Traci Park moved to Venice in the spring of 2021, when anti-homeless rhetoric reached an all-time high on the Westside of LA. Wealthy property owners living in multimillion dollar houses railed against the rise of visible poverty in their neighborhoods, demanding that encampments be disappeared without any consideration for the needs of the people living in them.
Certain corners of the Westside were confronting visible homelessness for the first time, in large part due to COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, the CDC recommended that unhoused people be allowed to shelter in place to slow the spread of disease. They also suggested that shelters slash their capacity by 50% to facilitate social distancing. These measures curbed sweeps and drastically reduced shelter space, just as the pandemic’s economic repercussions pushed many precariously-housed people into homelessness.
The Venice “A Bridge Home” project illustrates this confluence of factors: when the shelter opened at the beginning of the lockdown in February 2020, nearby encampments were not dismantled, the site could not operate at full capacity, and more people were losing their homes every day. When the ABH failed to make poor people magically disappear from the streets of Venice, the NextDoor crowd was outraged. And of course, since a lot of Westsiders were relegated to home offices during COVID, they had to watch all this unfold from the comfort of their homes.
Enter Traci Park, who joined the anti-poor chorus, portraying the Westside as some sort of “dystopian hellscape.” She whined on social media, posted exploitative footage of encampments, and insisted that then-Councilmember Mike Bonin was intentionally destroying the city. Thanks to the constant fear-mongering of people like Traci, Angelenos are gripped by an unfounded fear that homelessness is making neighborhood more dangerous, requiring not services, housing and safety for unhoused people, but rather more sweeps, police and criminalization.
Traci is a staunch supporter of the latest iteration of LAMC 41.18, a ban on sitting, sleeping, lying or storing property in certain public spaces. The law has twice been ruled unconstitutional, but our elected officials’ penchant for punishing poor people is so strong they came up with a new version designed to exploit loopholes in the case law. Not only does this approach to legislating put the city (and its taxpayers) at huge risk of costly litigation, but study after study after study shows that anti-camping bans do nothing to solve homelessness. In fact, they make it worse. Traci joined the majority of our City Council in supporting this backwards law, to the great delight of her base.
Since taking office, Park has fulfilled her commitment to ramp up policing and criminalize poverty, all while opposing shelter and housing. LA offers a broad array of legal tools for harassing and disappearing poor people, and the new Councilmember is adding them all to her arsenal. First, she declared nine new 41.18 zones in her district, including one criminalizing sitting, sleeping and lying down at . . . the beach. The beach zone was removed from the motion after the Legal Aid Foundation of LA pointed out that it was illegal. Next, she began declaring oversized vehicle bans pursuant to LAMC 80.69.4 (here and here). These bans punish people for being too poor to afford permanent housing without offering them anywhere else to go. In May of 2023, she introduced another mechanism to push people from their vehicles to the street, making it illegal to rent RVs to people in need. And of course, Park is ramping up “CARE+” or comprehensive encampment sweeps, a favorite tool for harassing and shuffling people around while putting lives at risk and doing nothing to shelter or house people.
Traci initially attempted to undermine Mayor Karen Bass’ city-wide plan for addressing homelessness by having Garcetti staffers provide police and other resources to carry out the aggressive Westside sweeps her base demanded. But as the Mayor’s “Inside Safe” program began to take shape, promising to dismantle encampments in her district, Traci quickly fell into line. Bass carried out two Inside Safe operations in CD11 in quick succession — one in Venice and one in Del Rey. The operations involved heavy police presence and were traumatic for those affected. Unhoused people were forced to give up their tents on a shaky promise of temporary shelter, then bused to roach-infested motels without food, bedding, services, or information about next steps. Many people were then forced to move multiple times, often crisscrossing the city to motels far from their jobs, family, doctors and support networks. Despite unveiling Inside Safe to great fanfare on the Westside, Bass has come under fire for the program’s lack of organization, emphasis on aesthetics and its prohibitive cost (for example, here, here, here, here and here).
Traci Park has a habit of telling constituents that Inside Safe participants have been “housed” — after all, for her it’s out of sight, out of mind. Lest we forget, shelter is not housing, and because of a lack of transparency, we have no way of knowing whether a single Inside Safe participant from the Westside has been placed in actual permanent housing.