Los Angeles represents the glitz and glamour of the California lifestyle. It’s a tourist mecca that boasted 50 million visitors in 2019 – an all-time high.
The greater Los Angeles area can also claim Muscle Beach in Venice; the Hollywood movie studios; the rich and famous in Beverly Hills; and a previously booming economy that trailed only New York City and Tokyo.
But the city itself is in trouble, and tourists should be advised to avoid some neighborhoods and streets entirely.
Today, Los Angeles hosts an estimated homeless population of nearly 40,000 people (the entire states of Texas and Florida have between 25,000 and 28,000 respectively). Affluent sections of the city have become dangerous with open-air drug use, human feces, medieval diseases, and, sadly, homeless encampments.
Since 2019, there have been at least 94,430 reported complaints of homeless encampments in public spaces –an average of 4,500 per month.
First elected in 2013, Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to clean things up. However, conditions are the same or worse. Last year, the number of encampment complaints spiked to 55,569. The same pace has continued in 2020 with 35,241 instances already reported through August.
We reached out to Garcetti for comment regarding our findings and the continued trajectory of the homeless encampment problem. This column will be updated with any response or comment.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com plotted all reports of homeless encampments since 2019 (20 months) using latitude and longitude address coordinates of all cases opened by the city. Available data is the result of resident reporting to the city’s 311 dispatchers.
Using our interactive map, just click a pin (ZIP Code) and scroll down to review the results rendered in the chart beneath the map.
Although 106 city neighborhoods were affected, one in three encampments were reported in just ten neighborhoods. Here are the top five: 1. Downtown Los Angeles (5,264 cases); 2. Venice (4,817 cases); 3. Woodland Hills- Warner Center (4,339 cases); 4. Wilshire Center-Koreatown (3,917 cases); and 5. Van Nuys (3,426 cases).
Across the city, 127 ZIP Codes reported encampment complaints. The top five locations had the highest concentration – between 2,200 and 4,500 encampments each. Those ZIPs were 90291 (4,497 cases); 90004 (2,980 cases); 91364 (2,549 cases); 90028 (2,352 cases); and 90020 (2,248 cases).
#1 Neighborhood: Downtown Los Angeles (5,264 cases)
Since 2019, over 5,200 homeless encampment cases were reported in the heart of Los Angeles. The downtown features art museums, hip restaurants and a mix of modern high-rise buildings and traditional landmarks.
It also ranked first in homeless encampments since 2019.
Affected police precincts include Central (3,138 cases); Newton (2,022 cases); and Rampart (104 cases). Avoid the entire length of Hill Street, which had 446 encampment complaints since 2019.
#2 Neighborhood: Venice (4,817 cases)
Encampments were reported 4,817 times within the Venice neighborhood. A buzzing beach community, Venice is known for its free spirit with the boardwalk, skate park, muscle beach, funky shops and street performers.
Today, the homeless populations affect the quality of life.
The only police precinct affected was Pacific. The city council member in the district is Mike Bonin. Avoid the entire stretch of Venice Boulevard with 650 cases since 2019.
Plotting the case reports of homeless encampments in ZIP 91364 since 2019.
#3 Neighborhood: Woodland Hills- Warner Center (4,339 cases)
Since 2019, there were 4,339 instances of homeless encampment reported. That’s an average of 217 reports per month for the last 20 months in this area.
This neighborhood is a master planned community and business district with a mix of small businesses, skyscrapers, and residential development in the San Fernando Valley.
Police precincts affected include Topanga (4,295 cases) and West Valley (44 cases). Avoid Ventura Boulevard and Freeway with 1,242 cases.
#4 Neighborhood: Wilshire Center-Koreatown (3,917 cases)
There were 3,917 homeless encampment complaints within this neighborhood. Known for its casual dining, relaxed, fun atmosphere, and late nights, there are bars, grills, karaoke, speakeasies, and clubs.
Police precincts affected include Olympic (3,765 cases) and Rampart (162 cases). The elected council members in this area include Herb Wesson (3,247 cases), Mitch O’Farrell (626 cases), and David Rye (44 cases). Avoid Oxford and Serrano avenues, which had the most activity (around 150 cases each).
In recent years, the city council earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to alleviate the homeless crisis. The 2020 budget, for example, allocated $430 million to homeless services.
LA residents have also sought to alleviate the problem. In 2016, voters approved the mayor’s Proposition HHH – a tax hike to cover $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless.
However, it took three-years to put up the first unit, and a recent audit shows that each unit cost $700,000 to construct.
Today, the city’s official data has 6,780 open and unresolved encampment complaints. The mayor’s administration admits to using a lighter touch during the pandemic and holding back on sweeps and cleanups.
So, Los Angeles still faces a human health catastrophe, an uncertain future, and increasingly dangerous neighborhoods for residents and tourists alike.