The undersigned residents of the City of Los Angeles Council District 7 have authored this open letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council Member Felipe Fuentes and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. This open letter is being published because serious threats to our safety, the safety of our children, and the peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhoods have not been adequately addressed by the City of Los Angeles.
We, the undersigned, are in a near constant state of siege. Criminal transients and drug dealers are infesting our local parks. They have been selling drugs in Big Tujunga Wash and other local areas with near impunity. They are destroying sensitive, protected ecosystems; using the streams as a toilet and ruining precious water resources. We live in fear that fires routinely set by the homeless in tinder dry brush will destroy the forest, not to mention the many homes and lives that are in close proximity. Transients are attacking people in their cars. They have even been accused of committing two murders in Sunland‐Tujunga over the last month.
Residents in this area suffer criminal transients using Big Tujunga Wash as a base from which to break into our homes. During one such occurrence, 911 was called but LAPD did not respond until long after the residents themselves had armed themselves for protection, risen up, and chased the criminals back into the wash. This has become the Wild West and we are tired of it.
Our quality of life and safety has been deteriorating for several years but this deterioration accelerated dramatically after the passage of Proposition 47, the “Criminal Sentences, Misdemeanor Penalties Initiative Statute.” This measure has resulted in an explosion of crime and transiency in our community. Many law enforcement officials agree with this evaluation, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
Much of this crime goes unreported; people have given up calling the police since there is often no response. The Los Angeles City Council voted to support Proposition 47 and influenced thousands of innocent and unsuspecting citizens to vote for its passage. Now, people are dying because of it. The City has a responsibility to fix the mess it helped to create.
In order to quell the growing anger over this crisis, our representatives have framed it as a simple “homeless” problem with the obvious intent to engender sympathy and to marginalize concerned citizens’ calls for enforcement of the few laws we have left that are designed to protect us from this plague. We have sympathy for the homeless but we will no longer be silenced by those who seek to demonize us for simply wanting to be safe in our own homes.
The signers of this letter do understand that there are homeless persons in CD7 who are in dire need of services and supportive housing. They are homeless for a variety of reasons such as mental illness, age, the poor local economy or drug/alcohol addiction. We sincerely want to help those persons. Many of us donate time and treasure to fighting this heartbreaking problem. We absolutely support housing and services for those who will accept it. But this is not the main issue challenging us and it should not be the City’s exclusive focus.
Sunland‐Tujunga is now being called by some the “transient capital of the foothills.” An LA Family Housing employee opined recently that Big Tujunga Wash had become the most impacted area in Los Angeles other than downtown. We are told by the mayor and Mr. Fuentes that offering more and more homeless services and establishing more supportive housing in our neighborhoods will address the issue. We believe this is untrue and is cynical political posturing meant to quiet us. It is well known in this community that the vast majority of the people contributing to the deterioration of our quality of life have no desire for housing. They steadfastly refuse it in order to continue feeding their drug habit, selling drugs, and/or committing other crimes. These transients are not the traditional homeless and should not be treated as such.
Instead of focusing on the real problem overwhelming Council District 7, Mr. Fuentes recently, unilaterally and without consultation, evicted the Sunland‐Tujunga Neighborhood Council from their offices to make room for an increased presence of LA Family Housing. Now it is the STNC that is homeless. In order to continue serving the community, the STNC is forced to expend what little resources it has to pay for office space. This is contrary to the interests of the community and will result in fewer services available to it.
In the face of the crisis brought on by lack of enforcement, the passage of Prop. 47 and because we have been receiving little or no help from our representatives, more than 200 private citizens, most of whom are members of a group formed to support this letter, recently banded together and lawfully cleaned out the worst section of Big Tujunga Wash of drug dealers, and transients. For three weeks after eviction notices were served on the transients, (can you believe we had to serve eviction notices to criminal drug dealing trespassers?) LA Family Housing was in the wash trying to convince those living there to accept housing; almost nobody accepted.
When the community was preparing to organize and mount this Herculean task, we reached out to Mr. Fuentes for help. He flatly refused. In a recent Los Angeles Times article about the topic, Mr. Fuentes said the city was “limited by constitutional constraints and its own homeless ordinance from removing people from public property and confiscating their property, while private property owners are responsible for abating nuisances on their land.”
Hiding behind the constitution and City ordinances is disingenuous. The next paragraph in the Times’ article includes comments by Mr. Fuentes that the city did, in fact, conduct its own clean out in an upper area of Big Tujunga Wash. But instead of being performed for the safety of the families in nearby neighborhoods impacted by crime, Mr. Fuentes said it was for the safety of the “homeless” in advance of the onset of El Nino. The city’s actions served to move more transients onto the private property that Mr. Fuentes refused to address. The “nuisances” Mr. Fuentes says need to be addressed by private citizens have been inflicted on them, in large part, by the City.
Faced with Mr. Fuentes’ refusal to help the community, we reached out to Assemblymember Patty Lopez who instantly lent her assistance. She saw no legal conflict in helping her constituents, which includes the land owner whose property had been devastated by public policy, a policy that the owner could neither control nor afford to correct given limited personal resources. Many of Mr. Fuentes’ constituents donated money and sweat to the effort. Along with the land owner, it cost private citizens over $15,000.00 to do the City’s work. But that’s far less than the $300,000.00 Mr. Fuentes said the City spent on its own incomplete and ineffective clean out several weeks before.
Volunteers collected quantities of stashed drugs such as heroin, Rohypnol and methamphetamine to name just a few. Stolen credit cards, mail, paychecks and driver’s licenses were turned over to the authorities. The wash had become a place of crime and death. The stream, once a favorite spot for scout troops, fishermen, dog walkers and nature lovers had become fouled by copious amounts of human waste, heroin needles, trash and hundreds of bicycles stolen from our children. And the wash became that way, at least in part, due to the policies and neglect of our elected representatives.
As a result of the clearing of Big Tujunga Wash, it’s reported that a minority of those who used to reside there have changed their minds and accepted housing. We are gratified that this action, taken exclusively by private citizens at their own expense, has yielded those positive results. If the wash had not been cleared, these souls would have had little motivation to better their lives. However, the transients and drug dealers who are most responsible for the problems we are experiencing are still at large. This is not a homeless crisis that requires more beds, it is a criminal transient crisis born of Prop. 47 combined with years of lack of enforcement and finger‐pointing between agencies.
When the Day Street Apartments were built in Tujunga, it was sold as a cure for the increase in our local homeless population. But very few locals accepted housing. Today, most of the residents of Day Street are from out of the area. This is because our problem is not homelessness; it’s transiency, criminal drug dealing, and drug use by persons who were formerly incarcerated. We reject the building of more shelters in our neighborhoods. We welcome them in areas well removed from them, our schools and our children.
Neighboring cities of Burbank and Glendale have 10% of the problem that exists in City Council District 7. The officials in those cities allow their police to enforce “quality of life laws” that ours have directed LAPD to ignore. They provide adequate funding to their law enforcement professionals. LAPD officers are excellent, dedicated professionals. But LAPD does not have the resources to police this area. As an example, Burbank is a city of 17 square miles. Foothill Division is 43 square miles; yet, Burbank fields the same number of officers on patrol at any one time as Foothill Division. LAPD closed the jail and property department at Foothill, reportedly to save money. Now, when an officer makes an arrest he must first complete paperwork at Foothill, drive to the jail in Van Nuys, and then drive back to Foothill before returning to patrol. One arrest can take two officers off the street for four hours. Officers are often confronted with the painful decision to avoid making an arrest for a lesser crime because they want to be on the street in case a life or death matter arises. Who can blame them? To make matters worse, civilian staff was let go and officers that used to be on patrol are now working at a desk. We hear all the time that Los Angeles has almost 10,000 officers. What we are not told is that only 6,000 of them are patrolling while the rest are pushing paper.
The undersigned respectfully demand that our council member, mayor and police chief work to immediately do the following:
1. Reopen the jail and Property Department at Foothill Division
2. Increase the number of patrols and officers throughout CD7
3. Rehire civilian employees at Foothill Division so that our officers can spend more time on the street
4. Initiate regular patrols of all areas of Big Tujunga Wash and hillsides throughout CD7 by the LAPD Off Road Unit
5. Coordinate with other agencies such as DWP and General Services to have regular patrols occur in Big Tujunga Wash, Little Tujunga Wash and hillside areas not under LAPD jurisdiction
6. Enforce vagrancy, loitering, public intoxication, aggressive panhandling, and trespassing laws
7. Move for‐profit recycling centers away from our neighborhoods and schools since they attract transients who steal recyclables to sell for drugs and alcohol
8. To the extent that your offices allow, publicly work to support and effect the repeal of Prop. 47
We are voting citizens of this council district and the City of Los Angeles. In the next election, we will use our vote to signal our approval or disapproval of your work to help our community recover from our current challenges.
SUNLAND-TUJUNGA: Deanna Ables, Alan Ackerman, Debbie Adams, Claudia Akin, Melody Archer, Nick Armand, Sherli Babaian, Nareg Badalian, Talin Badalian, Aida Baghdasarian, Armen Baghdasarian, Kim R. Bailey, Terri Barksdale, Mike Basore, Liana Bellissimo, Kenny and Shannon Berry, Tracy Biglay, Steven Black, Katerina Boghosian, Joshua Borrowman, Austina Bosco, Joseph Bosco, Luis & Cecilia Bouza, Mr. & Mrs. Bowling, Carmen Brandes, Mr. & Mrs. John Brennan, Emily Brink, Elaine Brown, Georgia Brown, Tina Brown, Paul Burdick, Kathy Butterworth, Mark Seigel, Shannon Campbell, Marissa Canche, Don, Sandy, Ryan and Tyler Capps, Dazie Carnes, Jon Carnes, Gloria Caruso, Frankie Castro, Virginia Castro, Mercedes Chavez, Brenna Conlon, Peggy Cook, Vicky Cortez, Cassandra Cox, Shaun Crowe, Carmely Cruz, Elizabeth Curtis, Warren Curtis, Karen Cuthbert, Janet Dappen, Heather Denton-Richard, Amy Love Dinnendahl, Brian Dinnendahl, Michele Dollar, Robin Dorfman, Nancy Dunn, Kristin Maloney Durkin, Charlotte Edwards, Christine Eldred, Cindy S. Evans, Bret Everett, Sarah Eylands, Leanne Fagan, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Fayton, Cheryl McDonald Feia, Mark Fleming, Martha Frost, Debbi Fullington, Kathleen Fulton, Susan Gaon, Coleen Garcia, Jennifer Gavino, Barry Ira Geller, Tony Gentile, Vincent Gentile, Laureen Gleason, Michael Gleason, Sabrina Godinez, Ginny Gonzales, Heather Gordon, Sandra Gordon, Erik Goudsmid, Chantel Gray, Laura Grow, Bob Gunter, Jamielee Halm, Joie Hancock, Niki Harley, Kimberly Harris, Stacey Harrison, Maureen Hayden, Kirstin Hedblom, Marcella Helfer, Michelle Heskett, Van Heskett, Mary Hicks, Wilma Horvath, Lara Hovaguimian, Candace Howard, Morgan Hunter, Kelly Hurst, Janelle Hussion, Susan Jacobs, Carol A. Jaffray, Jamie Jenney, Rosie and Robert Johnson, James Jones, Ray Jones, Jr., Sharon Jones, Suzie Jones, Taylor Jones, Michelle Jordan, Lisa Jover, Lisa Kellingsworth, Sahak Khatchatryan, Kristen Knoble, Jennifer Knopp, Jennifer Kogut, Alex Kozushin, Pat Kramer, Melissa Kramer-Sarrett, Travis Krippner, Karen Lamberton, Gregg Laskin, Diane Lauletta David Lee, Robin Lefler, Peggy Leiphardt, Andrew Lipscomb, Dana Lipscomb, Joe Lopez, Edwin Lossi, Brian Love, Scott Love, Martha Lownes, Alicia Lownes-Santos, Erin Lownes-Santos, Patrick Lownes-Santos, Adam de Lucia, Alexis de Lucia, Beverly Bowen de Lucia, Frank de Lucia, Pamela Ludovico, Thomas Ludovico, Joshua Luiz, Larry Luiz, David and Gayle Lundquist, Brenda McAlpine, Ken McAlpine, Debra McConville, Arianna McCubbin, Patricia May McCubbin, Kelly McDonagh, Emma Macias, Martin Macias, Nicole Macias, Gordon McKinnon, Mari McLaws, Peter & Christine McLeland, Robin Madrid, Patty Makita, Ron Makita, Marjorie Maxon, Matt Maxon, Susana Medina, Gerald Mielo, Brian, Kelly, and Riley Miller, Jennifer Mohamed, Emily Moniz, Amanda Moore, Lloyd Moore, Melody Moore, Charles Morris, Jan Morrissey, Erin Mueth, Greg Mueth, LolaMarie Nail, Paul Neuenswander, Rick and Shirley Neuenswander, Stephen Obar, Maureen O’Byrne, Chelene O’Neal, Tricia Ortiz, Irene Paniagua, Kevin Parker, Lisa Peterson, Stacy Petrossian, Chris Pieper, Emily Pieper, Nancy Pistole, Patti Potter, Rudolph and Jamie Powers, Michelle Pritchard, Tom Pula, Mike Quain, Michelle and Kelly Ramage, Randy Ray, Donna Reinhard, David Renshaw, Debbie Rhodaback, Forest Riek, Naomi Carrier Russell, Michael Russo, Amber Sandoval, Charles Sanford, Scott Sanford, Coleen Scaggs, Scott Schneider, Kristi Schoenrock, Sareda H. Schramm, Allison Schuh, Aileen Seijo, Harvey Shacket, Susan Shacket, Nancy and Tyler Shannon, Brandy Sheedy, Linda Hackbarth Sholders, Frank Sims, Tammy Grant Slaughter, Leilani Smith, Lily Smith, Arturo Sotillo, Pablo Sotillo, Richard Spear, Janet Stubbs, Martin Stubbs, Cindy Cleghorn, Jennifer Szasz, Sheri Thompson, Jamie-Lisa Thomson, Laurel Thornton, Elizabeth Torres, Amy Stericker Tracy, William Traughber, Alejandro Trejo, Jessica Trejo, Melissa Tuboly, Eric Vargo, Anni Vartanian, Tami Walker, Adam Wallace, Veronica Wallace, Paula, Maxx, and Caryl Warner, Elsa Waters, Christian Webb, Wally Wharton, JT Wheeler, Christine Williams, Donald Williams, Frank Williams, Kaitlyn Williams, Yasmine Wolfe, Richard Wollard, Brandon Wood, Ellis Wood, Monica Wood, Tennyson Wood, Beth Wrobel, Zizi Zaratanya, Teni Abramian, Kristina Adams, Natalie Alpakli, Chris Anchondo, Sheila Andrews, Sherri Andrews, Denise Morris Arroyo, Kris and Terry Ascherin, Ovik Azaryan, Anasheh Babakhanian, Nersis Baghdasarian, Tiadora Baghdasarian, Frank, Bicna, Bailey, and Brittany Bagheri, Christopher Barnard, David Barron, Amber Bartlett, Larry Bartlett, Mahala Anne Beery, Carrie Bellomo, Glen Belt, Teresa Bergman, Maggie Stanners Boyd, Rebecca Brehme, Jennifer Burns, Denise Byer, Stephanie Campbell, Gail Carlson, Cynthia Cervantez, Jennifer Chafin, Joe Coffman, Charles Conway, Robin Conway, Eugene Cooper, Mike and Hanna Corrigan, Bonnie Corwin, Julie Cuddihy, Michael Cuddihy, Tommy Davis, David “Doc” DeMulle, Abby Diamond, Antoinette DiMino, Connie Doray, Paula Dublinski, Nina Royal, Loren Dunham, Tresa Echevarria, Pam Fernicola, Mike Flynn, Raina Fowler, Frank and Charlene Mason Gallego, Hamik Ghookhassian, Dr. Constance Gibson, Jessica C. Gill, Catrina Godfrey, Denise Goldberg, Faith Gonzalez, Lynne Robin Green, Eva Guerrero, Jon von Gunten, Karen von Gunten, Ara Hatamian, Cathy Hendershott, Lynn Hoganson, Carol Jacobs, Laura Jakob, Karen and Ted Jarvis , Melissa Jensen, Barbara D. Johnson, William Johnson, Debbie Kane, Pilar Kanner, Katherine Katsenis, Joe Kenck, Nelli Khatchatryan, Richard King, Alain Kivijian, Charla Knapik, Kathryn Laing, Amanda Laino, Jay Lamb, Julie Larson, Mark Legassie, Kittie Lessa, Juniper Lim, Raoul Limeres, Morgan Lonsdale, Ed Luboff, Nelly Luboff, Kevin McCormick, Patricia McElwee, Suzan MacGugan, Dyan McManus, Kathleen and Paul McNutt, Nicole Maggi, Tara Greer Malouf, William H. Malouf, Patti Mathews, Jessica May, Robin Siegel-Meares and Ed Meares, Kim Michaelis, Monique Miedema, Tal Miller, Nicole Mirikitani, Michael Moncreiff, Ursula Mueller, Jenine Murphy, Glen and Leticia Nolda, Kathy Nolda, John Novak, Wendy O’Connor, Sabina Odemer, Briana Olander, Robert Olson, Shirley Parks, Ryan Paskwietz, Dennis Payne, Susan Peek, David and Jennifer Pelon, Karen Perdue, Misty Pipes, Mimi Poor, Linda Powell , Brian Purvis, Michelle Purvis, Susan Reccelle, Marlies Reno, Laura and Paul Rhea, Ann Rhodes, Maegan Rios, Liliana Sanchez, Buffy Seymour, Christina Smith, Jeffrey Smith, Kathleen Smith, Rose Marie Smith, Alexandra Squiers, Mr. & Mrs. Roger “Rock” Swart, Diana Sweeney, David Tapp, Laura Tapp, Sonia Tatulian, Sonia Tongko, Emma Trchoutian, Desiree Trippler, Mathew Trippler, Chris Trogdon, Lee Turner, Tania Vartanians, Daniel Vaughn, Cassie Wagner, Keith Wagner, Tami Walters, Kathryn Wesley, Travis Wesley, Sierra Westerholm, Jo Anne Rogers Williams, Tim Williams, Carla Wolff, Michael Woolson, Leslie Yeseta, Eric Ziegenfuss, Karen & Tom Zimmerman
LAKE VIEW TERRACE: Tracey Adams, Christi Ausherman, David Ausherman, Mike Ausherman, Pattie Barrett, Clare Blake, Vikki and Nils Brink, Leslie Brymer, Scott Carpenter, Kathy Chieves, Evelyn Chote, Gina Cruz, Sue Gardner, Tim Gardner, Shannon Heier, Joanne Kriske, Jennifer and Wayne Love, Mindy McElhone, Chris and Tim McGrath, Jeff Martin, Khalin Mikkelsen, D. Nakamura, Kristin Sabo, David Stuart, Emily Stuart, Brenda Griswold Thornberg, Carrie Torres, Stephanie Waller
SHADOW HILLS: Leslie Addiego, Nicole Ahten, Cindy Bloom, Rebecca Borquez, Tim Borquez, Raenna Brandes, Susie Brooks, Megan Chismar, Erin and Patricia Crowe, Ryan Crowe, Heidi Geyer, Aylin Ghookhassian, Monique Maria Golanian, John Hallowitz, Brandon Jones, Alejandra Keal, Chris and Fawn Keegan, JD Keough, Roger Klemm, Linda Knutson, Kurt Koesler, Robert LaBounty, Bill Mogensen, Mel Murphy, Sue Murphy, Dena Nelson, Jill Olson, Tammy Parkinson, Nanci Roberts-Wrenn, Dennis Rosher, Nicole Sahanaja, Vickie Sampson, Arbi & Valene Sarkissian, Corlis Schneider, Jeannette Sermak-Prouix, Edna Shahvosian, Thomas Shannon, Leanne Jones Snyder, Steve Toby, Jean Traubner, Deirdra Vierra, Jill Pomeroy Whitney, Jim Wrenn
LA CRESCENTA: Amy Campain, Sandra Dasaad, Julie Lynne Forster, Sandi Guzman, Eva Higging, Margaret Keay, Laura Lo, Julian Mitchell, Sarah Moniz, Virginia Moniz, Melissa Picciuto, Christopher Reichman, Rashea Sanchez
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY: Jennifer Djavadi
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE: Marc Cena
SUN VALLEY: Wanda Allison, Carol Bond, Wanda Brown, Lisa Iversen, Mae Lynne Menier, Kathy Sholders
SYLMAR: Linda Garcia, Paula Golden, Jennifer Jones, Susan Kenan Meadows, Mandy Shaw
VALLEY GLEN: Lynda Fenneman
LOS ANGELES: Ed Badalian, Rosa Balderrama, Allyn George, Lloyd Hitt, Marlene Hitt, Morgan Hunter, Emily Johnson, Jeremy & Joanne Kriske, Jason McCubbin, Kate McCubbin, Theresa Perry, Jack Semerdzhyan, Rose Silurik, Jay Stern
GLENDALE: Tamar Castano
BURBANK: Debbie Petersen
CANYON COUNTRY: Christa Clark
SIMI VALLEY: MaryLouise Burdi, Anita Johnson
GRANADA HILLS: Jennifer Van Der Geugten
MONTROSE: Therene Wharton
KAGEL CANYON: Linda Cummings-Whelan, Amber Shoopman
NORTH HILLS: Sandra Watkins
RANCHO LA TUNA CANYON: Wendell Bean
ORGANIZATIONS: Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, Sunland-Tujunga Beautification Committee,