Op-ed by Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
If ever there was a reason for West Hollywood Santa Monica/Robertson Boulevard-area clubs and businesses to pitch in to form a real Business Improvement District, a couple drunks running over and putting a women in the hospital is it.
No crisis should be failed to be taken advantage of; and recently we have a pair of events that show the potential problems of going without a BID too much longer.
The most recent, and scurrilous, involved a set of youths one can charitably say may be old enough to drink legally, but too young to know how to do it without hurting themselves or others.
It was around bar closing on Thursday morning when a pair of fellows making their way back to a car in West Hollywood’s El Tovar parking lot ran across a group of women taunting one of the guys.
The man, Joseph Octavio Osuna, 22, of Bakersfield, was reportedly intoxicated and heaving into the street at the time. His friend, Hector Joseph Hernandez, 29, of Whittier, apparently got into a shouting match with their hecklers.
Drink in large quantities never fails to surprise, though. Lt. Mike White of West Hollywood Sheriff Station said, “Some of the women in the group made fun of him, and he ended up arming himself with a belt and using the buckle as a weapon,” hitting one woman and injuring her.
Now it gets fun, because belt-wielding dude cuts through the parking lot, jumps into a car driven by his buddy moving quickly along El Tovar, a short connector to Robertson, and struck two of three victims who were trying to record the license number of the car.
It wasn’t long before deputies caught up with the pair, given the descriptions of the car and time of night; they nabbed them at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Genesee Avenue within minutes.
Lt. White told another publication, “I would venture to say that alcohol played a role in this.”
WeHo News would venture that alcohol – and the city’s, clubs’ and bartenders’ shared failure to monitor it – is a symptom of the city’s most expensive undiagnosed mental illness – immature narcissism.
A young city at just 30, populated by a near majority of middle-aged gay men, the majority of which have yet to leave adolescence, a bifurcated focus on social justice and getting your party on, is decidedly not right in the head; we trumpet our position at the center of the entertainment and gay social service universe (not without some cause).
That we feel we must trumpet it shows how securely we sit in the chair.
Still, we have balanced books – the budget is a marvel of black writing of which every other city manager in the country can only dream.
The Sunset Strip 15 years ago was disreputable; it had dirty streets (not unlike Santa Monica Boulevards now – have you seen the rainbow crosswalks lately?), alcohol and other substance abuse led to neighborhood crime, street crime and violence.
The businesses created a BID, which costs them no small amount of money to maintain, to handle the worst of the problems.
Security guards supplemented LASD deputies.
Outreach and education helped bar owners and tenders to mitigate drunkenness in their customers, the streets got cleaned up every morning.
Soon, the Strip was back again, with a reputation as a place where you could safely club, dine, drink and listen to live music.
Granted, West Hollywood has no real competitors for gay nightclubbers, not in critical mass of clubs and shops catering to gays. The area called Boystown has a wide variety of gay clubs congregated together, which business people will tell you is a good idea.
“If you want to open a burger joint, open it on a corner where there are three other burger joints,” goes the maxim, handily carried out in Boystown.
Yet the place really has no official name – the city establishment get the heebie-jeebies over the appellation.
Suggestions such as “Historic Gay Center” and other banalities show that the city is still divided in its self-confidence, with visionaries saying “let’s push the envelope” and business and establishment interests saying, “well, let’s see first if we can get the costs down.”
The costs are the Golden Eggs, or at least the goose that lays them.
If the city and the businesses in Boystown do not one day soon come to agree on how to create a Boystown BID that can patrol that and other parking lots at closing time, prevent gay bashings or hate crimes, keep the streets just a little bit cleaner and, for gosh sakes, promote itself properly (when is the last time you saw a Visit West Hollywood ad in any gay publication at all? In any mainstream magazine?)
We could shake our heads, attend memorials and watch our youths taken off to multi-year prison terms while we balance our budget?
Or will West Hollywood do the socially responsible thing and spend more of that alcohol money on safety and recovery programs?
Nobody who lived here then will ever forget Westwood Village’s swift fall from grace.