LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A chain-link fence surrounding Echo Park Lake that has been criticized by activists will be removed, Councilman Hugo Soto- Martinez announced today.
The fence was installed following the removal of around 200 people living in encampments in the park in March 2021. Parts of it have since been knocked down several times, including earlier this week.
"We will take down the fence, and we will take painstaking care to do it right, with more transparency, so the city can see once and for all that criminalization and segregation don't solve homelessness," Soto-Martinez said in a statement.
The exact date of the fence's removal will be announced later, according to Soto-Martinez.
The removal effort on March 25, 2021 was met with large protests, in which hundreds of officers descended on Echo Park and arrested about 180 people, including journalists.
Protesters blasted the city for forcing the park's residents out of an area that had grown into what they called a supportive community during the pandemic -- including a vegetable garden, working showers and a shared kitchen.
Soto-Martinez criticized his predecessor, Mitch O'Farrell -- who he ousted from office last November -- for what Soto-Martinez called a "violent displacement of unhoused individuals and peaceful protesters at Echo Park Lake." Soto-Martinez said the fence was installed as part of "the final act of this rushed and failed plan" to close off the park to the community.
"For many in the community, including myself, the fence symbolizes division and the biggest failure of homeless policy in the history of Los Angeles," Soto-Martinez said.
O'Farrell, who came under fire from activists during and after the clearing of the park's encampment, previously championed the effort as "a very successful housing operation." While in office, O'Farrell said his team had been responding to the "myriad challenges" at the park that included "lack of adequate shelter or services for the unhoused population; the dangers to public safety found throughout the park; and the growing list of repairs necessitated by the park's deteriorating conditions."
Soto-Martinez said that after the election, his office began coordinating with city departments, service providers, advocates and former residents of the park.
In March 2022, a report released by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy found that only 17 of 183 people who were living in encampments in the park had been in long-term housing.
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