By FRANCES SHARPE and ALEXANDRIA BORDAS | Editor-in-Chief/Reporter
For years, residents of the Huntington have been concerned about a growing number of homeless encampments on the bluffs along Corona Del Mar and Alma Real Drive.
A fire last year that threatened homes on Alma Real is believed to have been started at a homeless campsite below the Huntington Park.
In response, the Huntington Palisades Property Owners Corporation (HPPOC) created a small committee of local residents to spearhead an effort to clean up the bluffs, according to HPPOC president Sue Jameson.
“Experienced outside brush clearance vendors approved by the LAFD were used to clear the brush, but we went the extra mile here to clear further up the bluffs to expose the multitude of homeless living at the base of the bluffs,” Jameson said.
Brian Deming, who belongs to a number of community organizations but explored the bluffs during the cleanup efforts as a private citizen, was surprised by much of what he saw.
Deming said that there is “years worth of well-designed infrastructure” in the bluffs.
Elements he spotted include several man-made staircases, networks of rope to aid in the ascent up the steep bluffs, and campsites carved into the vertical earth.
“There is a man-made cave with an opening 4 feet high and extending 15 horizontal-feet deep into the bluff,” Deming noted.
One of the most surprising things Deming found was a large, permanently installed concrete oven/stove-top unit adorned with inlaid shells collected from the beach.
Evidence of the inventiveness of the hillside dwellers included car batteries being used to provide power to lighting and sound/music systems hung in the trees, trashcans acting as storage units for runoff water and garden hoses doubling as a plumbing system to run water from the trashcans to the individual areas of the multi-level encampments.
“Some individuals living in the bluffs are literally dug in. Some have built shelters, poured concrete and built water and power systems. It’s going to take a great deal of time, effort and resources to get these people into a different situation. If we want to tackle this growing problem, it’s going to take a community effort,” Deming said.
The massive cleanup process began last week after Jameson and Maryam Zar, Chair of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH), had a meeting with LAPD Officer Michael Moore regarding homelessness in the Palisades.
“The Huntington neighborhood was able to circle around a common problem, which was the growing number of encampments along the bluffs and bring their resources together to forge a one-time solution,” Zar said. “We hope everyone will join us in the effort to bring both services and enforcement to the Palisades to address the homelessness we see in our community.”
During the cleanup, leftover belongings and trash were hauled away.
“The LAPD will be back again this week to clear a few remaining campers and remove a few new ones. It’s an ongoing process and we need to stay vigilant to ensure safety in the future,” Jameson said.
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