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Pershing Square Tape Watch: Twelve Weeks and Counting

By Eric Richardson
Published: Sunday, July 16, 2006, at 08:10PM
Tape Watch: No Change, Still Closed Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Back in May I wrote about Pershing Square being all taped off. At the time the park was having a "Meet Your Neighbors" day and had suggested that residents pack a picnic and bring a sketchbook. I said that was a great idea, if you wanted to sktch police tape.

So now here we are six weeks later and, well, the tape's still up. So what's the story? That's a tough one. If you ask Parks & Rec they'll tell you LAPD put the tape up to combat drug dealing. If you talk to LAPD they'll tell you that the park asked them to put the tape up.

Whoever's responsible, at this point it's pretty ridiculous.

Lots more after the jump.

Six Weeks Isn't All of It

This tape was up a while before I mentioned it. On April 23rd eneyege sent a message to the newdowntown mailing list that read:

I have seen much about the big police station/park controversy. what happened? Did everyone open their respective eyes and notice Pershing Square? I do not know if we should even have another park here in downtown. You see in Pershing Square ther has appearantly been some HUGE CRIME. WOW!! All that yellow crime scene tape. LOL No, seriously laugh out loud. In questioming the private security guard on duty on public property, i was informed of a crime that has taken place, and ther is an ongoing investigation. That is a good one. After a short conversation, I became thirsty and needed to wash my hands. The said crime, required the shutting down of water fountains and restrooms and quite a bit of sitting space to include the grass. So no water for me and certainly no washing of my hands.

So that puts the tape clock at a minimum of twelve weeks.

Twelve weeks where the bulk of Pershing Square has been closed off to the public.

How Much is Closed?

Pershing Square: Closed Off Areas At right is a shot from Google Earth with the closed off areas of the park overlaid on top of it.

As you can see, most of the peripheral areas of the park are closed. The remaining stuff is mostly just open hardscape, with no shape and little seating.

Several of these areas have signs that read:

This area is being occupied under a permit and is closed to the general public from (blank) to (blank)
Los Angeles Municipal Code
Section 63.44.B.7

If you look up the relevant code section you'll find it was suspended eight months ago.

The Park Can Not Stay Like This

As you can see in eneyege's email from April, the thing that people think when they see a park full of police tape is that a crime occurred. That reflects poorly on Downtown.

Pershing Square, however inhospitible it may be, is the one of the only public patches of grass in Downtown. Heck, it's even got free wifi. Given a food vendor and some seats around the tables, the park could almost be a decent place to hang out.

Why Doesn't Anyone Care?

There are a lot of people that it would seem should be caring about the park being closed off for so long. Parks & Rec, LAPD, CRA -- everyone has a stake in this place.

If Parks & Rec and Pershing Square management care about the park being open to the public, why would they let LAPD keep it closed for twelve weeks without raising a fuss?

If it's LAPD's tape, and they didn't want to be involved, why would they allow the tape to be put back up each time Pershing Square takes it down for an event? Pretty much every weekend the tape comes down for some sort of function -- perhaps a private party or some kids event -- then there it is again the next morning.

And why doesn't CRA care? The park is the centerpiece of an expensive wifi network they want to expand. How are they going to show that it's a good idea if no one has a spot to use it?

What If the Tape Went Away Tomorrow?

There are several people who could probably make this problem go away in a couple of phone calls. So what if the tape were to go away tomorrow? What then? All's well that ends well?

This has gone on too long for that to be the case. The park needs to be open for those who live and work Downtown. It hasn't been, for a long time now. And as far as I know no one's said a public word about it. That needs to change.

Update (July 18th, midday)

Tape Watch: Sort of Open, TemporarilyThe grassy area of the park was open today for a lunchtime concert, as I'm sure it has been many times during the course of the twelve week closure. Of course opening the area didn't mean taking down the closure signs, as you can see in the shot.

The tape wasn't even all the way removed. Instead it was simply set on the ground, ready to go back up. The concert ended at 2pm; I would suspect the tape would be right back up in an hour or so.

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