Controversial fence surrounding Echo Park Lake starts coming down after 2 years

Anabel Munoz Image
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Echo Park Lake's fence starts coming down after 2 year
Crews began tearing down the fence surrounding Echo Park Lake Monday morning-- a campaign promise by Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez.

ECHO PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Crews began tearing down the fence surrounding Echo Park Lake Monday morning -- a campaign promise by Los Angeles City Council member Hugo Soto-Martinez.

Depending on who you ask, the chain link fence represents different things. For some, it's meant a sense of safety and for others, it represents violence or discrimination against unhoused people.

While some celebrated, others raised concerns about the fence coming down.

"The new way, which was the fence up, kept all the criminal activity out, kept the noise down," said Emily Lee, an Echo Park resident with a group that's advocated for the fence to stay.

RELATED: Fence surrounding Echo Park Lake to be removed, LA council member says

L.A. City Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez announced that a chain-link fence surrounding Echo Park Lake will be removed.

As the public health crisis of homelessness grew, so did the encampments at the lake. The fence went up under former Council member Mitch O'Farrell in March 2021.

"For two years, the neighbors and those of us who live right across the street have experienced how peaceful and calm, clean and secure the park has been," said resident Dolores De Angeles.

Still, others think the tearing down of the fence is great.

Maria Ramirez lives nearby and likes to walk around the park and says unhoused residents face discrimination, but are human beings and deserve respect and support when it's lacking.

Another resident said he's conflicted. He sees this as a systemic nationwide issue and one that's become very polarized in this community. For him, it's not a hard yes or no.

RELATED: Protesters, police face off at Echo Park Lake before clearing of homeless encampment

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 office of Council member Soto-Martinez said providers and outreach workers will be at the park seven days a week and a team of unarmed responders will be available during evening hours if issues arise.

The council member said the office also plans to expand programing activities at the lake and promote cultural and economic opportunity by allowing street vendors back.

"The homeless crisis all over America is horrible," said Valerie Zeller who has experienced being homeless.

"I lived in the park," she said. "It was my first time being homeless."

Zeller said the council office secured a tiny home for her. She plans to start a business selling clothes her pastor gave her.

"The park being open, it's a beautiful day. It's wonderful to see it not being fenced in," Zeller said.

A report by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy called the removal unhoused residents "a spectacular show of militarized power" and according to its analysis, found only 17 out of more than 180 people who were removed were placed in what they classify as housing.