No One is Coming

The unintentional cruelty of civility

Correction. These two are coming. The Hack and the Billionaire. The people who have always been here, scratching one another’s back.

With everything that’s befallen Los Angeles in the past two years, local media allotted exactly one hour for a single mayoral debate and it was not entirely edifying.

Rick Caruso: We need to get people inside.
Karen Bass: Get them in.
Caruso: We need an Ethics czar at City Hall.
Bass: He stole my plan.
Caruso: The City is in crisis.
Bass: I agree. Crisis.
Caruso: Leadership starts with setting the tone.
Bass: We need bold and decisive leadership.
Caruso: The LAPD staffing level should be raised to 11,000.
Bass: It should remain at 9,700

Me: If we’re not arresting people for looting, what difference does it make? If there is no bail for felonious assault, what have we gained?

Caruso: I’ll build 30,000 tiny home pods in the first year.
Bass: I believe we need to work together to get people housed.

Me: We have already imposed Tiny Home compounds in neighborhoods and they are at 30% capacity. Encampments bloom unabated and un-policed on the next block.

At this point, the debate panelists might ask: if there is no enforcement mechanism, no restraining principle, of what tangible use are the billions we have allocated to Shantytown, Inc.?  Tis not the nature of L.A. media to ask the obvious, only to curate the boundaries of the narrative, which do not include discomforting those feeding at the giant tit of service provision.

Do I really need to say this? Safety is the first social justice. Los Angeles is coasting on the civilizational assumptions of 2019, and it’s beginning to dawn on us the guardrails we took for granted are no longer in place. A man fires up a meth pipe on the Red Line then assaults a woman and people record it on their phones but no one intervenes.  We are backstopped by police, in theory, but we know better.

You can count on one hand the people in this city with the resources, name recognition and institutional standing to break with the Homeless Industrial Complex and tie policy to some kind of enforcement, any kind of stick to offset the innumerable carrots on offer. Rick Caruso, developer of The Grove, is one of them.

Does he make even a gesture in that direction? He does not.

In a truly surreal moment he criticizes Ron DeSantis for sending 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Like it was a bad thing. Like this was his ticket to the Latino vote. Does he actually believe this sort of pandering works on people who commute to work on the Red Line, or is he obeying memos from Aisle 518 Strategies, the progressive firm he hired to advise his campaign?

For two years DeSantis stood on principle against vaccine mandates, school closures and Covid lockdowns and was reviled for it. Murderer, they called him. DeathSantis. To say events have vindicated him would be an understatement. He did right by the people of Florida and pulled the politics of the state in his direction.  He’s the most effective politician in America, and beloved of Republican voters, who are 26% of the electorate in L.A.  Which is to say, half the Caruso coalition in any victory scenario.

So Caruso’s plan, if we can call it that, is to denounce the hero of the one group without whom he has no chance of winning. Pro tip: don’t do that.

Want to reach Latinos, Rick?  I mean, really? Do something for Melanie Ramos’ grieving family. Do something for the next 100 unsuspecting young people who are going to do a fentanyl laced bump in the bathroom cause its Saturday night or pop a tainted Percocet handed to them from a classmate who got it from the open air drug market down the street because L.A. is lawless now.  Stop pandering to the people who have an interest in keeping it that way and don’t have daughters in public school.

No one is coming.

Melanie Ramos, 15, DOA at Bernstein High

Carusovilles and Keith

“I will build 30,000 temporary housing units in the first year. If anyone knows how to build I know how to build. If I don’t get it done vote me out.  I know I can get that done. I’ve talked to the manufacturer.”

So said mayoral candidate Rick Caruso last week, walking through Skid Row for the benefit of local TV news. If you don’t know, Caruso is on the right, displaying the Hand Gesture of Progress.

“The minute we have good, warm, clean bed and food, then people need to move off the streets. No more encampments. You have to enforce the law. We may offer a bed once, we may offer a bed twice. But the third time we are going to have to say I’m sorry but you’ve broken the law.”

I agree with him but this is wishful thinking as policy.

After the third refusal to self-house, then what? Jail? Imagine the headlines. Billionaire Puts Paupers Behind Bars. It’s a moot point. In 2020 Los Angeles County voted to close the Twin Towers facility to felons.

Fines? They’ll never pay. Penalties will accrue. Years hence, upon a hypothetical sobriety, the chains of Dickensian debt will prevent them from re-integrating and we can’t have that.

The pillory?  If this were colonial Virginia we could parade them in Shrews Fiddles through downtown with signs saying Sloth. If only!

“Sorry, but you have broken the law and we have no place to put you” is not exactly a deterrence.

To distill to a sentence our cognitive dissonance around the army of dispossessed who squat and hunker among us, if would be difficult to improve upon a good, warm, clean bed and food.  A solution few have asked for, and when offered, fewer takers.

In a contest between civic good intentions and the unrestrained id, human nature wins in a blowout.

Man is first a social animal. Hunter gatherers roam the urban landscape, forming street families and alliances. From the detritus of the city all can be foraged:  plywood and tarps and cast off tents, couches, old rugs and bikes. Electricity can be purloined from any light pole. Run a cable across the sidewalk, fire up the flat screen and the hibachi and smoke what needs to be smoked with the satisfaction hunter-gatherers have enjoyed at sundown since we first left the caves.

There is a raison d’être to be found in this, even pride, irritating though that might be for the rest of us.

Add EBT, free phones, free health care, pro bono legal representation and the crucial license to steal™ and most of Maslow’s Needs are well met. The weather is glorious.

Sitting in a clean, Boise decision-approved Tiny Home, with a bookshelf and a lock and showers and rules about drugs and smoking? This appeals to taxpayers.  This is what we would do if we were in their shoes, between filling out job applications, and learning to code.

If you were hoping Caruso would do for the armies of dereliction in L.A. what Elon Musk is poised to do for free speech by purchasing Twitter, you may be disappointed.  He accepts the operative premise of Shantytown, Inc., the massively funded bureaucracy of service providers:  we can build our way out of this.

We can’t. This is the fatal flaw of his candidacy: I’m a developer. I will deliver more units per year. 

Too bad, because he’s wealthy enough not to need the local machine to fund his campaign. He doesn’t owe anybody.

For those who think Housing First policy is working, I would remind readers we are running a real-time experiment in the efficacy of Tiny Home villages in Venice and Van Nuys and North Hollywood, and not only are they utilized at about one-third capacity they continue to be surrounded by encampments, thriving uncontested.

The stars come out for Housing Now! 1989

Take a good look at this picture. Lakers coach Pat Riley. Jon Voight. Bea Arthur. Edith Bunker. Casey Kassem.  The great and good coming together to address the terrible blight of Skid Row. They mean well. They’ve opened their checkbooks. In 1989 camping on the sidewalk in Los Angeles was confined to fifty square blocks downtown. To deal with this, the City had a line item in the budget totaling…millions.

For 2022, the City will spend $1 Billion on Homeless, Inc. The County spent half a billion, the State $7.2 billion, 40% of which came here. I have no idea what the Federal government sends us, but it ain’t zero.  Like a well watered garden, the army of addicts and freeloaders have grown ten-fold, from San Pedro to Granada Hills.

Let us not despair, there remains a fourth alternative…smiling at us from the branches like the Cheshire Cat, villainous and coy.

Stop subsidizing it. All of it. Lean into human nature.

Wait, what? Are you serious? Yes. But, but…we can’t! It’s monstrous! Think of the case workers! The administrators and lobbyists! How will they eat? How will those checks make it home to Pasadena?

While we’re at it, re-criminalize theft. I know of no civilization which has survived the abolition of a principle as basic as this.

Here’s Keith from Pennsylvania to explain it.

*btw, this video is eleven years old and this guy was still here as of 2020.

People By the Freeway Cook With Gas

Thin orange line behind Orion Street

Biking home from the gym yesterday, great plumes of black smoke near the 405 announced another homeless fire, or the launch of encampment fire season, as we now know it in the Valley.

Technically this isn’t true, the season got off to a running start on Friday with a one acre burn in the Sepulveda Basin that was doused by helicopter.

But the Basin is always burning. At any hour of the day, butane is igniting. Meth pipes are roasting like s’mores. Cigarettes and blunts are sucked down to the nubby entrails and tossed to the winds. Ramen noodles boil over campstoves.  Disputes and debts are settled flammably.  It’s only a question of how much brush gets involved.

In this case the unhoused have squeezed into the narrow no mans land between the sound abatement wall of the 405 and the back fences of the people who live on Orion Street.   They don’t get away with that in Midvale Estates, but in the sweaty flatlands of working class Latino North Hills with its own portion of unpermitted backyard structures people are less inclined to go to the authorities.

When the only thing separating the feral from the domesticated is a kindling line of sun-scorched lacquered wood the tragedy of the commons is waiting. The flames licked their way across the fictional divide of public and private space to what LAFD delicately referred to in the incident report as “outbuildings”, destroying several before being extinguished. All credit to the Fire Dept. for saving the houses proper.

Not half a mile from here sits the former Panorama Motel, recently purchased by the City for conversion to interim housing for people sleeping within 500 feet of a freeway.  It is one of ten motel purchases under Project Homekey.  Cost: $105 million. Total served: 536. At $195,895 per head, it is more expensive than the $130K/unit Tiny Home Villages, but a bargain next to the perpetually-in-the-near-future $700K homeless condos downtown.

My question is this: in the fall, after the Panorama Motel is retrofitted transitional housing, will there be more people living by the 405, or less? Will I no longer see people clustered on the off-ramp?  If the number remains unchanged or worse, wouldn’t that be a refutation of the “housing first” policy?  This will be our acid test.

Maybe it will work. I hope it does.

Four years after passing Props. H and HHH, the homeless population has increased by a third.  The fires however, are daily. That’s a new wrinkle.

For dollar value may I suggest the very un-flammable quonset hut? It was good enough for Gomer Pyle…

At the Crossroads

Things we’ve been told are true and cannot be questioned:
The solution to drug addiction and mental illness is free housing.Homeless housing cannot be a Quonset hut. It must cost $500K per unit.
Looting is speech.
Not putting handcuffs on black people will lead to better outcomes for the black community.
State mandated inactivity will protect you from the Wuhan virus.
Every infectious disease from Lyme to Ebola is named for its geographic origin, but Wuhan must be called Covid, because racism.
Also, disagreeing with the CCP is racist.
Disagreeing with the diktats of corporations wishing to do business with the CCP…extra racist.
You can catch the Wuhan virus walking by yourself outdoors in the sunshine without a mask.
You can catch it from door knobs. Everything must be de-sanitized multiple times a day.
Everyone must stand six feet apart, masked and mute. No large public gatherings.
Unless it’s a BLM rally. Or looting. Then the science doesn’t apply.
The first cases emerged from inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but a lab leak hypothesis is a conspiracy theory.
Only crazy Trump people would say such a thing. De-platform them all.
Dr. Fauci would never fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
Okay, so he did. It would have been a “dereliction of duty” to have not done so.
But Ivermectin is unsafe as a prophylaxis against Wuhan.
If you say otherwise in Senate testimony YouTube will de-platform you. Because Merck.
The limits of free speech should be proscribed by organizations and unelected bodies outside U.S soil.  Also, corporations.
Merck administered 4 billion doses of Ivermectin globally while under patent. Now in the public domain, it is ‘unsafe’.
Taiwan is not a nation but a rogue province of China.
Just ask John Cena.

A little something YouTube will not be taking down.
They’re the experts on truth. Not you.

This diminution of citizenship has crept up on us quickly, if imperceptibly. Our willingness to defer to authority for the benefit of all has been weaponized by forces that recognize no limiting principle. Ask yourself: why are you being told to apologize all the time now? Why are the parameters of acceptable speech disqualifying what was the majority opinion day before yesterday? Who is doing this? Why have we ceded that authority? The slippery slope pundits referenced when American politics was vanilla and operated within recognizable 20 yard lines? Yeah, that’s gone now. We’re at the bottom of the ice crevice, with a bump on our head, looking up at a sliver of sky, but we can’t find purchase.  The only way out is through.

What does “through” mean, in this post-Constitutional moment? I’m not sure. The picture at the top of the page I took in Mendocino county, walking near the Eel River on a road with less than hundred people in an area as large as the San Fernando Valley. This Little Free Library stood at a crossroads between the river and a field, an artifact of Jeffersonian America.  I thought of all the Little Free Libraries around Los Angeles, and the universal desire to share knowledge with strangers.  Therein perhaps is a path forward. To be anti-fragile as a nation begins with personal anti-fragility.  Thinking for oneself, the way the Founders intended. De-coupling one’s understanding of Truth from one’s curated feed. Of no longer being a prisoner to an algorithm.  Returning to paper, if you will.

Shantytown, Inc.

There is nothing quite so permanent as a temporary solution, to quote a friend of mine.

Ad hoc structures sprout like fungi across the cityscape, cobbled together by the People of the Favela from found materials. Kiewit/Shea and the Army Corps of Engineers have nothing on the 77th MethHead Mobile Assembly Brigade.  They get it done overnight.

These domiciles cost the public nothing except sanitation, aesthetics, fire safety, petty crime, our collective dignity and quality of life, i.e., property values.

So what would we pay to rid ourselves of eyesores?

Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News

How would you feel about $8,600? That’s the price of a two-person Pallet house in a Tiny Home Village. Considering the alternative: $700,000 “transitional housing” apartments with granite countertops and a ten-year horizon line, this a bargain.  Sounds good to me.

Fonda Rosing/Hope of the Valley

On Monday the first Tiny House hamlet in L.A. opened on Chandler Blvd in NoHo.  Forty 8×8 cabins, each with its own A/C unit and WiFi. Communal showers and support services for 75 people.  A second Village is due to open this spring, adjacent to the 170 freeway near Valley Plaza.

There are numerous publically-owned slivers of ground like this, many tucked in enticingly out of the way locations across the county.  The Pallet houses can be trucked in and carted away as needed, allowing for flexibility and, crucially, impermanence. Call it Ad Hoc Plus.

But…
You knew this was coming, right?
You’re living in Mayor Garbageciti’s City.
Where the public trough has no bottom.
Where Shantyown, Inc. is King.

The true price of these Pallet houses, to the taxpayer: $130,000.

Scratching your head on this one?  Let the Times summarize for us:

A breakdown provided by the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering shows that the contract provides $1.5 million just to prepare the site.

It also includes $122,000 for underground utilities, $253,000 for concrete pads (one for each shelter), $312,000 for an administrative office and staff restroom, $1.1 million for mechanical, electrical and fire alarms and $280,000 for permits and fees.

Additionally, the city has budgeted $651,000 to connect to the street sewer line and $546,000 in design, project management and inspection costs.

The key phrase is concrete pad. The houses were designed to be dropped off on pallets, or any manner of wooden support, and relocated when circumstances desired, much like a job site Porta-Potty. Impermanence is their nature.   Anchoring it to concrete is making a temporary solution an ever-lasting one.

I have the calculator out, running the numbers, and coming up with $73,446 per unit.  Into whose pocket is the other $56,554 going?  The Times is incurious on this point.

The City of Riverside erected an identical village in December, same manufacturer, for $21,ooo a house.  In Washington and Oregon, they’re getting them up for $12,000.

The journey from $12K to $130K is the distance between necessity and avarice, between a city that works and one that doesn’t.