People who are experiencing homelessness and have taken up residence in MacArthur Park are being ordered to leave ahead of the city’s extended maintenance and cleanup efforts, which are set to begin Friday night.
At 10:30 p.m., Los Angeles city officials plan to close the south side of the park — where MacArthur Park Lake is located — between South Alvarado Street and South Park View Street, and between 7th Street and Wilshire Boulevard.
“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,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo stated in a news release.
John McGowan said he’s been sleeping in the park several weeks out of the year.
“It hurts a little bit, because I really don’t got nowhere else to go,” he said. “If I do go, I got to go back downtown, and I’m getting tired.”
The north side of the park, where a recreation area is located, will stay open during the maintenance period, according to the news release.
The cleanup efforts are expected to take about 10 weeks, Cedillo told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.
He says the city has worked with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and People Assisting The Homeless to find shelter for more than 250 people since January.
Officials are hoping their efforts can help avoid a repeat of the protests that occurred in March when encampments were removed from nearby Echo Park.
In that incident, multiple law enforcement buses had to be sent to the park to cart away demonstrators en masse. Officers were seen carrying some protesters away by their arms and legs.
Meanwhile, a man who was still in MacArthur Park Friday says police have already begun cracking down on those who haven’t left.
“I got a ticket about three or four days ago … They don’t want you in the park,” Jimmy Woods said.
A sign hanging on a park fence read, “PARK TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR RENOVATION. NO ENTRY DURING CLOSURE.”
Cedillo says that since the pandemic began, the park has seen a drop in recreational activities and a rise in homeless encampments and gang-related crime.
Much of the park’s maintenance has been on hold during the pandemic but now the Department of Recreation and Parks is apparently ready to start making those repairs.