Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Cleaning Up the Promenade Only Pushed the Transient Addicts and Homeless Mentally Ill to Our Neighborhoods

Ask yourself, is this is what the county and Santa Monica get by spending $27,000 per homeless person every year in LA County?

Arthur Jeon

At the top of my street are 4 addicts and/or mentally ill people within a half a block. One is regularly bedding down at Dagwoods, which needs to be fenced in. He is doing drugs. The other one is talking to him loudly. The other two are just off the Schwab parking lot.

Dear Council,

Walking last night with my wife to a spontaneous dinner at Tocaya on Wilshire, we counted 14 addicts and/or mentally ill people in the 4 blocks from 9th street to 5th street. They were trudging to our alleys and carports, or already holed up in empty storefronts, or heading to Reed Park, or hanging out in the parking lot of the 7/11, or getting ready to bed down wherever. They were high, unstable, and neither of us felt safe. Some were doing drugs, one was buying drugs. My wife again brought up wanting to live "somewhere nice," and despite my often unrequited love of Santa Monica, I couldn't disagree with the reality we live in. Where else in the country can you encounter 14 ill people within 4 blocks besides the worst Skid Rows of Los Angeles and San Francisco? How have we all gotten so inured to this that we've normalized the abnormal?

Some of the council members I've talked to directly are operating under a fiction that things are getting better, perhaps because our private security has been able to patrol the promenade where things are getting better (if you don't walk the alleys and streets around it). Perhaps because they are not touring neighborhoods living with the onslaught. But my neighborhood has, depending on the day, not changed, or like last night demonstrated, gotten much worse (so bad that we don't really walk Wilshire at dusk, last night being an anomaly).

The very reason we chose to live here was because of easy access to downtown, and the ability to travel by foot and bike, embodying the dream of the 15-minute city, which we had both gotten used to living close by. Well, that dream has turned into a dystopian nightmare. Reed continues to be a magnet of disorder, supported by a much hated needle distribution program, the 7/11 which still has drug dealing, and the liquor store on 10th and Wilshire. Small restaurants and businesses in this part of Wilshire open and almost immediately close because foot traffic has disappeared. In short, my neighborhood is a mess.

Arthur Jeon

On the far left you can't see the man crouched behind his pile of possessions, heartbreakingly topped by a pet container. On his right is another transient looking for a place to bed down.

To be clear, I do not go out looking for this in some sort of misery tour, intent on only showing a skewed picture of Santa Monica. That's too easy and doesn't show the entirety of this city, still struggling with recovery, but showing signs of life. It's why I don't often include pictures, hesitating to even bother to show this because it should be obvious to anybody with eyes who isn't willfully, in a Panglossian delusion like a few of our council members, choosing not to see it. If I really wanted to I could document a level of insanity, misery, and human need that's on par with what I encountered in India. My wife was freaked out enough that I didn't take pictures of everybody we saw last night. But I did snap ONE HURRIED PICTURE at the top of our street at 9th and Wilshire (below). It's for the city council members I talk to that don't think it's a big deal, or doesn't really exist. And they are out there, believe me.

I know change takes time, and that we have billions being invested in Santa Monica (perhaps giving some in our government a false sense of progress and security), and that we have the new transport van coming online, and that we are trying to get LA County to shoulder their fair share of the 6,000 transients that flow through our city every year, and that we are trying to deal with being a terminal end point of the train. But how much time should we give a city that ignores the reality residents have to live with, which is extremely "service resistant" addicts and their heartbreaking brethren, the seriously mentally ill? How much time would you give your neighborhood if it looked like this, and that you had to be on guard every time you leave the house?

Arthur Jeon

The former SM institution, Dagwood's, now closed, should be completely fenced, including the parking lot, because addicts are bedding down it it, and drug dealers are often hanging out there if the cops crack down on the 7/11. The guy sitting is doing drugs. One shot, four transient addicts.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, getting a handle on this issue is existential for a destination tourist town. And it's existential for those of us bearing the brunt of it. Cleaning up just the promenade, and I've personally witnessed how skillfully the Legion team has dealt with the insanity, does't work for residents who are now getting the overflow. We must do much, much better. Start by listening to residents instead of gaslighting them. Start by finding the money to bring 20 more sworn officers so our chief can get the undercover unit going to go after the dangerous and armed dealers creating so much misery here.

Start by taking a close look at the one photo I took. Ask yourself, is this is what the county and Santa Monica get by spending $27,000 per homeless person every year in LA County?!!! What a miserable failure.


Arthur Jeon


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