A Hollywood screenwriter helped arrange to have 60 boulders lined up on a pedestrian sidewalk in a Los Angeles underpass to keep homeless people from setting up tents in the shaded area on a day when temperatures reached 111 degrees.
Peter Iliff, whose credits include Point Break and Varsity Blues, and other residents outraged advocates on behalf of the homeless population who condemned what they regarded as a cruel measure that forced them into the unseasonably hot sun.
Iliff and other local residents had a crew place the boulders in the I-10 freeway underpass that connects Reynier Village with the Culver City Arts District last Sunday, September 6.
‘The city was not able to do it for us, so we took action,’ Iliff, who moved to Reynier Village two years ago, told Los Angeles Magazine.
A group of West Los Angeles residents placed boulders in the Cattaraugus Tunnel, the Interstate 10 underpass that connects Reynier Village with the Culver City Arts District, in order to keep out homeless people as temperatures soared on September 6
The placement of the boulders prompted outrage from local advocates for the homeless and other residents
The boulders were placed there to prevent homeless people from setting up tent encampments as temperatures reached 111 degrees last Sunday
Peter Iliff, a Hollywood screenwriter and resident of nearby Reynier Village, helped organize the boulders
‘When an opportunity arose and there was no homeless in the tunnel, we moved very quickly, because we were kind of laying in wait for this opportunity.’
Iliff said that the area was left filthy by homeless people who took up residence in the underpass.
Jugs filled with urine and bags of meth pipes were among the items removed from the area, Iliff told KABC-TV.
Iliff said that members of community have offered housing to the homeless people in the area.
‘We offered an apartment – not talking shelter – an apartment. They still refused,’ he said.
Iliff has been publicly open about his desire to keep homeless people out of the area.
A group from an organization that aides homeless people removed the boulders last week
He recently set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort titled ‘Cattaraugus Tunnel Safety & Beautification Project.’
‘Do you feel safe walking with your loved ones through Cattaraugus Tunnel?’ the page reads.
‘Here in Reynier Village, the underpass is the gate way to Reynier Park, Helms District, Metro, and Culver City…Help us clean up the tunnel, make it safe, and a beautiful gateway to and from Reynier Village.’
The page continued: ‘In July, a local resident was walking his infant in a stroller, along with his his 2-yr-old and 4-yr-old, when a mentally ill individual physically attacked him with a weapon.
‘He was forced to run with his infant and small children for safety.
‘This is just one of many violent incidents.
‘Many of us are frightened to use Cattaraugus Tunnel because of the long history of assaults.
Iliff is a screenwriter whose credits include Varsity Blues and Point Break. He is seen right alongside filmmaker Rick King at the premier of Point Break in Los Angeles in 2015
Iliff recently set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort titled ‘Cattaraugus Tunnel Safety & Beautification Project.’ The campaign raised $3,650 before it was taken down. It set a goal of $5,000
‘The police can only do so much. We must stand together to protect ourselves.
‘We concerned residents of Reynier Village, working with LA City, intend to clean up and beautify Cattaraugus Tunnel with the goal of making it a safer place to walk through.
‘Only we residents can get this done, and only if we work together to make our neighborhood a safer and more beautiful place.’
The campaign raised $3,650 before it was taken down. It set a goal of $5,000.
‘This is all about us trying to keep our community from [having] our children have to witness this stuff,’ Iliff told LA Magazine.
‘The choke point has become dangerous.’
But local advocates for the homeless and other residents said they were outraged.
During a Zoom meeting held by the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council last Tuesday, more than 60 people called in to express their opposition to the boulders while just four spoke up in favor, according to LA Magazine.
Herb J. Wesson Jr, a city councilman who represents the area, slammed the boulders as ‘wrong on so many levels’ and promised that he would work to ensure they are removed.
Advocates for the homeless didn’t wait for Wesson, however. Around 40 of the boulders were removed by volunteers with the Services Not Sweeps coalition.
They left behind signs condemning the boulders and urged the public to focus on raising money to provide housing solutions.
Data released earlier this year found that homelessness in Los Angeles County rose for the third time in the last four years. Experts said 66,433 people now live on the streets, in shelters and in vehicles within the county, which is the most populous in the nation. The above image shows a homeless person using a tarp cover as a tent in Los Angeles in December 2019
Rhiana Casterisano, an activist with Services Not Sweeps, believes that those who put the boulders in the underpass had the tacit approval of the city council.
‘City council is so known for, like, these shady backdoor deals,’ Casterisano says.
‘You really never know what’s going on behind closed doors.’
Iliff told the South Robertson Neighborhood’s Executive Council on Thursday that he was threatened by law enforcement with a charge of illegal dumping if he didn’t have the boulders removed within 24 hours.
Iliff claimed he was helped by the city council office in nearby districts and that it cost him more money to remove the boulders than he raised on GoFundMe.
The boulders were seen being hauled away on Thursday afternoon.
An estimated 130,000 people are homeless somewhere in California on any given day, more than any other state, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
California is the most populous state in the United States, home to about 39.6 million people.
In September, HUD Secretary Ben Carson rejected requests from California for more money from the Trump administration to fight homelessness, blaming state and local leaders for the crisis.
Data released earlier this year found that homelessness in Los Angeles County rose for the third time in the last four years.
Experts said 66,433 people now live on the streets, in shelters and in vehicles within the county, which is the most populous in the nation.
That’s up 12.7 per cent from 2019.
Homelessness advocates say the rising cost of living is to blame for the increase.
A $1.2billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit.
Voters passed a 2016 bond measure to help ease the deepening homelessness crisis by creating up to 10,000 housing units over a decade.
Since then, only three new housing projects have been completed and others that are under construction won’t be open for at least two more years, City Controller Ron Galperin said in a report released Wednesday.
The homelessness crisis is visible in downtown Los Angeles, where hundreds of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row.
Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall, and encampments are increasingly found in suburban areas under freeway overpasses.