Boystown Retailers Complain About Vandalism, Drunks and the Homeless

The sign on the broken window of Block Party

Owners of two local businesses are speaking out about vandalism, homelessness, and the condition of sidewalks in West Hollywood’s Boystown gay nightlife district.

Larry Block, owner of the Block Party, a gay-oriented clothing store, has taken to social media to protest a series of incidents including the smashing of the window on the front of his store at 8853 Santa Monica Blvd. And Jonathan Diersing of Rounderbum, the clothing store on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente, has raised similar concerns.

In a recent email to the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce that was shared with WEHOville, Diersing said he would not be renewing his membership in the chamber because he didn’t believe it was pushing the City of West Hollywood and law enforcement enough to deal with the issues.

“Main reason being is after the past few years I have brought up the issues the city has with homeless, public defecation, people visiting the city urinating, vomiting, doing drugs and finding dangerous drug needles in the back of my store,” Diersing said in his Feb. 21 email to the Chamber’s Tracy Paaso.

“What put me over the edge, was this Saturday night when I took potential investors who flew here from Miami to meet me. We went to dinner, and I was walking them over to my store around 11 p.m. to show them it. When we approached, there were people throwing up at my front door, and it was all noodles! It was absolutely disgusting and smelled so bad we all almost threw up. I had to yell at the guy who was throwing up and told him to leave. He did not and yelled back at me as if I was the bad guy.”

“My only female employee was harassed by a drunk guy the other night, and we have had several incidences where homeless people harass us too.  Even to the point where they have come in the store with a screwdriver and threatened to KILL us.”

Block, who has announced that he will be a candidate in the Nov. 3 election for two City Council seats, posted on Facebook about the Feb. 14 smashing of his store window by a homeless woman. The incident occurred around 2 a.m. and the woman was arrested by Sheriff’s deputies, who monitored the scene until Block arrived at 6 a.m.

Until the window glass was replaced, Block posted a large sign on the plywood that covered it.  “Crime is rising and too many homeless on our streets. The young can’t afford to move in and the old have no place to go,” read the sign. “Mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

Diersing said he wants the City of West Hollywood to step up security in the Boystown area and force bar owners to pay to keep it clean

Rounderbum

“Since the bars are the ones who are getting these people drunk and making all the $, they should be the ones to pay to beautify the city or more …. weekly pressure washing to sanitize sidewalks, alley ways, and any other area where their customers abuse (such as the outside of my store).”

Diersing also said he wanted Sheriff’s deputies and the city’s Block by Block security patrols to monitor Santa Monica Boulevard more closely and fine those who are causing problems.   “They should also find out the bar they were at that got them so drunk and fine that bar too.:

“Regarding (the) homeless issue … if Beverly Hills can push them homeless out, so can we.   No excuse.”

West Hollywood’s nightlife scene, especially in the Boystown area, with its high concentration of bars, is an obvious factor in the issues Diersing raised. A study by the L.A. County Department of Public Health based on data from 2013 found that West Hollywood led every city and community in Los Angeles County in the number of alcohol outlets per 10,000 residents — something several scientific studies have associated with violent crime, car crashes, emergency room visits, hospitalization and death. The study reported that alcohol was served at 51.1 locations (bars and restaurants) per 10,000 West Hollywood residents.

The issue of homelessness is a major one across Great Los Angeles and California. Several years ago the City of West Hollywood began a homeless initiative to address the issue. It launched a homeless outreach operation at the West Hollywood Library, linking community members in need to appropriate social services. And the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, working with the Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless, Outreach, Pro-Active, Engagement (HOPE) team, has interacted regularly with homeless people to encourage them to take advantage of addiction and mental health services and housing options.

Block Party WeHo celebrating its 10th anniversary

Asked about the complaints by Block and Diesing, Lt. William Moulder of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station said records show that deputies responded to eight calls from Block Party about issues with homeless people over the past year.  He said there were six calls from Rounderbum.

“If residents or businesses are having reoccurring problems, we encourage them to contact the station, and they can speak with me or Sergeant Jon Klaus,” Moulder said in an email to WEHOville.

“We manage the COPPS (Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving) team, which handles quality of life issues during the day and the Entertainment Policing Team (EPT team) which handles evening issues. These teams can conduct directed patrols at a location, or an area, to address on-going issues.

“We also alert our patrol deputies to increase patrols at locations or areas that are experiencing issues.”

“The City of West Hollywood also contracts a dedicated full-time Mental Evaluation Team (MET Team),” Moulder noted.  “The team consists of one deputy sheriff, who has specialized mental health training, and one clinician from the Department of Mental Health.  As you know, there are people in the city who are experiencing homelessness who also have mental health issues.  The MET team has been very effective helping this population and resolving incidents peacefully.

“There are also additional patrols such as foot patrols on the east and west side of town, park deputies, and other supplement patrols.”

Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, noted that the homelessness issue is a regional one and said the city and the Chamber are working on it.

“We applaud the massive efforts the city and county are making on an issue,” Morrill said in an email to WEHOville.  “The problem goes well beyond our borders, or even the county, but City of West Hollywood is the first to expend resources and dive in to tackle this enormous challenge.  We are so proud of our business community stepping up and being a small part of the solution.”

“The Chamber Homeless Committee has been active from clothing drives to employing homeless seniors and youth in the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Culinary Arts intern program.  This relationship has already resulted in seven employment partnerships with local West Hollywood businesses.  WHCC was one of the first organizations to become a community partner with the ‘Everyone In’ program. ” 

Paaso, the Chamber of Commerce’s membership director, suggested to Diesing that he join a Chamber of Commerce committee of city business owners, whose members include Block, David Dickerson of Kitchen 24, and Alexander Bazley of West Hollywood Gateway, among others, that meets monthly to address the homelessness issue. She also noted that there had been a discussion in the past of forming a business improvement district for Boystown, which would have had local businesses contribute to a fund to promote and protect the area.

David Zanaroff, the owner of Z Pizza, was a leader in an unsuccessful 2013 effort to get a majority of the Boystown businesses to sign up for a BID. To pay for the BID, businesses would be assessed an annual fee determined by the type of business, occupancy, square footage, gross receipts and alcohol sales.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a statement from Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, about its efforts to address the homeless issue.


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Ajusted1
Guest
Ajusted1

I agree 100%! I’m harassed by a homeless person at least 2-3x a week when I walk my dogs. The street are filthy in in the stretch between Robertson and Palm – the NW corner of San Vicente in front of the bank looks like a vomitorium most nights/mornings on weekends – and I’ve had to call police many times for fights or passed out drunks many times. The City is filthy!

JF1
Guest
JF1

YUP and getting filthier. And city just gives excuses.

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

It’s good to see people mad as hell about these basic quality of life issues in West Hollywood. If certain members of the council have a fetish for making the city all about nightlife, then they need to do the work to counter the resulting deleterious effects that such a singular vision create. The sidewalks are filthy beyond third-world standards. I walk the block on which Hamburger Mary’s (a neighborhood malignancy!) sits multiple times a day and find myself weaving through vomit stains and worse. I wonder if Stormy Daniels bothers to use her key to the city anymore (sarcasm).… Read more »

Long Time Resident
Guest
Long Time Resident

The Urban Village is all in your mind. It never existed. Give it up.

Dr. MeowMeow
Guest
Dr. MeowMeow

Ronald Reagan et al closed the state mental health hospitals and we never developed an effective alternative. We stopped incarcerating people for being homeless a few years ago by court order. Now we’re forced to deal with the problem. We have to make available supportive housing, mental health treatment, as well as law enforcement involvement. Maybe tax the hotels that sit in our community, sucking in wealth, and use that money to address our more pedestrian problems.

Blueeyedboy
Guest
Blueeyedboy

Dr. MeowMeow, yes, Ronald Reagan did close the mental health hospitals as one of his first acts as governor but only because it had become law under the previous administration of Gov. Pat Brown. With a Democrat majority assembly he had no choice. Gov. Brown, the Assembly, and the ACLU thought it was a violation of the civil rights of the mentally ill to keep them in facilities if it was against their will, so they were released if they promised to continue to take their medications. We see how well THAT worked! It has been the disaster that we… Read more »

JF1
Guest
JF1

Ronald Reagan signed into law what the was already voted on and approved prior to him taking office. Our officials SHOULD BE advocating for changes in the law so that people that are not in their right mind (due to alcohol / drug addiction or mental health issues) are placed in mental health facilities (voluntary or involuntary) to get the help they need. Until then, we’re just going to keep let them wondering our streets and destroying the quality of life in our communities.

Ham Shipey
Guest
Ham Shipey

It’s just a area full of alcoholics and homelessness. Hopefully the area will be redeveloped.

JF1
Guest
JF1

as fast as they build new development, the number of mentally ill and addicts increase on our streets, sidewalks, bus stops, and parks…

WeHo-J
Guest
WeHo-J

The sheriffs do nothing. I called to report a homeless person asleep in the atm lobby at Chase by Pavilions. They said they wouldn’t come out because I was not a Chase employee! The Pavilions parking lot has become a menace. I have been aggressively approached for money, seen people defecating, witnessed them digging through the trash and leaving a mess, etc. I thought the city was supposed to look into relocating that recycle centre? Weho needs its own police dept. That way, we can follow Bev Hills lead and get this menace out.

JF1
Guest
JF1

The Sheriff’s hands are tied. They’ve been told to back off when it comes to the “homeless”.

Blueeyedboy
Guest
Blueeyedboy

JF1, who told the sheriff’s office to back off the homeless?

JF1
Guest
JF1

What I meant by that is the kind of unspoken hands off..you can’t come down too hard on them because there would be an outcry from a certain group of people..They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

I don’t think anyone has told the Sheriff’s to “back off” of the homeless. The appellate court (and the supreme court declined to hear an appeal) has held that it is not a crime for the homeless to be on the streets. If they are engaging in illegal behavior, that’s another issue, but just resting or sleeping? C’mon, they ae humans who have no place to go. A little compassion here…

JF1
Guest
JF1

We all have compassion. What we don’t have anymore is patience as we see our city decline into a third world state.

Blueeyedboy
Guest
Blueeyedboy

Absolutely, get rid of that recycle center.

JF1
Guest
JF1

From what I understand, the Norma Triangle group tried to get rid of it but received very little help from the city. After years of back and forth…the city did nothing.

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

Residents, property owners and business owners can file a “Letter of Intent” annually with the Sheriff’s station. That, along with posting a no trespassing sign visible from the street, makes it much easier for the Sheriff’s to come onto your property for exactly situations like this. I’m not sure if Chase has a letter on file, but if not, they ought to.

hifi5000
Guest
hifi5000

The homeless issue has gotten worse over the last five years,all over Southern California,not just in West Hollywood.I think establishing a Business Improvement District aka BID would be a good start to get things under control on the Boulevard. Having patrol guys and street cleaners more often on the street will let everyone know there are “eyes”seeing what is going on. What gets me is that the city with all its accomplishments in public art,resident assistance,etc. can’t seem to find a solution to its own homeless problem.If West Hollywood would put some real effort,not lip service, into the problem,the city… Read more »

JF1
Guest
JF1

We already pay taxes. The business pay taxes. The city has plenty of money to carry out basic services. If the city wants to draw people with the bars and clubs then they need to provide the services to keep the area clean and safe. Enforce laws already on the books, put Sheriffs on street, increase the frequency of power washing on the Blvd (which they already increase parking meter fees to do but failed to show any improvement).

JF1
Guest
JF1

I agree with you when it comes to enforcing the laws already on the books. This city, this state, is very bad at enforcing their own laws. Thus we have the conditions we do.

The Real Zam
Guest

The epidemic of homelessness has definitely gotten worse of late. We should do more, but our tools are limited. Still, we need to come up with new solutions to help mitigate this issue. With regard to the issues caused by those visiting our various nightlife destinations, I have a much more measured opinion. The reality is that many of these issues are an inevitable consequence of having these businesses within our city. I’d like to remind everyone that these businesses thrive here because of they are in the middle of many bars and clubs, and the LGBT community which depends… Read more »

JF1
Guest
JF1

No one should accept filthy sidewalks. We pay taxes. The businesses pay taxes. The city needs to maintain the sidewalks. They are not. I’ve lived here for decades and our city has never been so filthy. That is NOT acceptable.

nate
Guest
nate

Agreed with those business owners. I’ve lived in Weho for many years, and the quality of life has definitely deteriorated. Besides walking to 24 hour fitness, I find myself avoiding SMB at all costs. I’m a big guy, but numerous times have felt uncomfortable because of aggressive transients and drug users. We need to enforce loitering laws. I shouldn’t have to step over someone to walk to the gym. I refuse to believe that “enabling” is the best solution to the problem.

Greg
Guest
Greg

What is the power washing schedule now?

Allen Fish
Guest
Allen Fish

Greg, great question. Even though the city raised the parking fees several years ago with the promise that all the proceeds would go to weekly and sometimes nightly power washing on SMB from La Cienega to Robertson. I haven’t seen anything ever happen except for Larry Block paying to have it done in front of his store. So I wonder what happened to all the money?

JF1
Guest
JF1

Allen, the city has told our neighborhood that they power wash the sidewalks twice a month through the heart of Boystown. They use an “environmentally” friendly system that does a terrible, unsatisfactory job of cleaning the streets. One power wash by Larry Block in front of Block Party did a superior cleaning job. I don’t think anyone monitors the job this city’s service does because if they did, they’d be fired already. The city increased our parking meter fees and promised us cleaner sidewalks, emptying of trash more often and more frequent shopping cart pick up service. We got none… Read more »

JF1
Guest
JF1

THANK YOU Jonathan Diersing and Larry Block. We’re ALL as mad as hell!! I’ve lived in this city for over 20 years and the last few years this city looks like a real dump! We don’t even walk the Boulevard at night anymore and find ourselves spending more in Beverly Hills because it’s cleaner and safer. The City is NOT doing enough! Forget the new decorative lights over the Blvd. Put Sheriff Deputies on foot patrol – WALKING up and down the Blvd. – especially at night and on weekends. We need to have a Sheriff’s kiosk ON the Blvd..… Read more »