After a two-month, highly contentious closure that cleared the park of a sprawling homeless community, the construction fences at Echo Park Lake are set to come down soon.
The reservoir-turned-recreational lake and its surrounding green spaces will reopen on Wednesday, May 26 at 3pm, according to a statement released on Wednesday by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.
When the park reopens, it’ll do so with as much as $1.1 million in repairs that the Department of Recreation and Parks authorized (after an initial $600,000 allocation in March that number nearly doubled in May). The improvements largely include the kinds of things you would expect: electrical and plumbing repairs, tree trimming, graffiti removal, new turf and landscaping, plus upgrades to the playground, boathouse, bridge and restrooms. There’s one new, notable addition, though: security cameras.
Starting about a year and a half ago, the north and west sides of Echo Park Lake became home to a then-growing encampment of unhoused residents, which included more than 170 tents and makeshift structures at its peak. The self-supporting community grew to include a shared kitchen and garden in an atmosphere that the L.A. Times described as “commune-like”—a description that O’Farrell called “naive and inaccurate” in a statement on Wednesday. Opponents at the time complained about crime, trash and drug use in the park (O’Farrell’s office said there were four deaths in the park in 2020, and specifically tied one to a drug overdose at the encampment).
On March 24, rumors began to swirl of the park’s imminent closure and a sweep of its homeless population, which attracted a significant crowd of protestors. By that evening, the demonstrators were met with a sizable deployment of LAPD officers, who were dispatched to allow the parks department to set up a fence around the park.
In Wednesday’s statement, O’Farrell explained the closure as a response to “increasingly unsafe” conditions at the park: A March cleanup removed over 35 tons of solid waste, 723 pounds of biological waste (that includes urine and feces), 30 pounds of drug paraphernalia, three firearms and an unspecified number of knives and machetes. “Echo Park Lake is a shared public space, and unhoused people were existing in inhumane conditions—which is why every single person experiencing homelessness in the park was offered transitional housing and services,” he said. Nearly 200 unhoused people at the park were placed into transitional housing, according to O’Farrell’s office; the statement didn’t specify how many of those residents remain in such services or how many have been placed into permanent housing, nor did it explain what exactly the city will do—aside from the newly installed security cameras—to prevent a similar scenario from occurring again.