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The Sidewalks of Hollywood

By Kerry Morrison

April 24, 2017

Last weekend, one of my board members sent me a link to a list: “The Biggest Tourist Traps on Earth.” He was apologetic, but as I read it, I sighed. The Walk of Fame is listed there with the Blarney Stone, Graceland, the Taj Mahal and 23 other locations. Hollywood’s description suggests a neighborhood that has been forgotten by the city of Los Angeles and our tourism officials. It’s hard to not acknowledge the truth in their claims.

If you go to Los Angeles on vacation, don’t go to the Walk of Fame unless you like walking past . . .  abandoned buildings while . . .  fending off buskers, the homeless and people trying to sell you their mix-tape.

During the summer season tourists walk a gauntlet that is an assault on their senses. Often, I am embarrassed when I see how foreign tourists are manipulated into jumping on a tour van that takes them on a fake tour while milking them for their cash. The article’s description of Hollywood continues:

It also reeks of urine and on warm days it hangs thick in the air and stings the nostrils like opening a sealed case of apples left rotting for a year in a dank cellar.

Encampments on the sidewalk and the alcoves on Hollywood Blvd. is an all-too-common sight. (Staff photos)

It’s hard to argue with this perception. Our sidewalks – the paths that shape the Hollywood experience – are at risk. If the BID was not washing the Walk of Fame twice a week, it would be far worse. There are no public restrooms in arguably the city’s most cherished tourist destination. For years, we asked city officials to install public toilets and a public restroom was promised for the Vine Street parking structure which opened five years ago. Didn’t happen. The default has been to allow people to relieve themselves on the streets, and the situation has been exacerbated by the homeless crisis we are experiencing.

Further, there is a cohort of  people that some might label “homeless” who have made a lifestyle choice, for now to live on the streets. Word is out: come to Hollywood to do drugs, panhandle, and sleep in private alcoves where trespassing laws are no longer enforced. Better yet, set up a tent and bring your friends. With Prop 47 now the law of the land, you can shoot heroin and smoke crystal meth with minimal threat of arrest.

Since 2014, public drug usage has become increasingly common on Hollywood Blvd. (Photo by Gary Leonard)

We can hardly keep up with the cleaning and our private public safety team is constrained in their enforcement efforts. The city has failed to regulate sidewalk behaviors – aggressive street characters, CD-peddlers, tour bus hawkers, food trucks camped all day at one parking meter and unregulated sidewalk vendors. There is a perfect storm of public policy, legal settlements and lack of city leadership that has resulted in a foreboding sense of lawlessness on the streets of Hollywood. Despite COMPSTAT statistics that suggest crime is down, we must institute a better measure to capture the perception of safety to hold officials accountable.

Walking our sidewalks will reveal that the problem is growing. Pulling back from enforcing basic quality of life laws results in a slippery slope toward neighborhood atrophy. I believe the majority of our property owners are doing their part by investing significantly in their properties and projects. They have also assessed themselves over $42M since the BID was formed to work collectively in creating a safe and clean Hollywood. But we can’t do it alone.

We are at a critical point in our redevelopment story. It’s now time for real leadership and action from the city to protect its most precious economic engine. We need to take our sidewalks back!

*Note: all photos taken within the past two month.

Kerry Morrison is executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance.  She serves on the United Way/LA Area Chamber Home For Good Task Force and blogs at @KerryHMorrison

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