Officials in Los Angeles County on Thursday tore down a massive three-story makeshift shelter built in the Sepulveda Basin as cleanup crews entered the final phase of a four-part operation to rid the area of the many homeless encampments.
California Highway Patrol shared a picture of the “treehouse” shelter illegally – and dangerously – built in the park.
“Very large illegal makeshift structures, like this 3 story treehouse, are being dismantled in the Sepulveda Basin today,” CHP said in a Facebook post. “This is a part of a multi-phase and multi-agency cleanup operation in the basin. LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) has been on-site before and during the cleanup to offer services to anyone willing to accept assistance.”
Thursday’s discovery was just one of many for hazmat crews deployed to the Encino Creek area a day earlier.
The four-part public safety plan was put in place following a massive fire that broke out in July in the northwest part of the basin, where a large homeless encampment was located, FOX11 reported. At least 10 acres were burned. A second fire broke out in late October burning another 60 acres. Fire crews spotted propane tanks in the area days before the first phase was set to launch in August.
The cleanup operation is meant to reduce the chance of fires and other dangers that come with the many homeless shelters being built in the park.
According to 2019 estimates by the Los Angeles Homeless Security Authority, there were some 17,396 makeshift shelters, cars and tents found in the geographic area that the Sepulveda Basin is a part of.
The number of people living in those spaces was more than 27,000.
According to the latest figures, Los Angeles County has seen a 12 percent increase in the homeless population, bringing the total count to nearly 59,000.
Local advocacy groups estimate that at least 100 people are still living in the Sepulveda Basin area, FOX11 reported.
Jackie Canez told KCBS that she and her boyfriend have been living in the basin for six years.
“Depression, anxiety led us to the streets and we ended up staying here because we found a permanent spot,” she said. “They’re going to come in and remove belongings that I can’t move, he can’t move, and I have two cats.”
The last phase of the operation is targeting an area of the basin that is completely closed to the public. Officials say this is because it is located in a floodplain near the creek, which could be life-threatening during heavy rainfall.