In January 2020 the unhoused residents of Echo Park came together to protest their displacement by an ongoing series of sweeps ordered by CD13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. They wrote O’Farrell an exceedingly reasonable letter explaining their precarious situation, the dangers to which his sweeps exposed them, a number of proposals for assuaging the1 so-called concerns of the local housedwellers, and, for our purpose most crucially, a request to meet with him to discuss the burgeoning crisis.
This letter and the protests that inspired it turned out to be the beginning of an ongoing and still-active resistance movement in the Park, the story of which is ably told by Liam Fitzpatrick in Knock LA. This movement has merged seamlessly with the ongoing rebellion against police violence, as seen e.g. yesterday in a massive protest against LAPD and the City’s attacks on the unhoused residents, which culminated in a march to O’Farrell’s office, a series of really moving speeches calling out his weaponized incompetence, and an impressive display of art.
And over these six months of unrest, O’Farrell has repeatedly ignored the activists’ requests to meet, to discuss, to find solutions. According to Streetwatch LA, a group deeply involved in organizing the campaign, the only in-person contact O’Farrell’s office made with any of the activists consisted of O’Farrell’s absolutely despicable field deputy Juan Fregoso meeting with one resident of the Park and aggressively suggesting that the guy enter a shelter while continuing to ignore reasonable requests from these constituents for serious meetings to discuss policy.2
The City of Los Angeles is famous for using encampment sweeps and other violent tactics against unhoused residents in response to complaints, which are characteristically both deeply sociopathic and astonishingly trivial, from unhinged local housedwellers, and the Echo Park sweeps which catalyzed the protests are not an exception. I recently received a small but significant set of emails from CD13 on the subject which suggest that this particular round of violence was seeded by complaints in late 2019 from residents of Parkview Living, which is some kind of retirement home across the street from the Park.
The emails are heavily redacted, by the way, in accordance with a newly-adopted and highly illegal CD13 policy of hiding the identities of psychopathic anti-homeless constituents in order to encourage them to continue to freely express their psychopathic anti-homeless rage. Nevertheless it’s still possible to figure out what’s going on. The housedwellers are worried, as usual, about having to look at unhoused residents as well as the effect of a visible encampment on their property values. Not so much about the well-being, the health, or even the very lives of the unhoused residents.
Even more upsetting given his refusal to even talk to the actual unhoused residents is the fact that O’Farrell and his staff met repeatedly with these angry hypersensitive housedwellers to assuage their wounded sensibilities and to promise, accurately, to step up enforcement against the suffering residents of the Park. O’Farrell explicitly encouraged the Parkview housedwellers to bring their concerns to the media, presumably to bolster the appearance of public support for his violent encampment sweeps.
Fregoso, on the other hand, apparently validated their weird self-pity by telling them falsely that the City had in fact singled them out by specifically allowing encampments near Parkview, probably with the same goal.3 In addition to meetings O’Farrell and his staff apparently dropped by in person to give gifts to Parkview residents. Which foolishness, ironically, led to O’Farrell and Fregoso being exposed to COVID-19 in April 2020.
The part of the story I have evidence for seems to have started in December 2019 when unhinged housedweller Dolores DeAngelis emailed Juan Fregoso outlining her grievances and demanding action. She’s mostly concerned about the beautiful and expensive view from her beautiful and expensive balcony being spoiled by the unaesthetic sight of actual human beings forced by unholy political and economic policies4 to live in tents in a park. As is typical of the genre, DeAngelis sprinkles her privileged demand that the unhoused residents be punished, banished, and vanished with5 assertions of her love, care, and empathy:
Sent: Thursday, December 05, 2019 12:06 PM
Subject: How can I tell this story? Homeless across the street!
I live in Parkview Living across the street from Echo Park. Yesterday morning during the welcome rain I went out on my balcony to enjoy the view. For months now my view has been spoiled by the scattering of tents from 6 to 33 on any given day…. Except when the park is cleared for film making or cleaning.
How can I tell this story so you understand? How can I tell this story so you will be an advocate for my health and safety ?
While looking out at our impressive skyline and park in the rain I saw a homeless man just standing there next to his tent in the rain, just standing! Until, he remembered he needed to relieve himself and he peed…right there in the rain next to his tent! He zipped his trousers up stood for awhile longer and walked around his tent.
Echo Park is not, IS NOT the answer to our cities homeless crisis! My heart is saddened to see the need.Please remember Parkview residents collect recyclables to raise funds for Laundry Love where we volunteer to help those in need have clean clothes. We are concerned! Concerned for the homeless needs and want solutions to this crisis.
However, our health and safety are being compromised!
We are a building of seniors, several who are retired military men and women, retired teachers, clergy, those who have served and been an advocate in various ways. We care!
PLEASE do what you are doing in the 20 parks we have visited in the area without any tents! We can give you the list of Parks we have visited in District 13 with out tents.
WHY JUST ECHO PARK! ?
Enforce the laws you enforce in other parks. Enforce and move quickly to find solutions.
Look at other districts and cities for ideas.
Echo Park IS NOT the solution.
Parkview Living Resident
Sent from my iPhone
And remember how the actual Park residents and other activists have been trying for more than half a damn year to get a meeting? That’s not how things work for housedwellers. According to Parkview manager Rick Wulfestieg, by December 18, 2019 the LAPD had met with residents as a result of DeAngelis’s email and O’Farrell had committed to a meeting in January 2020. That meeting took place on January 23, 2020.
I obtained a list of the resident’s demands and grievances, apparently prepared by the residents themselves in advance of the meeting, in which, in addition to the familiar whining about themselves being the real victims, they explicitly, repeatedly prioritize their aesthetic experiences and their property values over the actual lives of actual human beings forced to live in deadly conditions. The only response they propose is state violence in the form of pretextual enforcement and forcible relocation. Here are some selections with a little commentary:
Juan Fregoso tells them that the City is purposely encouraging the encampment. The housedwellers want everyone arrested and they’re the real victims.
1. Why is the posted law not enforced? The sign says “Park closed from 10:30 pm to 5 am.” Another states “No tents, stakes, camping, open flames or cooking.” Many other violations could be cited as per the posted signs. (Photos of these legal statutes and other regulations issued by the Department of Recreation and Parks are attached here). The lack of enforcement of this is at the root of all the other problems we have experienced. Juan, the Field Representative, told, “It has been collectively decided to allow tents in front of your building… since it affects the least amount of people.” Officer Vargas offered the homeless a place to go and services last week but they refused. Why are they permitted to stay? Why total disregard for the law and rights of other citizens? Why is lawlessness permitted?
The housedwellers are being singled out. Echo Park is the only park with an encampment, which therefore must be forcibly relocated. Again, the housedwellers are the victims.
2. Why is Echo Park the only park where an encampment is permitted? Permitting 10-30 tents at a time is not a way of solving the problem of homelessness and it is directly impacts the community at large in Echo Park. Can you move the homeless in this encampment to a more suitable place? Please find attached a copy of the names of other parks that were visited and saw no encampments. We feel that our rights as taxpayers have been violated as we are the only park that has been impacted by this.
The encampment is destroying property values and soon the building will be sold at a loss and the current tenants will themselves be homeless:
3. Furthermore, this has a direct impact on property values and quality of life in not only our community the entire Echo Park area. Specifically, when Parkview was built it quickly filled up and in a few months we had a waiting list. Now we have 9 units vacant, are losing $15,000 a month and last year had a loss of $200,000. Because of this impact, there is the realpossibility that this building may need to be sold. This would mean the dislocation and very real possibility of tenants facing homelessness. This also means that some of our most vulnerable residents would be homeless as well the residents who are on Section 8, Veterans Assistance, and Foursquare Ministers. Many of our residents fear becoming homeless. Can you address this financial impact and assure the residents this will not happen?
The encampment is a health risk.6 Instead of unlocking the damn bathrooms arrest everybody please. Also we have to look at people using drugs other than alcohol. Arrest everybody.
4. The presence of this encampment has created many residual problems including quality of life, safety, health, and security issues. I am sure these same issues are experienced by the larger community. These include a. Health. There is a high-risk due to human waste and illegal drug waste, which is a haven for an epidemic of Cholera, dysentery,hepatitis A & E, typhus, and even leprosy. Why are not the encampments shut down due to these risks alone? As to drug use, residents have looked out of their windows and seen heroin kitchens and have seen people shooting up. Please see enclosed photos. Please, consider shutting down the encampment due to this.
And the rest of it is as crazy, with grandchildren having to look at unhoused people, with the City relocating encampments for filming but not for these poor victimized housedwellers, and so on. The whole thing is worth reading. But by February 2020 the Parkview residents were getting angrier at what they conceived as the City’s nonaction. Wulfestieg wrote to the police and Fregoso with a new parade of horribles and a threat to turn O’Farrell’s media suggestion around on him.7 An immediate result of this rant is that O’Farrell’s office scheduled another meeting in March or April 2020.
I’m not yet sure if that meeting took place or what happened at it if so. More information ought to be forthcoming. But in addition to meetings O’Farrell apparently spent time personally delivering presents to the Parkview residents. This fact is revealed in Wulfestieg’s April 27, 2020 email informing Fregoso that he and Mitch O’Farrell had been exposed to COVID-19 when they dropped off the goodies, a development which places the Parkview residents’ hysteria about the encampment causing cholera or whatever in a fairly ironic light.
And that’s the story as I know it so far. As usual there’s not much of a moral, no conclusion really. But yet again we see the vast and violent resources of the City of Los Angeles heartlessly directed against unhoused people, already suffering, by Council offices for the sake of political gain.8 Yet again we see City officials who don’t or won’t understand that an unhoused person sleeping in a tent in a Park is as much a citizen of Los Angeles, as much a constituent of their district, as much their duty and obligation to care for and about, as a housed person. But things are changing!
Image of Mitch O’Freaking Farrell is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and it’s based on a still from this video, which I strongly recommend that you do not watch because your head will almost certainly explode, if not melt into a puddle of steaming soup. You think I’m kidding but you won’t be able to unsee it.
- Objectively crazy.
- Streetwatch LA told me this through a spokesperson. I don’t know if you noticed, but I almost never base stories on interviews with sources. This is a records-based blog, of course, and my usual style is to present records and shoot off my mouth randomly about them until I and everyone else get tired of it. But I had to make an exception here because first of all there aren’t going to be any official records showing that a meeting didn’t happen and second of all this story actually is about some records. I just haven’t gotten there yet and this paragraph is background. And also Streetwatch LA are the good guys and therefore less likely to be paying lawyers zillions of dollars to try to figure out how to sue me for defamation without getting hit with an anti-SLAPP motion. Also I don’t defame them (or anyone, got it, oppo lawyers?) and also they don’t have a zillion dollars to waste on aggressively psychopathic lawyers. So belt and suspenders and duct tape!
- Not that these City staffers need articulated concrete goals for their actions. They often seem to me like automatons with a repertoire of programmed activities all of which suit the needs of their zillionaire paymasters and the housed constituents who thrive on table-brushed zillionaire crumbs. They don’t have to know what they’re doing or why and if their programming doesn’t advance the program they don’t last long in their jobs. In case you haven’t noticed by the way on this blog footnotes are for half-baked evidence-unsupported theorizing! Don’t mean I’m wrong, though.
- Which not incidentally benefit housedwellers like DeAngelis immensely. She’s apparently happy to live in a system the economic success of which is dependent on the ongoing creation of homelessness but would also prefer not to have to look under the hood, a feeling common to exploitative zillionaires throughout the history of zillionairity.
- Not only dubious but ridiculous. We collect recycling for the homeless now get the damn cops moving and evict them!
- Which is especially ironic given the fact that O’Farrell and Fregoso got exposed to COVID-19 by visiting the housedwellers rather than the unhoused.
- For some reason these unhinged activist housedwellers all think they’re going to bully electeds into killing homeless people by “going to the media”. As if the media weren’t already aware of the story. As if the media weren’t already working tirelessly to create and maintain an atmosphere in which killing homeless people is treated as a slightly extreme but valid position that’s definitely part of the mainstream policy debate, even if not stated explicitly.
- This in direct contradiction to the official narrative that the City’s homelessness policy is concerned to any degree with alleviating human suffering, with helping people forced to live in constant danger on the streets, and so on. The City’s attitude towards the unhoused is remarkably like their attitude towards our physical infrastructure. The City government doesnt fix the sidewalks because fixing the sidewalks is their job. They fix them in response to complaints, which earns political capital. They don’t address homelessness because it’s their job but again as a means of earning political capital. The difference is that fixing the sidewalks gets the sidewalks fixed. But the unhoused must be tortured and killed or the capital doesn’t accrue.