On Sunday, September 6th, as record-breaking temperatures scorched the area, a crew went to work placing approximately 60 large rocks on the walls of the Cattaraugus Tunnel, an underpass of the I-10 freeway that runs through the Reynier Village neighborhood of LA with the Culver connects city art districts. The project was staged by a group of neighbors aiming to discourage unhodged people from continuing to seek refuge in the tunnel.
What the fuck is this shit? pic.twitter.com/ingZ4XCSx6
– Respectful neighbor 👴🏘️ (@AntifaCoulter) September 7, 2020
"The city couldn't do it for us, so we took action," says W. Peter Iliff, a Hollywood screenwriter who has lived in Reynier Village for two years. "When an opportunity arose and there were no homeless people in the tunnel, we moved very quickly because we were waiting for the opportunity."
Iliff, who wrote both Point Break and Varsity Blues and directed Trump & # 39; s America, a short film about the LA homeless crisis, co-organized a GoFundMe that promised to “clean up the tunnel, make it safe, and a nice one Gate to and from Reynier Village ”and rose to over $ 3,600. The GoFundMe has since been switched off.
“This is about trying to stop our community from having our kids witness this stuff,” he explains. "The throttle point has become dangerous."
Unhoused advocates, as well as some of Iliff's neighbors, were outraged by efforts to prevent unhoused people from pitching tents in a rare shady spot on the hottest weekend of the year. The South Robertson Neighborhood Council informs Los Angeles that it was not notified of the plan prior to its execution.
Olga Lexell, who sits on the council's land-use and transportation committees, said she spoke regularly to the unoccupied residents in the tunnel and never felt unsafe. In her opinion, boulder placement, which took place outside of a formal neighborhood approval process, needs to be investigated.
“As someone who lives in this neighborhood, I want to know that such processes are viewed democratically,” she says. “If I had seen something on the (council) agenda to put stones under the highway during a heat wave so that people without living space could not go anywhere, I would have attended this meeting. And as a member of the public, I would have spoken out. "
Before Sunday, three people were housed in the tunnel, some residents say they stay mostly to themselves unless they were visiting with a friendly neighbor who dropped off goods or local activists checked in. The residents of the tunnel disappeared a few weeks ago. after two of them were taken away by police officers. When the last uninhabited resident was not discovered in his settlement for a few days, the group of homeowners behind GoFundMe took the opportunity to place the stones.
I'm with you. This is wrong on so many levels. My team and I are working to remove these as soon as possible. https://t.co/QROqwG3Eg8
– Herb J. Wesson, Jr. (@HerbJWesson) September 9, 2020
At a South Robertson Neighborhoods Council meeting held through Zoom on Tuesday, September 8, more than 60 people called to express their disgust at the boulders. only four people who spoke were in favor. On Twitter, Herb J. Wesson Jr., the town councilor who represents the neighborhood, condemned the boulders as "wrong on so many levels" and promised that his office would make sure they were removed.
But as the council session dragged on on Tuesday, coalition activists mobilized Services Not Sweeps to do the job themselves and removed about 40 of the boulders from the tunnel using rented dollies. They left signs condemning the installation and asked those responsible to consider using the funds spent on the rocks on housing services.
Rhiana Casterisano, an organizer for Coalition Services Not Sweeps, says activists believe the people who planted boulders had help from the local government.
"The city council is so well known for these seedy backdoor deals," says Casterisano. "You really never know what's going on behind closed doors."
During a meeting of the South Robertson Neighborhood Executive Board Thursday, Iliff said he had been contacted by law enforcement and threatened with illegal dumping charges if the boulders were not removed within 24 hours. He claimed he got help from City Councils in Districts 5 and 10 and spent more of GoFundMe money on the removal. They were seen being transported away on Thursday afternoon.
Lexell, who emailed the South Robertson Neighborhood Council board members when they first installed it, said it had received several harassing emails and phone calls from people who were on the Boulder project. Even so, she does not regret speaking on behalf of her unoccupied neighbors.
"The more the public talks about it, the more the neighborhood council is likely to condemn it," she says.
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