35.7 tons of solid waste removed from Echo Park Lake; park could reopen by end of month

Leo Stallworth Image
Friday, May 7, 2021
35.7 tons of waste removed from Echo Park Lake since closure
Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment crews removed 35.7 tons of solid waste from Echo Park Lake since the park's closure on March 25. Meanwhile, the park could reopen by the end of the month.

ECHO PARK, LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment crews removed 35.7 tons of solid waste from Echo Park Lake since the park's closure on March 25, and a news report indicated that the park could reopen by the end of the month.

According to LASAN documents, posted by the Los Angeles Times Thursday, cleanup crews removed 723.5 pounds of biological waste and 300 pounds of hazardous waste, which included ignitables, paint, sharp objects and drug paraphernalia.

The project to cleanup and repair the park cost $600,000, according to a Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners report issued before the park's closure. The work includes:

  • replacing playground surfacing
  • restroom improvements
  • upgrading restroom interior and exterior lighting fixtures to LED
  • replacing five drinking fountains
  • improving light poles in the area, including upgrading several solar lighting fixtures to LED
  • improving and painting the exterior of the lake's boathouse
  • improving the lake bridge, including with the replacement of handrails and planks
  • refurbishing the park's turf
  • improving the park's irrigation
  • The park could reopen by the end of the month, a Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks told The Times.

    Hundreds of protesters gathered at Echo Park Lake Wednesday night in anticipation of the city clearing out the homeless encampment and closing the park.

    The LAPD reported three weeks prior to the park closing and removal of the homeless, there were 26 crimes reported in a half-square mile around Echo Park, 10 of them violent crimes. In the three weeks since the closer and cleanup, the number of crimes reported dropped to 19 and five of them were considered as violent crimes.

    Word spread on March 22 that the park would be closed for repairs, but many in the community saw it as a veiled effort to remove the hundreds of unhoused Angelenos that took up residency in the park during the COVID-19 pandemic. The move was met with large protests, in which officers arrested 182 people. Protesters blasted the city for forcing the park's residents out of an area that had grown into a supportive community -- including a vegetable garden, working showers and a shared kitchen.

    Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and Mayor Eric Garcetti declared the operation a success, citing that the park's residents were offered housing. However, opponents of the park's clearing, including a coalition of faculty at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine and Occidental College, pointed out that most of the housing options were temporary and some were in congregate shelters amid a pandemic.

    "First, placements into interim shelter must not be equated with housing people," the faculty stated in a letter to the city. "Without a clear path to permanent housing, such temporary housing serves as yet one more stop in the endless cycle of displacement. Many of the Echo Park Lake placements were made to Project Roomkey hotels and motels, in locations as distant as Palmdale."

    City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell claimed success in the effort to clean up Echo Park Lake, with the last of more than 200 homeless people removed, and a $500,000 repair and restoration project underway after days of protests that included more than 180 arrests.

    They added that some Project Roomkey residents claim they live under strict curfews and prison-like conditions while living in the city-provided hotels, and they feel like they have to "trade their autonomy and dignity for a bed."

    The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the LAPD's role in the clearing and response to protesters, which included detaining legal observers and journalists covering the protests.

    "Taking militarized police action to displace people who are already displaced is cruel and does nothing to bolster public safety. Mass arrests of protesters, legal observers and journalists will not keep the city's brutal, ill-conceived actions from being known. The city leaders who approved this approach should be held accountable," the ACLU said after the protests.

    The police response also prompted the City Council Wednesday to request a report from the LAPD on its detention of journalists during the demonstrations and the department's broader conduct toward the media.