Opinion: City Should Do More to Protect Homeless Vagrants

When a homeless man died from a fire in an abandoned commercial building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd., the lack of focus and absence of leadership by our longest serving City Council members was illustrated in very real terms.

It’s been 30 years since the urban oasis we now call home was created by dedicated activists working together to ensure that local residents would have meaningful input on a vast number of matters including rent control, senior citizen services, and LGBT community issues. The effort was necessary in order to take control of local decision-making away from the County of Los Angeles which was too large, and an ultra-conservative Board of Supervisors too far removed from the needs of our community.

Cole Ettman
Cole Ettman

Yet here we are today, 30 years later – with homeless people living in abandoned buildings and the City apparently not uniformly utilizing nuisance abatements that require landlords and property owners to keep their buildings and property clean, safe and secure, whether they are inhabited or not.

Those who care most about keeping our neighborhoods safe, dealing humanely and effectively with the homeless and attacking blight are being ignored by City Hall. Residents fighting to stop over-development from flooding their streets with cut-through traffic, gridlock and smog are being silenced by the long term incumbents on the City Council. Park patrons and affordable housing advocates are being betrayed by entrenched politicians who once vowed to put residents first.

Who’s not being ignored? The legions of real estate developers, billboard companies and special interests that are dumping more than $100,000 into an unregulated campaign to re-elect John Heilman.

Instead of tackling the tough problems that must be addressed, City Hall is consumed with allegations of sexual harassment, eaves dropping, and a council deputy system that pays a handful of hand-picked political appointees hundreds of thousands of dollars for what amounts to part time work.

So it should come as no surprise that no city action was taken to prevent an abandoned commercial building from being a firetrap for the homeless. Nor has any statement of responsibility or explanation been issued by the City Council, Manager or Prosecutor.

If the City had done its job, enforcing laws that are already on the book, the homeless man who died in a long vacant building might still be alive. He shouldn’t have been in a building that should have been demolished or secured five years ago. There are so many causes of homelessness we can do little to change. But don’t we have a responsibility, as a community, to change the things we can?

The City Council would have the time to address the homeless issue if it wasn’t so busy erecting sky scrapers and tearing down historical landmarks. They’d have a lot more time if they’d stop waiting hand and foot on out of town developers and sucking up to a handful of special interests.

Can’t we all agree that the City Council must, first and foremost, put public safety ahead of petty politics and kowtowing to campaign contributors?

To anyone trapped in a tedious City Council meeting that drones on into the wee hours of the morning, it might appear that the City Council is “busy.” But let us not confuse random, haphazard activity with focus, leadership and real progress.

The sad fact is most of the work the Council chooses to do is done behind closed doors with no timely or significant input from residents, community leaders and activists.

Too many good, honest, and committed people have worked for too long to build the city we love today for entrenched politicians to auction off their hard earned achievements to the developers and special interests that care only about their own personal profits, and could care less about the future of our community.

Join us – together we can restore faith and rebuild credibility in our city government. We can protect our neighborhoods, parks and affordable housing.

This Tuesday, June 2, is Election Day and no election since the foundation of our city has been more critical to determining the future of our neighborhoods. Whether or not you support me, and I hope you do, our leaders must hear from us all where we stand on overdevelopment, overpaid city council deputies, sexual harassment and an unacceptable level of blight that leads to a homeless man living and dying in an abandoned building

On Tuesday, let us send the special interests a message, loud and clear, that their time is up, and that our city is not for sale.

Cole Ettman is a candidate in Tuesday’s election for a seat on the West Hollywood City Council.

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John P.
John P.
5 years ago

Totally agree with Guy Privaton….. This guy is a tool! He knows zero about West Hollywood and its homeless population. So GLAD the voters saw thru his B.S. !!! Shiny doesn’t mean Smart!

joetheplummber
joetheplummber
5 years ago

@Disco. Years ago there was a homeless shelter paid for by West Hollywood on La Brea. I know because we gave a $20.00 donation and some people were mad at us because they said we were encouraging homelessness in West Hollywood. I think the shelter had to close for lack of funding. Many residents were angry and did not want homeless people in this area. I personally believe a wonderful site for a temporary center would be that parking lot by Cedars Hospital. They have had it forever as temporary parking. Why not make it a temporary shelter for 49… Read more »

Disco Dan
Disco Dan
5 years ago

I still think WeHo should have its own homeless shelter, especially with $100 million in budget reserves.

Larry Block
5 years ago

@Disco Dan, the homeless are not shifted to PATH. PATH began in West Hollywood and outgrew its space here. They moved to bigger a larger space to accommodate more homeless. I’m glad to say the West Hollywood Food Coalition is terrific and was the recipient of the Disability Service Award this past October. Our social services programs has many terrific collaborative and cooperative agencies that we both fund and or support. It’s also important to note that professional organizations are better equipped to handle these issues as was pointed out in one of the debates.

Weho M
Weho M
5 years ago

West Hollywood has done a good job with services for the homeless, but we can do better. We should not be relying on just PATH, which another commenter pointed out is far away from our great city. I would urge people to support the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, which feeds 175-200 people every night near Target on SMB. This is done on a shoestring budget, the clients and volunteers clean up after dinner, medical care from UCLA Medical School is provided on Wednesdays, etc. We can do better for those that are the most vulnerable in our society and… Read more »

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

Here you are again offering false complaints about “conservatives” in this op-ed, but I’ve got fliers from you, promoting yourself as a conservative candidate for Republicans, with endorsements from conservatives. So you talk out both sides of your mouth, Cole, telling Republicans you’re the most conservative candidate and they should vote for you, then run elsewhere to tell liberals how much you dislike conservatives and how much you care about progressive issues. You seize on whatever issue you think sounds good to a particular targeted audience — progressives, conservatives, whomever — and then use it as nothing but a tool… Read more »

Guillermo
Guillermo
5 years ago

Cole, you’re pro-homeless message is undercut by the fact that you call them VAGRANTS. Are you aware that’s a slur?

Disco Dan
Disco Dan
5 years ago

The city supposedly has some $100 Million (yes, you read that right) in Budget Reserves. WeHo claims to be a progressive city but the homeless in WeHo are shunted to PATH (east of Vermont and, ironically, just up the side street from Slammer). Why does not WeHo have a residential facility for the homeless? Where is the compassion? I guess, to date, it’s a NIMBY mentality which we have to change.

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)

This article proves Cole knows nothing of the community here come from NY and make stuff up as you go? Must think we’re all idiots no thank you Statements about the Board of Supervisors and City aren’t 100% true not surprised ive noticed Cole is willing to play the Big Lie card even at the forum didn’t work in NY wont work here either it sickens me the few people in our community bedazzled by his b.s. or is he using his campaign money to pay off fines for breaking campaign finance laws in NY? I agree with Jim in… Read more »

Larry Block
5 years ago

We have a contract with PATH and have I believe 14 beds there form West Hollywood homeless, this was just increase with more funding this past social services cycle – from I believe 10 beds. If you see a homeless person they will be escorted to PATH and you are doing them a favor. If they have drug issues we will transfer them to Tarzana treatment center for treatment and if they have HIV we coordinate with our local social service agencies to make sure they get care. The author has not attended any Human Services meetings so he is… Read more »

Alison
Alison
5 years ago

You said that building should have been demolished years ago. Well, that building is the subject of a current push to have it declared historic by some residents. I’m not one of them, but …still.

Mr. Ettman, would you rather the homeless sleep on the street? Unfortunately, a man died in that fire, but at least he had a roof over his head until then.

Oh, and another thing. Nobody is ever trapped in a City Council meeting. There are no locks on the doors.

BC
BC
5 years ago

The homeless fire was the result of a turf war between two transients.