Los Angeles sanitation crews recently found tents, power generators, and a multi-level treehouse during the fourth and final phase of a project to clear hundreds of homeless people and debris from a 2,000-acre recreation area.
Large illegal makeshift structures, like this 3 story treehouse, are being dismantled in Sepulveda Basin today. This is a part of a multi-phase and multi-agency clean up operation in the basin. LAHSA has been on-site during cleanup to offer services. pic.twitter.com/i5fIuWHKD6
— CHP – West Valley (@CHPWestValley) January 9, 2020
The California Highway Patrol shared images of the discovery on social media last week, writing: “Large illegal makeshift structures, like this 3 story treehouse, are being dismantled in Sepulveda Basin today. This is a part of a multi-phase and multi-agency clean up operation in the basin.”
CBS2 described the Sepulveda Basin cleanup endeavor as “a public safety effort” that began in August. On Wednesday, hazmat teams in full protective gear targeted a 34-acre section of the park considered “the most dangerous to live in because of flooding and thick woods,” according to the outlet. The area is an active flood basin that is off-limits to the public.
“There’s no access or very limited access,” said Howard Wong, L.A.’s chief environmental compliance officer. “Everything is by foot or existing fire roads and trails.”
Government officials decided to clear the basin after a fire swept through several homeless camps there in July. Another fire erupted in October, burning about 60 acres.
ENCINO Vegetation Fire in the sepulveda Basin Light wind & warmer temperatures got this fire moving fast through 10 acres of brush with up to 50 homeless encampments. @LAFD w/ about 100 firefighters & 2 water dropping helicopters got a handle on the fire no injuries @KCBSKCALDesk pic.twitter.com/KngF0ZzpBQ
— stu mundel (@Stu_Mundel) July 31, 2019
NOW: @LAFD doing water drops on the Sepulveda Basin Fire. That area is one of our local treasures. Was just there running after work today.
The homeless have taken over the area and again our local officials have let us down.
Why wasn’t the area cleared today? Why! pic.twitter.com/ZJuxoCXMqY
— Gigi Graciette (@GigiGraciette) October 24, 2019
“The Sepulveda Basin is not made for human habitation and we are the next fire or flood away from losing lives,” said L.A. Council President Nury Martinez, whose district includes the basin. “We must do everything in our power to avert that.”
“As the fires and rain storms have shown us, it is a major public safety risk to people living there, people who visit the site for recreational purposes and those who live in the surrounding communities. For everyone’s sake, it simply cannot continue.”
City officials and local advocacy groups were onsite to refer displaced homeless individuals to housing services. However, the L.A. Daily News reports that “many have moved to street encampments.”
NBC4 Los Angeles reported:
A woman who identified herself as Charlene said she has lived in the area – on and off – for about six years. She said she was not aware the clean-up was scheduled for Wednesday.
“It’s kind of like helpless and hopeless, because where are we supposed to go?” she said. “We’re not trying to be on people’s front lawns.”
She planned to remove as many of her belongings as possible in a shopping cart, but said she wasn’t sure where she’d go next.
“We’re running out of room,” she said. “We’re not bothering anybody…we’re a community of people.”
Last week, the L.A. Times reported that the Trump administration has “made quiet but significant progress toward a potential deal with Los Angeles officials that would provide federal funds and land to help shelter the city’s and county’s growing homeless population.” The Times obtained a letter L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently sent to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson requesting federal assistance. Garcetti and Carson spoke by phone on Wednesday.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter@JeffreyCawood.