Residents, City Officials Say They Don’t Want a Repeat of Echo Park Violence as They Prepare to Close MacArthur Park

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
October 7, 2021 Updated: October 7, 2021

Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo announced the city will close MacArthur Park on Oct. 15, where about 200 homeless Angelenos reside, for maintenance and repairs.

“We want to provide a safe, clean and secure park for all people that come to MacArthur Park to play, relax and enjoy this precious open space that lies in the heart of our low-income neighborhood of Westlake,” Cedillo said in a statement. “We made significant improvements to MacArthur Park, including a new playground, synthetic soccer field, new sod, landscaping, and a dance floor for the Levitt Pavilion bandshell. We are now completing much-needed deferred maintenance to provide a better park for children and families.”

The Department of Recreation and Parks will conduct electrical repairs, lighting repairs and upgrades, landscape reseeding, painting, irrigation repairs and upgrades, signage replacements, and park furniture repairs and replacement while the park is closed.

However, residents, activists, city officials, and people living in the MacArthur encampments have all expressed concern that the closure will turn into a repeat of the Echo Park closure and subsequent protests and violence that occurred earlier this year.

In an attempt to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, Cedillo’s office outlined a plan and provided a “contrast chart” that points out the differences in approach. According to the chart, Echo Park encampment residents were notified of the closure and offered shelter only 48 hours prior to the closure, with official notices being given only 24 hours before; the entire park was fenced off within 48 hours.

In contrast, the chart states unhoused Angelenos in MacArthur Park have been offered shelter since January 2021, and received notice of the closure on Sept. 29, 17 days prior; fencing will be put up in phases, with some fencing being erected this week, and only the lakeside portion of the park will be closed.

Cedillo’s office said that the city has already housed 165 Angelenos who camped in the park, and said that housing is available for the unhoused who remain. The city is working with L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) to offer shelter and housing opportunities to those left in the park.

Some Angelenos, such as Peggy Lee Kennedy, of Venice Justice, expressed concern for the homeless in the encampment that will be displaced as a result of the closure, and that the city should ultimately do more for the unhoused in the park.

“Unless there is permanent housing for them, this sucks … shelters lead back to the streets without permanent housing,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter.

Others expressed relief that the park will be cleared of the encampments, while other residents say that the park is large enough for both encampments and park visitors.

“I have kids and a family,” one Twitter user wrote. “The park is a large public space where it’s possible for everyone to coexist peacefully. Renovated playground is super cute and completely safe.”

“I’ve seen needles on the ground [and] tipped over porta-potties. The homeless and the meth heads need to find another location,” another Twitter user replied.

Councilmember Gil Cedillo did not respond to a request for comment by press time.