Mon, Aug

Taking It to the Streets in East Hollywood

RETHINKING LA - The residents of East Hollywood have responded to a seven-fold onslaught of over-in-height fence citations by attacking the underlying issue, public safety, in a weekly series of “East Hollywood Street Beat” walking tours that challenge the status quo and promise to “Take back the streets, one step at a time!”

Every Thursday, at 7pm, residents meet at a different location in East Hollywood to walk with neighbors, make new friends, admire the elements they’d like to preserve, and address public safety concerns with solutions, the kind that come from walking and talking.

East Hollywood is one of the densest neighborhoods in Los Angeles as well as one of the most diverse with over a hundred languages spoken by its residents. It’s also one of the park-poorest communities in LA, bringing to life the debate over the correlation between access to public space and improvements to public safety.

When it comes to public safety, East Hollywood is a border town, nestled between the LAPD’s Central Bureau’s Northeast and Rampart Divisions and the West Bureau’s Hollywood Division. This creates a “Who do you call?” quandary that also includes the jurisdiction of the CHP because of the 101 freeway along the south border, the Metro’s LASD presence because of the three Red Line Stations, and the LA City College’s LASD authority because of the Vermont Ave. campus.

According to residents, the problem with having so many law enforcement agencies responsible for a piece of the public safety puzzle is that the criminals win and the residents find themselves navigating a bureaucratic maze that came to a head recently when they found themselves on the defendant’s end of the spectrum.

As professionals continue to debate the importance of green space, open space, and public space on the health and well-being of vibrant communities, the residents of East Hollywood had previously responded to public safety concerns by retreating, literally, behind over-in-height fences that were built to protect their homes, their possessions, and their families.

Along came LA’s Department of Building & Safety, in its complaint driven capacity, and the residents of East Hollywood became the subject of a spate of over-in-height fence citations that have them on the hot-seat, recipients of fines, penalties, orders of non-compliance and on the hook for charges that can approach $6 thousand. All for a fence.

In spite of the City Attorney’s prior decision not to prosecute over-in-height fence violations unless the fence created a public safety issue, the City of LA is forcing the residents of East Hollywood to learn a new language, “bureaucratese,” and it doesn’t come easily!

City Planning has a piece of the puzzle, one that they will fork over for a fee, a large fee. The City Attorney has another piece of the puzzle, one that simply requires a clarification on enforcement priority. Building & Safety has the other piece of the puzzle, the one that allows them to become a pawn in a “complaint-driven” machine that enforces the law based on complaints, not standards.

Meanwhile, the residents of East Hollywood are left to grapple with their public safety issues, the ones that prompted the construction of the over-in-height fences in the first place.

An East Hollywood “Task Force” meeting took place to confront the opportunity and residents went on a walk with representatives from Caltrans, the CHP, the LAPD, the LADOT, the Hollywood Beautification Team, the Bureaus of Street Services, Street Lighting and Sanitation. Jurisdiction boundaries were challenges as all parties walked a neighborhood that has two gang injunctions in place, some of the toughest streets to walk in a community where 40% of the populations doesn’t have access to a car.

It’s been five weeks and the impact of the East Hollywood Street Beats is slowly resonating through the community. The LAPD was reluctant to join the Street Beat at first, arguing that uniformed officers needed their vehicles and tactical gear. It took some debate but the LAPD is now an enthusiastic participant in the EH Street Beat, prompting residents to initiate conversations and join the foot beat.

Caltrans has begun the revitalization work along the 101 freeway, the forgotten southern border of East Hollywood that was a magnet for criminal activity and a blight on the community. LA’s Street Lighting is preparing to upgrade the over-pass lighting and Sanitation is supporting a community clean-up campaign. Small steps in a long journey that all began with a simple walk.

Friends from studioneleven and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative both joined the Street Beat to share their strategies for creating public space and calming traffic, prompting residents to ask the simple question “Why can’t we do this on all of the streets in East Hollywood?”

The East Hollywood Street Beat is a simple weekly event that demonstrates the power of a community when it takes to the street.

On Thursday, August 6, the East Hollywood Street Beat will be meeting at the Historic Cahuenga Library on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Madison Avenue.

The LAPD’s Northeast Division will be walking with residents and over the next four weeks, the Street Beat will be visiting neighborhoods north of the Historic Route 66.


East Hollywood Street Beat

Thursday Evenings
7 pm to 9 pm

Walk the streets, meet your neighbors,
stroll with the LAPD, make new friends
and invite members of the community
to join us in enjoying the summer nights

Santa Monica Boulevard & Madison
(August 4, 2011)
East Hollywood

“Taking back the streets, one step at a time!”

More info (213) 422-7694

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at:                [email protected] .)         –cw

Tags: East Hollywood, LAPD,

Vol 9 Issue 61
Pub: Aug 2, 2011