of using this location is in its infancy. But, here are some of the elements involved in other safe parking lots operated by Safe Parking LA, which likely would be the vendor for an Echo Park site:

  • The currently gated Edendale lot would be open for safe parking starting one or two hours after the library’s closing and ending one or two hours before its opening.
  • Each lot accommodates 10 to 15 vehicles and, during parking hours, would have an unarmed security guard present as well as access to a maintained, cleaned restroom. The lots are open only to qualifying applicants (designated by a parking permit), are free to park in and operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Parkers are prohibited from camping, cooking in their vehicle, sleeping outside of their vehicle, drinking or doing drugs, for example. They must have a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance.

Two weeks ago, O’Farrell and Safe Parking LA’s Kantrim met with Echo Park residents and business owners, neighborhood council representatives and others to discuss the idea “and will continue to do so throughout the entire process,” Arranaga said.

The parking lot proposal is backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, “who will do everything possible to help bring this proposal to life,” said spokesperson Alex Comisar.

Safe parking is O’Farrell’s latest in a string of other efforts regarding the homeless population.

Earlier in the year, he proposed having a city-owned property in Echo Park, near the Edendale library, be evaluated as a possible place to build housing with supportive services for the homeless. Also, last year, in response to citizen complaints, he got the city to ban overnight recreational vehicle and camper parking on the streets around Echo Lake and nearby areas.

Doresa Banning is a freelance writer and editor, who may be reached atdb@doresabanning.com.

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12 comments

  1. I attended the meeting and was told that the security is only for the parking lot itself. All the displaced who currently sleep there illegally will now be in the neighborhood and the security guard is not hired nor allowed to protect anything except the parking lot. Our tax dollars will pay for a security guard overnight for 5-10 cars, displace even more than are allowed in, and the displaced will cause harm to nearby residents and businesses. This is a lot of money to pay security every single night, there must be a better way to spend our tax dollars on this problem. There is no easy solution, but a better one is in order here.

  2. This is so ridiculously small a lot to try to house the homeless, it is laughable. Considering all the big lots the city government has around own, and that Garcetti promised five years ago to open within two months to the homeless in cars, this doesn’t seem like any effort whatsoever to help the homeless, it seems like a smokescreen to divert people’s attention about how unbelievably little Garcetti and the city will do for the homeless problem. Garcetti and the city have endless resources to devote to constant harassment and rousting of the homeless, but when it comes to help, resources disappear, and smokescreens are all we get. Garcetti is no liberal, as he pretends with endless talk but no action, his is a right wing Republican in disguise.

    Gee, as echo park mom points out, this is only going to displace more car-less homeless from there at night than it will allow to park there!

    There are plenty of big city parking lots for the city workers just a short distance away in downtown (I’m not talking of lots for public parking), that could be available at night. There are other lots that could be available, like a DWP facility on Hoover Street in Silver Lake, a Public Works facility on Santa Monica Blvd near Virgil Ave, any number of others, maybe not as big as those in downtown but bigger than this miniscule one at the library. How about the parking lots or paved playgrounds at the schools all around — the homeless will be gone long before students show up each morning?

    To choose the smallest lot you can find seems like an effort to do as little as possible, and at the greatest cost possible. Then they will tout how much they have done by pointing to how much they spent.

  3. I live 2 blocks away, This site is already a makeshift shelter as soon as the library closes, so I’m in support of any effort to improve those conditions for the homeless and the housed, that are forced to deal with the stench and filth of living on the street.

    I hope this helps

  4. First of all, let me correct one statement from this article: the vehicles/families vetted and chosen to park there is not based on a first come, first serve basis. They are chosen after a long and thorough vetting process based on need (do they work nearby? Do their children go to school in the neighborhood? Do they want permanent housing?). There is a waiting list.
    Also, Safe Parking LA has an excellent track record at their other sites for cleanliness, safety and orderliness. Check out their website. A very high percentage of these families move on to oermanent housing because they are more secure and can access the services they need through the program.
    I see this as a solution to the disarray that plagues the area now.

    • To clarify, as far as who gets in the lot on a given night, it’s not first-come, first-served for any and all who are homeless with a vehicle. But it is first-come, first-served, as far as who gets in the lot, for those who qualify through the application process, according to Safe Park LA.

  5. I highly recommend anyone weighing in on this (as far as opinions go) to watch a recent Vice episode about this:
    https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/qvmgem/california-has-a-hidden-homelessness-crisis

    The risk assessment is important for sure, but for all those crying out for the city to do something about the homeless – this is an out-of-the-box option. There may be other more appropriate city owned properties that can accommodate this, but there are some upsides to the library location that we may not be thinking about – like free wi-fi to people in their cars studying for exams, searching for jobs, etc.

    Having been a lone person organizing cleanups on this street, and one alongside community members, I see what’s happening there. I am still leaning toward a “worth the risk” side of things… it’s a tough thing, no doubt!

  6. I want to point out another error in the article, it is not free. It is not expensive either, but they do have to pay, according to what was presented in the meeting, I think it was like $200 a month.
    It was also pointed out that they will be vetted, so they are really families who are trying to not be homeless. That is not the same group who resides there presently. The present occupants are not ones who want help. They enjoy drinking at 8:00, as witnessed just yesterday and everyday, actually they did start a little earlier than normal yesterday. There is a big group who pilfer and cause mayhem on the streets.
    Yet another thing that does not make sense is that we were told the ones who can park there have been checked out as non drug users, wanting to find jobs, etc, then why are they stressing it needs to be such a small number to keep under control? If they have been so vetted, there should be no problems with a larger number to justify the cost of a security guard every single night.
    At $20 an hour x12 hours x 30 days equals 7,200 a month or $86,000 a year just for one lot (of many) of this overnight parking. A tiny amount can be subtracted for the amount dwellers will be paying, but it is nominal.
    Sure, most will have jobs and school to go to most of the time. But what will they do on days offs, summer, holidays, or weekends for the whole day? This is not a quality life for that price. The money could be used so much better to help more for that price. Permanent housing is the key.
    If this moves forward, which it looks like will be pushed through despite opposition, we need to be assured they are really from the area already, the displaced will be considered and helped as well or else we are making a new problem, any problems caused by the displaced addressed, the security guard is responsible for the displaced and any problems this causes. We just can’t make new problems by trying to solve this in this way.

    • So, this is for families only? The vast, vast majority of homeless people are not families! If you don’t have a family, then to hell with you? No wonder such a small parking lot as this one was the choice!

      Families are already eligible for benefits the single homeless people can’t get — the family qualifies them, without the family, or a serous disability, the single person gets nothing, so you see them eating out of garbage cans. The families are already eligible for food stamps, housing, lots of other. The single homeless are eligible for nearly nothing other than Medi-Cal. To my mind, this sounds like an effort NOT to help the homeless.

      The homeless having to pay anything for this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

      BTW, as for WiFi, if you are not right by the door, you wont be able to get it. Maybe the closest parking spot to the door can barely, but no where else. Still, as for any other location, it is simple, easy and cheap to add WiFi, you simply hookup a modem and route.

    • Hi. Doresa checked back with Safe Parking LA today. They said that it will be free to qualifying homeless people to park in the lot. The lot is not open to people who don’t qualify.

  7. I find it interesting that despite the homeless situation effecting all of Los Angeles equally, it seems the city is only interested in boarding people up here in Echo Park. Why no homeless housing in Silver Lake? Why no city-sanctioned encampments in Los Feliz? Oh right, the rich constituents there wouldn’t approve. So Echo Park, being much more middle class then it’s more affluent neighbors, is forced to bare the full support of the homeless communities because we’re not rich enough to stand up the city. Great! How long will the people of Echo Park (The ones paying taxes to support the city and all the huge expenses related to homelessness) have to be the sole bearer of this task?

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