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As the only member of my family living in California – specifically, Los Angeles – I have to deal with the common misconceptions of the state: No, one does not go up to celebrities and start talking to them, even just to say how much one likes their work. No, locals generally don’t go to Hollywood; it’s an overpriced, touristy hellscape of traffic with no parking. And no, even if one does go to the beach (many don’t – that hellscape of traffic with no parking thing again), people only swim on the hottest days because the ocean here is icy cold.
But what I find myself having to correct most often is no, those dramatic wildfires on the news are nowhere near me. I live a mile outside of Downtown LA in a dense, urbanized area, and there are no sections of hills and brushlands near me to go up in flames. What they are seeing is always either in the hills where the wealthy have homes or the suburbs so far from me that I won’t see the smoke until and unless it burns so long that it dissipates into a choking, carbon-scented haze that drifts over the Santa Monica Mountains and hangs over the Los Angeles Basin.
That was, until two nights ago. The epidemic of homelessness that continues to plague California cities hasn’t abated with the Wuhan bat flu. Downtown LA increasingly looks like a George Romero film: a ruined landscape of wrecked and deserted hotels, bars, restaurants, and stores that had just recently been filled with life before being ransacked, boarded-up, and abandoned to a hollow remnant of humanity with no other purpose than the quotidian shambling from place to place as it wallows in its own effluence.
On the West Coast, in cities from Seattle to San Diego, they have become the ne plus ultra of protected classes: I have heard from friends of LAPD officers that police are regularly paid overtime to protect the homeless and their right to homestead public spaces for their own crapulence. (I somehow suspect this is a part of policing that the Left won’t find their way to defunding.)
Behind my apartment building, there is a vacant lot. Until two-and-a-half years ago, it was a bungalow court that was over a century old, but, for some reason, its owner decided to evict the tenants and tear the place down. And then – no development since then. Los Angeles has become notorious for its excruciating red tape around permitting; opening a restaurant, which would take a few weeks or months in a city like Houston, can take upward of two to three years in LA.
Meanwhile, the empty bungalow court in what is one of the densest areas west of the Mississippi River was quickly colonized by the homeless just as soon as the tenants were evicted. When the buildings were demolished and only the foundations remained, the homeless still returned and set up camp.
Sitting on a steeply sloping street, the narrow, deep lot is largely hidden from view from passersby, so it made a perfect spot for shady goings-on as I learned from a Lyft driver one day: He also happened to work security on the side in those pre-AB-5 days and frequently evicted the homeless men pimping out homeless women there. When the foundations were finally demolished and most of the lot fenced off, the lot’s usefulness as a hideaway for drug dealing, drug use, and prostitution ended, and eventually only a few vagrants pitched tents on the small available patch of earth there.
Recently, one semi-permanent encampment had been erected over the steps leading up to the lot, using scavenged plywood and other items. Two nights ago, a little after 8 p.m., I was in my bathroom and happened to glance out the window. That structure was suddenly on fire.
Soon, the fire spread up and into the field behind it, which, like almost any wild, untended space not near a water source in Southern California at this time of year, was little more than dry, dead brush. It went up in seconds.
The Los Angeles Fire Department arrived quickly and put out the conflagration; it doesn’t appear there was anyone in the fire. Someone in my building suspects someone set the deliberately set the encampment on fire; it wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to burn a homeless person alive in LA. I saw no one running from the site, and I can find no news of the incident online. (This was, in fact, the second fire to happen to a homeless encampment here. Another, much less severe fire occurred within the last year that I did not witness; I only noticed the burnt green plastic lining on the fence and remains of the encampment after the fact.)
The next day, two homeless people – a black man and a white woman – were homesteading into the lot past the now-destroyed fence, pushing a misappropriated shopping cart as far as they could into the tall brush before retreating to their new makeshift shelter built at the far rear corner of the lot. Someone has since tried to prop up the fence and cover it with plastic sheeting, but our homeless homesteaders are apparently still in place.
No one dares try to move the homeless in L.A. any longer. The whole city is theirs now.
Suddenly those brushfires from the news that still seemed remote to me were outside my window. Sure, I had seen some: I witnessed the 2007 Griffith Park Fire from my apartment, and I have seen the great columns of smoke rising above the Hollywood sign and over the Getty Center. But never have the fires worried me. The fires never came close. The fires were not much that much more significant to me than they were to my family watching them on the news halfway across the country. And now – they were. Not because of the weather or climate change or urban sprawl. No, only because of bad policies by my city’s leaders that have allowed LA to become the Homeless Capital of America.
So what is the point of all this? This is the future of America – all America – if Democrats have their way. This is what America will look like – a nation that can randomly burst into flames right outside your bathroom window at any moment. Chaos hangs in the air, and all one can do is hope the flames don’t reach your door. That is what life in California is like now. The state’s leaders are working their hardest to bring the chaos to as many of the people as possible – that is, except themselves and their very select supporters.
There is a pernicious combination of heavy-handed regulation and lawlessness, where the “ordinary” folks are fined, ticketed, and red-taped into cowering submission while certain groups of scofflaws are allowed to claw at the fabric of society with carte blanche. Governor Gruesome, Eric Garcetti, and their ilk, they won’t be woken up by the screams of the mentally ill at three in the morning, but it sure is time those reactionaries in San Bernardino County are. Because sharing is caring, don’t you know…Published in