Echo Park Lake Fence, Flashpoint for L.A.’s Homelessness Crisis, Begins to Fall

Workers have begun to take down the controversial fence that was initially built to prevent homeless encampments

Two years after the installment of a chain-link fence around Echo Park Lake, workers began on Monday morning to tear down the barrier erected after the dispersal of a major homeless encampment there which became both a plague on the local community and a cause du jour for progressives.

The fence was first put in place after the Los Angeles Police Dept. swarmed the park in 2021, which pushed out the large homeless encampment that had grown during the Covid-19 pandemic. The effort was part of the city’s plan to revitalize its parks, which later included a “clean up” of MacArthur Park.

On Monday, freshman District 13 Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez assured his constituents that they will be ready to remove the fence by March 31. This was a major promise of his 2022 campaign and this month he held two contentious town hall meetings on the matter.

“Since we were sworn in, we’ve reiterated our intent to remove the fence surrounding Echo Park Lake, which does not address the actual causes of what led to the large encampment and the dangerous conditions at the park,” Soto-Martinez wrote in a statement released last Friday.

“We will be ready to remove the fence by March 31st. We thank all the residents who made their voices and concerns heard throughout this process,” he added.

A clear rift in the community was apparent at the town hall meetings held this month, with many residents who attended insisting that its presence led to less crime in the area while giving them peace of mind.

“When we didn’t have a fence and the encampments were here, instead of joy, laughter, children playing and people walking, all you saw was drug abuse, constant fights, prostitution—you name it,” local resident Nancy Ochoa told ABC7.

Others, however, support the move. Echo Park resident Tony Corella calls the fence an “eyesore” and echoes Soto-Martinez’s point that the barrier does not solve the actual problem.

As for the plan of action after the fence is gone, Soto-Martinez says he is actively trying to provide hotel vouchers to unhoused Echo Park residents who are trying to return and reestablish the encampment.

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