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Open Letter to Mitch O’Farrell: Troubling Events at Echo Park Lake

DEAR MITCH-I stand in firm solidarity with protesters fighting for our unhoused siblings.

While peacefully protesting the draconian measures taken by you to evict the houseless citizens occupying the park, they had their 1st Amendment Rights violently trampled by an out-of-control, militarized police force on your orders. The images we have seen are reprehensible and should disturb every freedom-fighting citizen, as they do me. 

Your failed leadership to effectively manage the housing crisis in CD13, and those who find themselves unhoused, grows in increasingly shameful ways, as demonstrated this past week. You would not have felt the need to go to these extremes had you been doing your job in the first place: protecting the most vulnerable in our district, instead of cozying up to developers. 

For the past two decades, you, and your former boss and mentor, Eric Garcetti, have overseen the massive gentrification and erasure of diverse communities throughout CD13, replacing them with luxury projects that folks making $25k per year cannot afford. This fueled the displacement of City residents onto our streets. This can be traced directly to then-councilman Garcetti when he took it upon himself to open Hollywood and CD13 to predatory developers, based on the myth that trickle-down housing works. It has failed us spectacularly. Since then, we have seen 13,000 (mostly Latino families) get priced out of the district, due, in part, to the $1 billion Hollywood Redevelopment Project Area that fueled real estate speculation and hurled rents beyond the reach of working families. You have perpetuated the Garcetti legacy during your time in office. 

When Garcetti became Mayor in 2013, as his former senior advisor, you picked up the baton, aiding vulturine developers in their limitless thirst for profit at the expense of vulnerable people. In the first six years of Garcetti as Mayor, and you as Councilman, Los Angeles saw homelessness surge by 75%. 

More recently, and without a peep from you that I am aware of, the City has grossly mismanaged HHH funds with their model of $500,000 per unit, when the cost could have been as low as $34,000 per unit, as Aids Healthcare Foundation’s The Madison Hotel proves. The less expensive adaptive reuse model was rejected by the City, and further exacerbated the crisis. 

Give me $500K and I will put the whole thing down on a 3-bedroom house. I guarantee I will be able to make the mortgage payments on an income of $25k per year and provide affordable housing for 2 roommates. I say this to illustrate how ridiculous current housing policies and methodologies are in creating low-income housing. The only people who benefited from the $500K units have been the developers who built them. 

In April of 2020, Project Room Key (PRK), a program fueled by FEMA funding, included a promise of 15,000 hotel rooms to our unhoused neighbors. A year later, only 2,261 have been delivered. It was reported in March 2021, that while County officials received $40 million upfront from FEMA to pay for hotels, the City had received nada. The reason? The City had not bothered to fill out FEMA forms for hotels, further exacerbating this crisis. No wonder protestors have hit the streets. 

To add insult to injury, the City Council still has not authorized the use of the now 100% reimbursable offer from FEMA for Project Room Key. You leave it to other Councilmembers to do what’s right, while you sit there in silence (CF 21-0262). Councilmember, have you no stomach for doing what is right? What is required? 

For years, you ignored the unhoused Echo Park community as they repeatedly requested meetings with you to discuss long-term solutions to the tent encampment at the Lake. Most recently, you were invited to a general board meeting of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, right before the mayhem you created at the Lake started, and you ghosted the Council. You have been given every opportunity to work with community leaders to solve these issues, including myself, and you have resoundingly failed. I know you hold anyone not marching to your drumbeat in disdain. I have personally been a witness to it. 

The following are the governing styles of you and the Mayor: Cater to predatory developers and allow the unhoused crisis to persist. Agitated residents and homeowners will push for enforcement zones, creating more “opportunity zones” for predatory developers. Rinse and repeat. Eventually, even the housed residents will get priced out. 

I emphatically reject gaslighting claims that you care for the unhoused. You are not capable of anything more than political theater. You showed your hand by criminalizing peaceful demonstrators, arresting news reporters and legal observers, and firing non-lethal rounds pointblank at constituents. 

To say I am done with your callous disregard of our fellow citizens would be an understatement. Anything short of providing humane, long-term solutions to the unhoused crisis can no longer be tolerated. I don’t think anyone can say anything that will change how you operate. It is clear you believe your own lies and have become addicted to the Kool-Aid. It is the failure of your character to protect the most vulnerable citizens of the 13th District that motivates me to run for your seat. 

Rachael Rose Luckey

The Next Council Member of CD13 

Rachael Rose Luckey For LA City Council 2022 (ID # 1436223)

RachaelRoseForLA.com

 

(Rachael Rose Luckey is a Transgender Political Activist who has devoted the last several years to robustly understanding the issues Angelenos face and the progressive solutions needed. She is President of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council and hosts the podcast Conversations with LA (conversationswithla.com) as part of her run for LA City Council CD13. The opinions expressed are solely her own.) Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Polaris. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.