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Bruce Bialosky

Can Government Fix Their Messes?

There are two overriding issues in Los Angeles as there are in most cities – 1) crime and 2) people living on our streets under the misnomer “Homeless.” You may recall I have worked on clearing an encampment in Studio City, CA, as laid out in my column, The Homeless Are More Important Than We Are The saga continued and unfortunately remains an issue complicated by layers of government.

The county supervisor’s office became aware that when you look up the words “junkyard dog” in dictionary, a picture of me adjoins the definition. I kept driving the issue to rid the area of these dangerous squatters. In the interim, a criminal had jumped my neighbor’s high, spiked fence and started roaming their yard. When the police arrived, I had a wonderful discussion with them where they told me a series of break-ins had occurred and were tied to the squatters that the county government had condoned.

On another visit to the site, county personnel were there. I had a discussion with a couple of them that was quite illuminating. These were people who worked with squatters who are homeless all over the county. They knew this issue firsthand. They informed me the site was being cleared the following week. They also confirmed the rat infestation – something that naturally accompanies trash piles and people relieving themselves without proper facilities. They told me the LAPD statement about the burglaries was accurate.

Then they confirmed something I had suspected since digging into this issue many years ago. They stated that most of these people were neither local residents nor even state residents. They came to Los Angeles for two reasons. The first being the obvious one – the weather. The other one is because of all the free things they receive in the area. The city, county and state are spending billions on resolving the Homelessness issue when what it is really doing is attracting more people through their services.

I have said for a while there a simple answer as to why this problem exists in our communities – tolerance. Our elected officials and their handpicked government wonks have a policy of tolerating this behavior, and we suffer the consequences.

After the clearing of the site, I wrote Sheila Kuehl’s Local Director with a couple questions:

1. Are we fumigating for rats? They were pervasive there.

2. There appears to be a some of squatters just to the east of the lot. Are they being addressed?

This was the response I received:

“Thank you for your message. The County lot was completely cleaned and the people experiencing homelessness (PEH) on the lot housed as of Friday, December 17th. The adjacent property is the jurisdiction of the state. Our office has reported the condition of the site to Caltrans already. You are also welcome to connect with your state office to follow-up. In addition, if the PEH you are referring to are on the street, please contact your City of LA Councilmember.”

“Please also note that due to LA County redistricting, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl no longer oversees the community of Studio City. I’ve cc’d people with the office of Supervisor Katherine Barger (Studio City County Supervisor). Please connect with them moving forward regarding the site and any other County matters.”

My response to this nonsense:

“If we don’t move those people they will move back onto the lot. Those people need to be moved off and they were caused by the county allowing the Park and Ride lot to become a host site. Telling me I must chase after other governmental entities is exactly why people do not get involved. It is a Freddie Prinze situation – “not my job.” Not an acceptable answer. The County caused this; the County needs to resolve this.”

The good part of this is Supervisor Barger is someone I worked with in her prior role as chief of staff for Mike Antonovich (in office for 36 years). The initial response of personnel in Barger’s office was less than loving so I sent a “Dear Mike” email to Antonovich, and he made a phone call for me. Instant response after that.

The director of the local office has personally visited the site. I had no confidence anyone from Kuehl’s office ever did. Unfortunately, they must coordinate matters with the state and local City Council office, but they are on the job.

Results are what we are looking for. A new encampment has moved just off to a side street. The two lots and the land in between look like a modified garbage dump. See for yourself with the accompanying photos recently taken.

It is unfortunate we must experience this. It is bad political leadership, but we put these people in office. We are the ones that can force a change.