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Mitch O’Farrell Stood Alone to Clean Up Echo Park Lake

RANTZ & RAVEZ-I have known Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell for a number of years. I first met him when he was a deputy for then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti.

Mitch was a hard-working deputy who was diligent in carrying out his administrative duties for the council office. As years passed, Councilmember Garcetti became the Mayor of Los Angeles and in 2013, Mitch ran for the vacant council seat and became the Councilmember for District 13 which includes the greater Hollywood community.  

Councilmember O’Farrell was always determined to make a positive change in his district and displayed passion and determination in carrying out various administrative and community programs.  Showcasing Hollywood was among the goals to which he devoted significant time, resources, and energy.  

The Councilmember always showed strong concern, compassion, and patience with people he would meet in and around his district and at City Hall.    

With the glamor and attractions of Hollywood fading over the years, the challenge of striking the spark and bringing excitement and a vibrant economy to Hollywood was a major mission of O’Farrell. The Councilmember took on the various challenges of representing the greater Hollywood community.  

Homelessness and crime have been a part of the Hollywood scene for many years. I was assigned to LAPD’s Hollywood Division in 1968 as a student worker while attending college. Years later I worked Hollywood Division as an LAPD Sergeant. Hollywood Division is and always has been an exciting and interesting place to work and visit. Walking down Hollywood Blvd and watching tourists from around the world take in the sights in front of various business locations is a unique experience to view. The street people performing for tourists on Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. have become part of what Hollywood is about.    

Over the years, the homeless population in Hollywood and many other neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles has continued to mushroom. Among the many locations is Echo Park Lake near the Hollywood Freeway. The homeowners and residents surrounding the park have been pushed away from enjoying the public park and lake by the large and expanding homeless population that turned the park into a tent city filled with trash and an assortment of discarded items. Following repeated complaints to the city and the office of Councilmember O’Farrell from homeowners and residents who wanted to use the public park for gatherings, it was decided to renovate the park and provide lodging for the people living in the park. 

Approximately $500,000 was obtained to clean and renovate Echo Park. Legal notices were issued, and an outreach program was developed to encourage those living there to relocate to transitional shelters for housing.  

With compassion and understanding, the slow process of clearing the park began. While most complied others resisted. The LAPD was ultimately called to clear the park of those refusing to leave.  In addition to those living in the park, a number of homeless supporters challenged the police and were ultimately arrested for failure to disperse. 

It is interesting to note that Councilmember O’Farrell stood alone on TV news reports during the heat of the situation.  

Only after the park was left with a couple of people, did Mayor Garcetti appear on TV with a comment, stating the effort had been a success. He suggested that in some future cases it could be replicated.   

Councilmember Mike Bonin called the response by the LAPD “A Disgrace.”  

If you venture into Councilmember Bonin’s Council District, watch where you step. The homeless population in his district is totally out of control and he has not done anything to address it in all the years he has been a member of the City Council. Talk about failed leadership. 

Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents a portion of Silver Lake, tweeted: “While I’ve been happy to see so many people from the lake being housed over the last few days, a forced and sudden eviction is not the way to move forward now.” If Councilmember Raman continues to ignore the voters and the homeless in her district, she may end up serving one term like Councilmember David Ryu whom she beat in the last election.  

While Councilmembers O’Farrell and Blumenfield have displayed an effort to address the homeless population in their respective districts, more needs to be done by all members of LA City’s leadership.  That starts with the Mayor and includes the City Attorney and the rest of the elected and appointed city leaders. 

Enough homelessness, decay, and neglect in the City of the Angels! 

Happy Passover to our Jewish friends and Happy Easter to our Christian friends. 

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a former and retired LAPD Supervisor, former and retired 12-year Los Angeles City Councilman and current General Manager at Bell Canyon in Ventura County.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.