Since the 1940s, Westchester Park has been heavily used by Westchester residents and communities throughout greater Los Angeles. One of the largest on the Westside, Mar Vista Park serves many of the neighboring areas. These parks have tennis, swimming, sports fields, playgrounds, picnic and barbeque areas, and Recreation Centers. The lighted fields at Westchester Park are especially popular in the evening during winter months.
These parks offered important community programming: youth sports leagues, summer camps, adult classes, preschool, and meals for seniors. People from all over Los Angeles brought their families for birthday parties and barbeques, and sports leagues used these spaces for practice, games, and tournaments. Recent survey data confirms that both parks serve a diverse population, many of whom are from underserved communities with a shortage of parks and those who live in apartments lacking outdoor space for children.
I’ve visited both parks several times over the last couple of months. What I saw there was startling. No families, no children on the playgrounds, no picnics. The ball fields are covered in gopher holes and dead grass. Needles, broken glass, and other debris is strewn about the dugouts. There are piles of garbage. Drug use is rampant, and there have been numerous fires and serious episodes of crime and violence. There are reports of at least one homicide, lewd conduct, a violent assault on a woman and teenager in the restroom, shots fired, and regular harassment of children, seniors, and visitors. On my most recent visit to Westchester Park, LAPD was covering a dead body in the parking lot of the adjacent liquor store.
I’ve talked with neighbors who live near the parks and consistently heard about the constant fighting and yelling at all hours of day and night, increased vandalism and property crimes in the neighborhoods, fires, and alcohol bottles, drug needles, and buckets of human waste being tossed into back yards. Despite dozens of calls to LAPD and repeated emails to Mike Bonin’s staff asking for help, the problems persist.
Why is it so bad? Because over the last 18 months, Mike Bonin has permitted unregulated and unsafe encampments to proliferate in both parks, without services or security. The numbers have increased in both places since Mr. Bonin started his cleanup at Ocean Front Walk in Venice.
Now, Mike Bonin wants to designate portions of both parks to serve as “safe” sheltering sites, which he claims are an “alternative” to dangerous encampments. The problem is, Mr. Bonin has proven repeatedly that he cares little about the safety of the public. He does not care that his bad ideas affect children, seniors, and families. He does not care that his constituents want to maintain the safe enjoyment of their public parks. And if he cared about the unhoused, he would not allow these deplorable conditions to persist in the first place.
Public parks are vitally important to creating social equity, maintaining quality of life, promoting community wellness, and providing services and recreation for children, families, and seniors. In sum, our parks are essential to the physical, economic, social, and environmental well-being of the community at large. CD-11 should not sacrifice them to accommodate another bad idea from Mike Bonin.