Echo Park Chaos Has Eric Garcetti's DNA On It

@THE GUSS REPORT-Only a tightly wrapped OCD would look at the chaotic dismantling last week of the massive Echo Park lake homeless camp and attempt to brand it as "a success." 

That's because LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, at the end of an upwardly failing political career, refuses to admit failure or accept blame. He only wants to create the illusion of success, even when it involves cleaning up disasters that he inspired and enabled. 

Turn back the clock a spell to see what the LA Times, long a fan of Garcetti's, wrote: "Before leaving Tuesday, Garcetti told the protesters: 'Stay as long as you need, we're here to support you.'" 

But that quote isn't from a year ago, and Garcetti didn't say it to the hundreds who set up the Echo Park compound. 

It is a Garcetti quote in the Times dated October 5, 2011, capturing what then-LA City Councilmember Garcetti told Occupy LA protestors camping out on the LA City Hall lawn for months, turning the property into a literal and figurative toilet. 

Eventually, both at City Hall a decade ago and Echo Park last week, Garcetti's enabling required hundreds of LAPD officers to be flushed-up through the bowels of City Hall -- puns and imagery intended -- to clean up the Garcetti-inspired toxic human brew. 

It is also no surprise that Echo Park is in the City Council District that Garcetti used to represent. His protégé and successor, Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, reached office through attrition rather than accomplishment. 

Last week, the LA Times' inimitable Steve Lopez described the situation perfectly, ". . .(the Echo Park situation) happened because city and county officials, despite some progress, lost their way long ago and haven't convinced anyone that they can manage the needs of either the homeless or the housed." 

I will go one step further than the talented Mr. Lopez. 

LA officials have San Francisco envy, where the quaint, generations-old notion of Haight-Ashbury crashes head-on into 21st-century society's right to get to the office, store, school, or park without circumventing a pile of humanity living in LA's gutters. 

And it's not limited to O'Farrell's District. According to public records, in Venice, the conditions have sunk so precipitously, Councilmember Mike Bonin upped and moved further away from his disaster by the ocean. 

But do you know what's even more troubling? Conditions in these Districts, the Valley and elsewhere are still not as bad as they are in the City's predominantly Black communities of Districts 8, 9 and 10. 

When hideous conditions finally reach a tipping point in LA's non-Black neighborhoods, the politicians send in the LAPD, social workers, the Sanitation Department, and a stack of Project Room Key hotel vouchers so they can remedy things. 

In LA's Black communities, most of what they get is a name change without a massive financial commitment materializing. Changing the name South Central to South Los Angeles was a superficial tweak, a cheap figurative coat of lead-based paint that didn't provide improved services or support for the good people who live there. And Councilmember Curren Price referring to his Council District 9 as "the New 9th" without substantive and constructive support shows just how little regard City Hall still and has long had for predominantly Black communities in Los Angeles. 

Regardless of the decade, this is all the same human mess, a civic tragedy that Garcetti has cultivated since he first took office way back on July 1, 2001. 

Or, as Mr. Garcetti might describe it, a wild success. 

In 2013, the Times endorsed Garcetti for Mayor and called for his re-election in 2017 despite giving him a mid-term grade of "C." 

So it came as no surprise last week to hear that despite being owned by the richest man in Los Angeles, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Times' parent company received a $10 million PPP loan to offset some of its more than $50 million loss in 2020. While Chris Argentieri, president of The California Times, says that most of those losses were due to COVID-related advertising and digital losses, it isn't a stretch to conclude that the problem is in its content as much as its balance sheet. 

At some point, we might stop electing people from the same failing political puddles, their protégés or whoever it is that the Times endorses. What we have right now ain't workin', bro. It just ain't workin'.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.