Just in time for the start of school next week, city staff removed the large encampment of homeless individuals living at the entry to the Larchmont Charter School’s elementary school campus on the 6600 block of Selma Avenue in Hollywood. The presence of the encampment has been frustrating to parents and local community members for months as the encampment grew larger and it appeared nothing was being done to remove it.
“On Thursday, our office collaborated with The Mayor’s office, service providers, and our County partners to house over 45 people who were living on the streets in Hollywood,” announced CD13 City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez in his weekly email. “We could not be happier and more thankful for this incredible work.”
“The Larchmont Charter School community is incredibly thankful to Mayor Bass, the City Council members, and the entire City of LA team that helped to find stable housing for our neighbors and ensure the sidewalks are safe for students at the start of school. We teach our students that they can make a difference and this shows what’s possible when our leaders come together to improve the lives of all members of their community,” Dave Dumonde, a spokesman for the school, told the Buzz.
“Hollywood is home to the 2nd largest unhoused population in our city, only behind Skid Row,” continued Soto-Martinez in his message to constituents. “A large portion of the residents have lived on the streets for years, and many have mental health or addiction issues. It’s also a unique area, where housed residents, businesses, and tourism all collide. Because of this, it requires a unique approach – and that’s why we’ve been doing the critical work to coordinate with The Mayor’s office, service providers, County agencies, and the Hollywood Partnership, who represents the business community.”
The Hollywood Partnership posted on Instagram:
“Exciting news from Hollywood! The Inside Safe program has accomplished another successful cleanup, thanks to our amazing partners @mayorofla, Council member @cd13losangeles, Supervisor @lindsayhorvath, and @lapdhq. Together, we were able to transform the three-block encampment along Selma Ave. between Schrader and Las Palmas, and housed over 41 individuals in need. Our Ambassadors are now working diligently to maintain the cleanliness of the area, especially near Selma Ave. Elementary. We couldn’t be more proud of our team!”
School officials told the Buzz last week that as the date for starting school approached, they were increasingly concerned about the lack of communication from CD13 staff, a criticism we have heard from local community members as well.
“Indeed it’s a step in the right direction,” Keith Johnson, a Larchmont resident who had been contacting the media over the past several months, trying to draw attention to the encampment and pressure city officials to remove it. “We still have so many encampments including some near schools too. We have to pressure the council to get things done.”
Johnson said he was very pleased to see Selma Park cleared and LAPD keeping an eye on the park. “LAPD has a patrol car parked at the Selma Park gate, apparently with an officer, and steps are being taken to prevent campers from returning. I hope the community will feel like using the park again. This will help keep campers out.”
In early August, concerned about deteriorating conditions, school officials told the Buzz they asked the LA Fire Department to inspect the site. Not surprisingly, LAFD found numerous fire, life safety, and ADA violations at the site, including illegal wiring that had been tapped into the school or the City of LA power box on the playground area of the property. In addition, the entire sidewalk was completely covered with tents, debris, and trash, presenting a safety hazard to children and parents trying to get to the school.
Their assessment added to the already growing pressure from parents, staff and community members on CD13 staff. In an interview with the Buzz in June, CD13 Homeless Director Patrick Mooney told the Buzz removing encampments without placing people in temporary housing actually makes more work and does more harm to the trust he and his staff are trying to build with unhoused individuals to move them into housing. Often, forcing the person to move just pushes them to another nearby encampment or they might disappear and be unreachable if and when a housing voucher does finally become available, explained Mooney.
At the time, Mooney said Kylie Jensen in his office was working with residents at the Selma Avenue encampment, getting to know the people there, building trust, and bringing in various service providers. He said his office was working to remove drugs from the area, and bringing in LA Sanitation twice a week to keep trash cleaned up. The goal, Mooney said, was to house the individuals living there (and to have the encampment fully removed) by the time school resumes in August. “I feel like we’re in a very good place to get it done,” Mooney said in June. And he has delivered.
While Johnson is happy the encampment was cleared before school started, he also said he’s frustrated that it took so long. According to Johnson, CD13 staff first told parents that it would be cleaned by May. Burt Johnson acknowledged, “It’s a problem not having the resources, and not everyone wants a hotel room because they come with rules.”
Soto-Martinez and his team are moving on to the next problem. What’s next, he said, is “more outreach, more services, more housing, and more forming relationships with our unhoused neighbors. This isn’t a problem that will be solved overnight or through one housing operation. As our Homelessness team works across our district, they’re signing people up for housing referrals to get the next open bed. There’s currently a long list of folks who want to be off the streets and under a roof, so our Planning team is working to build the type of interim and permanent housing they need. Every day our team comes to work ready to tackle one of the largest humanitarian crises in the country, and every day we do more and more to help.”
For now, parents and students can walk into Larchmont Charter with a clear and clean sidewalk, and they are very grateful.