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The fence surrounding Echo Park Lake is finally falling

Workers began dismantling the fence surrounding Echo Park Lake on Monday, two years after a massive homeless encampment was evacuated from the historic park.

Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez, who took office in December, vowed to tear down the temporary chain-link fence, calling it a “symbol” of the city’s greatest failure on homelessness. The fence was erected in 2021, just as dozens of homeless people were moved out of the park and into motels, hotels and homeless shelters downtown, Westlake and elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, Soto-Martinez and Mayor Karen Bass conducted their own encampment operation in the neighborhood, relocating dozens of homeless people from streets near Echo Park Lake, transporting them to downtown hotels. and Silver Lake. Since then, Soto-Martinez has promised to send outreach workers to the park seven days a week to make sure it stays safe and people don’t return.

“We look forward to continuing our work with the community to achieve our shared goals for the park, which include … ensuring Lake Echo Park is safe, clean and accessible to everyone,” Soto-Martinez said in a statement.

Some who were in the park on Monday morning had doubts.

Reina Moreno, who walks through the park every day, said she didn’t want to see the park filled with litter and human waste again. Moreno, who lives nearby, said she was fine with crews taking down the chain-link fence – “as long as they put another one up”.

“If there’s 24/7 security here, then there won’t be a problem,” the 57-year-old hairdresser said. “But if they don’t deal with it, then there should be a fence – permanent.”

Some residents who live closer to the lake have expressed similar concerns, calling for a nicer permanent fence. They said the park was the backdrop for fights, shootings and fatal overdoses — including one involving an 18-year-old from San Diego County — when the encampment was at its height.

Homeless advocacy groups sought to counter the idea that the encampment was unsafe, calling it “a beautiful and much-loved outdoor community run by homeless people” that offered safety, stability and “healing of the addiction and mental illness”. Some argued that a fence would do nothing to address homelessness and other societal ills.

Spencer Bowman, 25, was thrilled to see the fence fall. Sitting on a bench facing the lake, he called the fence “a horror and a monument to that ugly time”.

“It just seems to exclude and it’s visually metallic and gray and ugly,” said Bowman, who works in post-production.

Two years ago, an encampment of nearly 200 tents covered much of the park, occupying almost all of the grassy areas on the side of Glendale Boulevard. Hundreds of people showed up to protest the encampment’s removal, leading to clashes between LA police and protesters, as well as dozens of arrests.

In November, Soto-Martinez beat council member Mitch O’Farrell, who had not taken a position on the fence, saying he would follow the wishes of the community.

Soto-Martinez said earlier this month that voters in the district, which stretches from Echo Park to Hollywood and Glassell Park, chose to pull down the fence when they elected him to council because he had repeatedly promised to remove it during his campaign. .

Echo Park received a $45 million renovation ten years ago, which introduced wetlands to various sections of the lake. Park cleanup in 2021, after camp cleanup, was budgeted at $600,000.

Soto-Martinez had been somewhat vague in recent weeks about the exact date for the removal of the fence. In a recent statement, he said only that he would be gone by end of friday.

For weeks, Soto-Martinez has promised to have unarmed responder teams available at the park overnight. City crews recently posted notices indicating that a block of Lemoyne Street between the lake and Sunset Boulevard would be the site of a major sanitation cleanup on Wednesday.

Gil Mangaoang, who lives opposite the lake’s lotus bed, is not reassured. Mangaoang, who belongs to a group that has lobbied for a permanent fence, said he and his neighbors will work in the coming weeks to ensure the park remains clean and secure.

If crime and violence return to the park, Soto-Martinez “will be a one-term council member,” Mangaoang said.

California Daily Newspapers

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