I hate the trajectory our city is on. It’s losing its humanity. Its character is being replaced with a defensive posture that is not conducive to community and camaraderie.
This past weekend I took a stroll down the boardwalk while walking a dog. As we came up from Pico Blvd. it was a lovely evening of warm breezes and the wafting of marijuana. Moving along we arrived at the exercise pit where the rings are. Long lines of ropes were stretched out for the wire-walkers to practice. People were enjoying the rings and working out on the bars. Acrobats and calisthenics enthusiasts were enjoying the green space and I recalled the many hours I’ve spent there photographing athletes.
And then I looked over at the ramp down from the parking lot. It used to be the upper border of a green space where my dog and I would sit and relax after his long pier adventures hunting for errant French fries and dropped bits of hot dogs and pizza. But it was no more.
What was a delightful resting spot of real grass had been replaced with drought-resistant and people deterrent bark and thorny bushes. Palm trees had been planted for some unknown purpose. Yet another people-friendly space had been sacrificed in the name of, probably, water-saving, budget cuts and that catchall phrase bureaucrats love to use to justify their actions, public safety.
I was bothered by the loss of such a nice space. My memories of it are all that I have. No new ones will be made there by me or anyone else. I wasn’t annoyed enough to write about it at the time. And then I saw the story about how city staff are preparing to remove the tables and seats at Chess Park.
Again this is being done in the name of budget cuts, and ‘public safety’. I know there have been a lot of problems with Chess Park. I’ve seen the videos of fights, drunks, drug addicts and the mentally ill causing problems there. I get that our city is under siege from the homeless, the resurgence of gang taggers (which may or may not lead to bigger problems) and the lack of enough police resources to handle the problems of the city.
But does the reaction of the city ALWAYS have to be withdraw public spaces? Why are we as a city allowing the bad elements to win by the removal of what is meant for all the public? When are the city council going to stand up and say, “ENOUGH!” Do something more creative. Find a better way to address the issues of homelessness and mental illness.
The fact is that yes we have a lot of problems. We have a huge budget that is evidently not enough to provide our city with the police force we need. We need more help with the homeless and the mentally ill. We need more resources to protect the public spaces. We need more assistance from our neighboring cities.
Why is our City Council, who are so busy eliminating Commissions (while ignoring the need for valid ones like a Diversity Commission and/or a Men’s Commission – don’t think I forgot about that Women’s Commission we had for years!) but ignoring the reduction in services and public assets while the city staff continue to accrue their pension monies.
I’ve reached out to our Council on the status of commissions and the need for a Diversity Commission – crickets. I’ve asked about what can be done with the destruction of the Bowling Alley and its conversion into a behemoth residential structure that will dwarf the neighborhood – and I was told there’s nothing we can do.
On 14th street, across from Woodlawn Cemetery is another major development of community housing. It’s the first of many I imagine on that street and surrounding area. On Pico Blvd at 18th is another giant complex being built that soon will dwarf its neighbors.
As our city is becoming a warehouser of people, with no place for them to comfortably enjoy the outdoors, I don’t know what this will become. How much longer until the City decides that our parks are too expensive to maintain and we should shut them down? How long until those child play areas become too much work and too risky and they need to be closed?
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra