On 05-31-08, we participated in ‘Family Day at Selma Park’. The park had been a hostile environment for children as certain people used the space for sleeping, urinating in public, and drug and alcohol abuse. We attempted to address this problem along with Kerry Morrison and her staff, Council 13 staff, LAPD, and the City Attorney’s Office. As a result, signs were made signifying that the park would now be only available for people with children. We hung the signs and began enforcement. For several months we have been advising violators and asking them to leave the park.
This, of course, is a typical destroy-the-village-in-order-to-save-it tactic of the HPOA. They can’t just kick homeless people out of the park, so they kick everyone out of the park except people with children. Christ, they’d probably privatize the entire city if they could, just so they could arrest homeless people for being in it. Anyway, we thought we’d find out what the Department of Recreation and Parks had to say about this. Imagine our surprise when our correspondent received a letter from the RAP Commissioners stating explicitly that
“Selma Park is a pocket park that is open to the general public, and is not limited exclusively to only children. The existing signage at Selma Park which indicates that adults without children are prohibited from the restricted area was installed for the designated children’s play area only.”
Well, our first thought was that maybe RAP didn’t control every aspect of the park. Perhaps the other agencies mentioned in the BID Patrol report also had the power to exclude all but children and caregivers from Selma Park. However, on turning to the City Charter, we find, right there in §590(a)(1), that: The Department of Recreation and Parks shall have the power and duty to establish, construct, maintain, operate and control, wherever located all parks of the City of Los Angeles. That’s pretty unequivocal. RAP is the boss of the parks and if they say a park is open to the general public then it’s open to the general public.
How then is it that the infamous BID Patrol reports reveal example after example of their officers actually arresting people under this made-up “children and parents only” policy in the park? Even Eric Garcetti, then CD13 representative, can’t just make up rules about who gets to use a park. Clearly there must be a process, and clearly that process must be under RAP control.
Along with the letter, our correspondent received some other stuff from RAP, including the Complete Special Agenda of the RAP Commissioners meeting of August 14, 2002, at which they accepted ownership of the parcel that would become the park and dedicated “said site as park property in perpetuity…for the occupancy and use…by the Department of Recreation and Parks and the public.” In this case, “in perpetuity” meant less than 6 years. That’s not even up to the average time-till-violation of the average treaty between the United States and a tribe of Native Americans.
What can be done about this? We don’t know. It seems to us, non-lawyers that we are, that one can’t actually convict someone of being in a park if there is actually no law against them being in the park, even if someone has put up signs that say there’s such a law. It seems to us that even a Councilman, even in league with a City Attorney, can’t just make up rules about who gets to be in a park. Why, if they could, do we even have a board of Recreation and Parks commissioners? Why do we even have a city charter that says that RAP controls the parks? Perhaps some people who were wrongfully arrested need to be paid off. Perhaps some convictions need to be overturned. Definitely some arrests need to stop happening. Definitely people need to be able to eat their lunches in Selma Park again without being hassled by rent-a-cops. The Community Redevelopment Agency, which gave this land to the City of Los Angeles in 2002, “…found that the nearby area was in need of public open space…” And, thanks to the immoral arrogance of the HPOA, the nearby area still is.
Images of Selma Park and sign are ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org.
- There are two other signs, of different design, restricting the park’s playground to children and caregivers only. The fact that this restriction applies to the playground is agreed upon by all parties.