West LA residents put boulders on sidewalks to deter homeless camps, igniting swift backlash

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A freeway underpass where local homeowners placed boulders to keep out homeless encampments. Activists later removed some of the rocks from the tunnel. Photo by Anna Scott.

Earlier this week, some West LA residents placed dozens of heavy landscaping rocks below a 10 freeway underpass on Cattaraugus Avenue in an attempt to prevent people experiencing homelessness from erecting tents there. The backlash from homeless advocates, activists and their supporters came quickly, with a group of volunteers removing many of the stones days later, highlighting deep divisions between Angelenos over LA’s homelessness crisis.

One of the homeowners who spearheaded the boulder placement, a screenwriter named Peter Iliff, said he and others were attempting to emulate hardscaping they saw at another freeway underpass on Motor Avenue. The idea, he said, came from safety concerns around the Cattaraugus tunnel, which sees a lot of pedestrian traffic. 

He said the boulders were intended to prevent people from putting up tents against the underpass walls, not to shut them out from sitting in the shade. He also said that nobody was on the sidewalk when the boulders were placed, and that he has supported homeless housing in the neighborhood.

On Tuesday evening, activists with the grassroots homeless advocacy groups Street Watch LA and Ktown for All, as well as some residents who live near the underpass, joined a Zoom meeting of the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council to express their anger and disgust. More than 60 people weighed in during public comment, mostly in opposition to the boulders. A smaller number of participants defended or complimented the boulder project. The same night, some of the activists removed several of the boulders, though several remain lined up on the sidewalks.

Correction: A previous caption on this photo incorrectly attributed the graffiti on the underpass walls to the activists who removed the boulders.

 

Credits

Reporter:

Anna Scott