WeHo Residents Turn Out to Address Crime on the Eastside and the Homeless in Poinsettia Park

Tents sheltering homeless people near Poinsettia Park

A relatively large number of residents turned out at tonight’s Public Safety Commission meeting at Plummer Park to speak up about what they see as an increase in crime on West Hollywood’s Eastside.

A number of residents cited the stabbing death of March 4 of Bernar Arlain, 32, on La Brea Avenue near Santa Monica Boulevard. Arlain, apparently homeless, was found dead at the bus stop in front of the upscale Dylan apartment building at 7111 Santa Monica Blvd. Others called out concerns about homeless people living in tents around  Poinsettia Park, which is bordered by Romaine Street, Willoughby Avenue and Poinsettia Place, just outside West Hollywood’s city limits.

One local resident, Geoffrey Buck, who owns a home on Sierra Bonita Avenue near Romaine, complained about seeing homeless people prostituting themselves in the park. Buck said he saw people defecating in public and could see used syringes on the sidewalk, an indication of possible illegal drug use.

Stephanie Harker told Public Safety commissioners that a security guard at two private assisted living homes at Martel and Romaine  said he walked women to their cars to protect them from apparently homeless men who made sexual remarks to them.

Tents and belongings folded up for removal after LA Bureau of Sanitation and LAPD visit.

Lt. Edward Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said he had joined a number of foot patrols on the Eastside in years past and that what he was hearing did not surprise him. Ramirez said the Sheriff’s Station has stepped up its foot patrols on the Eastside, with teams deployed from noon to 6 p.m. and additional patrols from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. thanks to funding from the city.

Ramirez said he has seen a significant impact in the past 10 or so days from the stepped up foot patrols and having officers park black and white squad cars in prominent areas. He said the Sheriff’s Station also has begun arresting people to whom it previously would have given only written citations for committing misdemeanors such as possessing shopping cars and drug paraphernalia or alcohol. Since October, he said, Sheriff’s deputies have arrested 75 people for whom they would only have issued citations in the past. Ramirez said that when officers arrest a homeless person for possession of an apparently stolen shopping cart, they make a video of the person’s belongings and put them in storage so that the person can collect them later.

The concentration of homeless people in Poinsettia Park has alarmed some residents of the Avalon West Hollywood building, which is just north of it. One resident, Kris Nichols, reached out to WEHOville and to Mayor John Heilman in an email to say that the bicycle storage room in the building’s parking garage had been broken in to and packages were being stolen from the apartments on the ground level. Nichols said that while walking home he had noticed an impromptu bicycle repair operation in the middle of a cluster of homeless people camping on the sidewalk. “My guess is these urban campers don’t have permits to camp on the sidewalk or operate a bicycle ‘repair facility’,” he said.

“The net is, people don’t feel safe here because of the blatant street level crime. ”

Robert Oliver, a member of WeHo’s Public Safety Commission, also is the field deputy for the area of L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz’s district that includes Poinsettia Park. Oliver tol the Public Safety Commission that the Los Angeles Police Department is limited in what it can do about removing homeless people and their belongings from the sidewalks along the park under the terms of a settlement of a 2014 lawsuit brought against the Los Angeles Downtown Industrial District for removing unattended belongings of homeless people on L.A.’s Skid Row. Those belongings sometimes were taken while individuals left for short periods to go to a doctor’s appointment, get a meal or use a restroom. The Los Angeles City Council last year approved a settlement that barred such seizures unless the property is obviously abandoned. In Poinsettia Park, abandoned items are removed only by the L.A. Sanitation Bureau. Even then, Oliver said, city workers must approach homeless people on at least three separate occasions to offer them access to services such as housing or mental health or addiction care before they can take their property, which requires 72 hour notice.

Capt. Sergio Aloma of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station previously has cited that 2014 legal settlement mentioned by Oliver as the reason Sheriff’s deputies must put in storage any property taken from a homeless person.

Oliver said Koretz’s office has engaged the Sanitation Bureau to visit the park twice a month to clean it up. Such visits are limited to two days a month because the Sanitation Bureau also has to make similar visits to the other 14 L.A. City Council districts. Today Sanitation Bureau employees were at the park along L.A. City Park Rangers, the LAPD’s Homeless Outreach and Pro-Active Engagement (HOPE) Team, officers from the LAPD’s Wilshire Division and Oliver. Oliver said homeless people who sleep on the sidewalks can erect tents there so long as they leave at least 36 inches of sidewalk width open. They can’t camp on the sidewalks before 9 p.m and  must remove their tents every morning by 6 a.m. except on days when there is rainfall or that are very cold.

Among those at Poinsettia today was LAPD Senior Lead Officer Inga Wecker, who said “It is a constant challenge to maintain the rights of all parties involved, and while we make every attempt to find housing options for vulnerable individuals, we must also maintain an acceptable quality of life for those in the neighborhood.”

Virginia Gillick suggested to the Public Safety Commission that homeless people be allowed to pitch tents in the empty lot on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights where a Walgreens pharmacy was to have been built. Kristin Cook, West Hollywood’s public safety director, said that would require a major policy shift for the city, which has strict rules barring tents in public places.

Residents acknowledged that homelessness is a countywide if not a statewide problem. “We need our laws changed,” said Jeffrey Buck. “It’s bigger than West Hollywood obviously. It’s the whole state.”

CORRECTIONS:  An earlier version of this story misspelled Geoffrey Buck’s first name misstated his address, which is on Sierra Bonita Avenue.  The story also said that the security guard to whom Stephanie Harker referred worked at the Movietown Square. In fact he worked at two assisted living facilities nearby on Martel and Romaine. The story has been corrected to make those changes.


31 Comments
  1. The Hepatitis A virus is a public health crisis affecting many homeless across the country, and is already infecting many here in Calif. it is passed through human feces, this is a real threat to everyone’s health and public health workers need to be brought in as well.

  2. The video is there. hundreds of people have viewed it. It really doesn’t matter if you see it or not

  3. Since Romaine is the city line between LA and WEHO this is a joint problem that needs cooperation from both the Sheriff and LAPD.

    There is an open forum public meeting being hosted by the Melrose Action Network which is a neighborhood group. The LAPD Sr. Lead Officer will be there.

    It will be held Tuesday, March 20,2018 at 7:30pm in the Gym -enter on the north side of the building. All are welcome. Please attend and bring your neighbors.

    A key note about the recent murder (at SM BLVD and La BREA) by stabbing, is that THE KILLER HAS NOT BEEN CAUGHT. He is presumably still on our streets.

    In the mean time, REPORT ALL CRIMES, even petty crimes, to Sheriff’s or LAPD. They need our help.

      1. That’s correct. Despite the tremendous worry and controversy over this murder, the arrest of the suspect wasn’t announced until two days after it occurred. Suspect in controversial Eastside WeHo stabbing death apparently was arrested two days ago.http://bit.ly/2FB3OW2

  4. We have to blame Governor Brown and Mayor Garcetti. The homeless are killing the California dream. Try being a street vendor. The people police will have your cart of the street so fast and all your merchandise in the garbage in an instant. This is because there are laws.
    Yet living in a tent in your human excrement and drug needles and urine is permitted. Allowing a person to live like this is not helping them.
    WE NEED TO HAVE THE LAWS PROTECTING US. IT IS A HEALTH EMERGENCY.

      1. Geoff, where do you suggest they put these people? Shelters are full, jails fill up quickly and cost us taxpayer money. And many of these people are unwilling to go into a shelter, or stay there. So they end up on the street, again. Maybe not the same street, but another. Shuffled around. It isn’t as simple as just arresting them, or forcing them to move on.

          1. Even though many of these individuals prefer to stay on the street it is not an informed decision on their part neither is the public right of way available for a residence of any type. Northing will happen without some demonstrative action that takes into the consideration the scope of remedies.

            This situation degrades by the day.

  5. the video is on my FB pages

    Eric Jon Schmidt

    and

    Eric Jon Schmidt for Weho

    the opening of the video is me for a minute

    1. I’m sure you mean well but are too obscure and cannot be located. Please use a link or try to locate yourself on FR by whatever means possible.

  6. B. Go talk to the people before you make such statements. I would be happy to go with you. Lets get some video from a distance of drug use and prostitutes. watch my video on my FB Page Eric Jon Schmidt for WEHO

    I also recommend that everyone go to City Council Meetings on Monday night and talk directly to the Council Members. Everyone gets the podium for 2 minutes.

    1. There was no video up on either site. Have often engaged with homeless people in my neighborhood to hear their points of view and thought you might have new information to offer.

  7. Vote for me. I’m all in favor of building housing for the homeless and until that housing is built, I believe in building a “Tent City” behind a fence so we can get them off the street. the Red Cross does it all the time. I interviewed the homeless people on Poinsettia today and they agree with that. Watch the video on my either of my Facebook Pages: Eric Jon Schmidt or
    Eric Jon Schmidt for WEHO. This city has enough money to build housing and temporary housing. If you knew what the City Staff is paid, you would agree.
    We also need to infiltrate the drug culture in WEHO and stop the sources.

    1. Have you interviewed the Red Cross?

      What is your plan not just wishful thinking?

      Do you know how to implement the city funds according to your plan?

  8. I have been a property manager for 5 years and have come across all types of homeless, and i would like to say there is a big difference from someone down on their luck and Transients that do not want help, ie transitional housing b/c they do not want to be told what to do, continue their drug use, not work and have entitlement that we need to give them money. The issue to drug abuse, and addicts not wanting to get off of it, and we are allowing people to freely do drugs on the street with no repercussions and it’s really sad. Instead of sending drug users to prison, we need to focus on the state run Mental Health and Drug Rehab facilities to help these people. Also not allow hospitals to just dump patients on the street when they have no where to go. No police enforce the tents having to be removed from 6 am – 8 pm at night, they are everywhere and it’s bad. We need to set up public bathroom facilities so people can at least use restrooms.

  9. I totally agree with Manny. We can not let allow the UNacceptable to become acceptable (kinda already has). My guess is not much will change until things get so bad that people demand a change to what now has become “law.” This 2014 settlement is one thing that needs to go. No one, no matter what their situation, has the right to claim any part of a public sidewalk, street or park as there own space or property. You leave your “belongings” unattended in a pile in a public park they should be confiscated. One does it, then five, then 10, then the whole park becomes one big dump. Maybe a few more hepatitis outbreaks and the tide will turn. Most of the homeless I see are not people that have lost their homes because of high cost of living…they’re alcoholics, mentally ill, or …most…drug addicts. They need to be placed in facilities where they can get their lives back on track an become productive citizens again. Allowing them to do whatever they want because it’s their “right”…is destroying the quality of life of everyone around them….those of us that are still working hard, and paying taxes.

    1. Unless you are prepared to kill the homeless person who is losing their stuff and has no place to go to the bathroom or sleep (the basic human functions that a living person needs to have access to), then this is just going to be shuffling homeless people around to different parts of the city. I see that Weho has already kinda pushed them into adjacent LA city areas.

      But in all seriousness, how come we can’t have FEMA trailers sent here and that could give shelter to a whole bunch of people? They could be put up on Parking lots, and they wouldn’t be tents, and they’d have bathrooms.

      1. YES!

        THIS IS A FEDERAL EMERGENCY!!

        It calls for Federal Funds to clean up the mess with implementation by the local municipality.

        Waiting for permanent housing to be constructed if like watching these folks die by a thousand cuts. They don’t miraculously improve on their own but many could be helped. We need a transition so they can transition.

        It could be similar to Roosevelt’s WPA.

        Let’s get this show on the road in a coordinated effort. If these folks washed away down the river FEMA would be to the rescue. We have a figurative flood.

      2. You’re naive. There’s plenty of services and shelters. But obviously you can’t house your way out of the problem you see on Poinsettia Park.

        1. There is obviously not enough otherwise we would see the number of homeless people lessened, instead of increasing.

        2. Agreed. Most of the homeless I come across need mental health services or rehab more than housing. We enable them to keep on the downward spiral that they’re on. In the end…no one wins.

  10. People are wasting their time going to the Public Safety Commission. They are not interested in helping the community, only giving each other awards and handing out cocktail napkins. If you want change then you need to VOTE!

  11. This a terrible situation, for both residents and for the individuals living in deplorable conditions. These sidewalk encampments should not be endorsed, ignored or allowed……and no one should volunteer parking lots in Weho as an alternative.

    Weho and LA are good at ignoring laws they don’t like or deem to be unfair…..So for the sake of the people living on the street, why not also ignore the 2014 lawsuit settlement?

    Our society should not allow the unacceptable become acceptable. Pro-actively getting these individuals and their belongings off the street is the first step.

    1. (“Pro-actively getting these individuals and their belongings off the street is the first step)

      …and then put these living human beings where?? Your step is only the top half, and you can’t start that step until you have the bottom half of the solution:
      They have to sleep and eat and go to the bathroom SOMEWHERE, so where in these cities (WeHo, L.A.) can they live at least temporarily?

  12. I live at the Avalon. I have heard people at the pool talk about using the homeless situation as a way to get out of their leases because they feel they pay to much rent and “got in over their head with rent”. I have worked with the homeless for over 20 years. Generally they don’t steal or attack anyone. Other than the severely mentally ill, they are harmless. Its the Drug addicts who are the problem. The Sheriff’s Department needs to address that issue instead of cowardly going after the homeless. And the Avalon needs to improve security and install cameras. BTW way, the person who was murdered last week was homeless, The person who attacked him is still on the loose.

    1. From what I’ve seen, most, if not all of the poinsettia crowd are drug addicts and prostitutes. They are openly smoking crack on the sidewalk and in the park, trespassing on private property, and discarding their junk in the streets.

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