Palisades Park is now closed at night to everyone--including the transients who had previously been allowed to sleep there.
The recommendation to completely close the park was made by Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts after a nearly monthlong sting operation resulted in the arrests of 180 drug dealers and users. About 40% of those arrested were transients, police said.
Friday was the first night of the closure. Since then, two transients who refused to leave were arrested.
The City Council recently made way for the closure by removing an exemption from a law that requires the parks to be closed from midnight to 5 a.m. Under the exemption, people who were asleep in a city park were allowed to stay.
But even though the exemption was removed, enforcement had not been expected until the city opens a shelter it plans to build for about 100 people.
Butts said it makes sense to close the park immediately because the sweep had cleared it of drug dealers--and dealers tend to return when the heat is off.
On Tuesday, the council approved a site for the new shelter--505 Olympic Blvd.--and waived standard bidding practices to get in operation as soon as possible. It will cost $390,000 in start-up costs and $365,000 a year to operate the facility, which will offer a program to help homeless people get off the streets.
“Our intention is not just to provide three hots and a cot,” said Robert Rudd of the Salvation Army, which will run the shelter.
Councilman Robert T. Holbrook voted against the shelter project, calling it too expensive in light of the amounts the city already spends for social services. Councilwoman Asha Greenberg abstained.
Homeless advocates who testified Tuesday were also opposed to the shelter. Ron Taylor said the shelter is a bad idea because it will allow the city to take a harder line with homeless people who do not use it.
As a result of the decision to close Palisades Park, dozens of homeless people have relocated to the City Hall area.