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Traci Park Intervened to Kill Planned Housing Operation at Ballona Wetlands Before Man Burned to Death

$2.3 million in housing funding for RVs on Jefferson Boulevard was squashed at Traci Park’s direction.

Close-up of Traci Park speaking at a microphone on 11/22/22. She is wearing glasses.
Councilmember Park introducing herself at City Hall on November 22, 2022, the same day that the $2.28 million encampment-to-home funding measure was killed. | YouTube

The recent fire death of Woody Akiedis could have been avoided.

Over $2 million in funding to housing the people living at the RV encampment on Jefferson Boulevard, where Akiedis resided until his death in February, was diverted away from being voted on in November. The funding motion had cleared committee and was set for final approval when then-Councilmember-elect Traci Park intervened.

At Park’s direction, Councilmember Monica Rodriguez had the motion referred back to committee, apparently in order to kill it, according to multiple sources familiar with discussions surrounding the motion. While that committee has since met several times, the item has not been revisited. Additionally, Councilmember Park’s homelessness and housing director, Juan Fregoso, recently told a neighborhood council meeting that he was unaware of any proposed funding for the site. 

Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment.

“I had been fighting a long time for these funds, and I wanted to get the people the help they needed. I was surprised that Ms. Park rejected $2.3 million to house, shelter and help people,” former councilmember Mike Bonin told Knock LA. “I don’t understand why she rejected the funds — especially since the program would have used the same approach, resources, and local social service agency [St. Joseph Center] she embraced a few weeks later when Mayor Bass used it for her Inside Safe program in Venice.”

The funding motion would have led to a three-week operation focused on engaging and housing people living along the marshlands. It would’ve been modeled on a pilot program that was successful in getting 20 RVs off the street in November 2022 by finding dedicated housing first and giving money to the RV owners to help with towing and giving away their vehicles. 

At an 11/22/22 City Council meeting, Councilmember Monica Rodriguez is speaking at a microphone. She is standing on the right side, with Park on the left.
Councilmember Rodriguez introducing Councilmember Park in City Hall on November 22nd, the same day that the $2.28 million funding measure was killed. | Youtube

It is unclear why the new councilmember turned down the incoming funding, especially given that addressing this particular encampment was a campaign priority of hers. The RVs parked along the wetlands have been a vocal point of contention for anti-homeless activists on the Westside, who have said the parked RVs and unhoused people who reside there are destroying the wetlands ecosystem, and the stalled funding motion was supported by Friends of Ballona Wetlands.

Councilmember Park did not respond to a request for comment.

“In addition to getting people safely indoors and providing them assistance with their vehicles, the money from my motion would have given her an opportunity to look like a hero. She had campaigned demanding action to eliminate this encampment, and the funds would have allowed her to do so with a services-led approach instead of a harsh, enforcement-led approach,” Bonin said. 

Days after celebrating the early success of the Inside Safe program in Venice, the city, at Park’s direction, swept the RV encampment at the Ballona Wetlands. The sweep at the wetlands was not a part of an Inside Safe effort and no one had access to hotels or services that those in Venice a few days prior were offered — and would have been offered through the squashed funding. Anyone who wasn’t living in an RV had their homes and belongings destroyed by the city. 

“No one is being offered safe parking or anything,” Peggy Lee Kennedy, of the Venice Justice Committee, told Knock LA. “Everyone wanted safe parking or some kind of help. Nothing is being provided to those people. They instead get law enforcement. They get towed. No services, just harassment.” 

Kennedy continued: “They’re refugees, they’ve come from other places, and they don’t have any other place to go. They have been ticketed to death.”

In the same neighborhood council meeting, Fregoso indicated that Park’s office is exploring an RV-focused Inside Safe operation for the site.

In a March 7 Westchester and Playa Neighborhood Council meeting, Park told neighborhood councilmembers that the city has nowhere to put the RVs and if they forced them to leave, she feared that the RV’s would move into nearby neighborhoods. Fregoso added that they would be implementing biweekly CARE+ sweeps on Jefferson Street. 

In a statement following Akiedis’ death, Councilmember Park said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in the RV fire at the Ballona Wetlands today…my team and I are actively working with our local and state partners to find solutions. I know you’re tired of excuses. So am I.”

Park and her supporters have celebrated her first few months in office as a rejection of Bonin’s “embrace of encampments,” with Park submitting nine 41.18 anti-encampment zones to be enforced by the City. However, it remains to be seen whether Park is focused on eliminating visible homelessness to placate her base rather than providing housing and services for her unhoused constituents. 

Contributing reporting by Jon Peltz.

(This article has been updated to clarify the mechanism through which then-Councilmember-elect Park pulled the funding motion from consideration.)