The controversial second death on Jan. 7 of a black man in the apartment of a white political donor on Laurel Avenue – something that has gotten publicity worldwide – was only slightly alluded to Tuesday by members of the West Hollywood City Council.
Concerned residents and activists have been demanding action from members of the City Council and were hoping it would happen on Tuesday.
Timothy Dean, a 55-year-old black gay man and resident of West Hollywood, was found dead in Ed Buck’s apartment at 1234 Laurel Ave. on Jan. 7 from an apparent drug overdose. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is currently conducting an investigation.
Dean’s death is the second to happen in Buck’s apartment in the past 18 months. In August 2017, another black man, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore, also died in Buck’s apartment, and the coroner ruled it a drug overdose. Although drug paraphernalia was found in Buck’s apartment, no charges were brought against him. An investigation into Moore’s death by black activists and members of his family has turned up evidence that Buck pays young black sex workers to come to his apartment and use methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug.
Four of the five Council members have received campaign contributions from Buck over the years and have not made any public statements about Buck or the death. However, Councilmembers John D’Amico and Lauren Meister were present at a rally in front of Buck’s apartment following the death.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, who has not received donations from Buck, has called for an aggressive investigation into the matter. The City of West Hollywood issued a statement on Jan. 7 calling on the Sheriff’s Department to investigate the death.
While none of the Council members mentioned Buck during the comment portion of Tuesday meeting, three of them did touch on the death during a discussion about public safety responses and resources.
Horvath made the most direct statement, saying updates were welcome about the “incident that happened on Laurel [Avenue).”
Meanwhile, Councilmember John D’Amico referenced the death indirectly when he cited a report saying there had been nine drug overdose deaths in the city in the past year with seven of those deaths happening in the past four months. Timothy Dean’s death was included in that report, although D’Amico did not mention Dean specifically.
Additionally, Councilmember John Heilman commented on drug overdoses in general, saying the Council regularly gets reports about drug overdoses and that educating the community about the dangers of drug use was needed.
With growing public outrage over the deaths, many were expecting the deaths to be a major topic during the public comment period at the beginning of Tuesday’s Council meeting. Surprisingly, only two residents addressed the Buck situation.
Activist Dennis Gleason commented that Buck is a “serial killer using his wealth and privilege to prey on young homeless black men.” He wanted to know why the Council was remaining silent on the matter when its members could be holding press conferences to urge other victims to come forward with evidence. Gleason called on the Council, especially the three gay men on the Council, to be leaders in the matter and pressure the Sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office to thoroughly investigate.
“If Dr. Conrad Murray can be successfully tried and convicted for the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson, surely Ed Buck can be brought to justice as well,” Gleason told the Council. “Yet you remain silent and that silence sends a quiet, hurtful, subtle message to every person of color that you don’t matter.”
Meanwhile West Seegmiller, part of the Sex Workers Outreach Project LA, said that Buck is a “public safety crisis.” Seegmiller said that West Hollywood is a destination for the sex tourism industry and that people visiting the city, as well as local sex workers, should be aware of the Buck situation for their own safety.
“We have a special responsibility in the city of West Hollywood to address this public health crisis [of Ed Buck], specifically around the issue as it relates to sex workers,” said Seegmiller. “West Hollywood is profiting off the back of people who are engaged in the sex trade and we need to do better.”
Overnight Parking in City-Owned Lots
The Council voted unanimously to allow residents to park overnight in three city-owned parking lots. For $9 per quarter ($36 per year), residents can purchase permits to park in the Kings Road parking structure (8383 Santa Monica Blvd. at Kings Road), the Spaulding lot (7718 Santa Monica Blvd. at Spaulding) and the La Jolla-Havenhurst lot (1044 N. La Jolla Ave. at Havenhurst). The hours for residential overnight parking are 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. on weekends.
Parking Signs and Traffic Calming
Also receiving unanimous approval was a plan to slightly redesign street parking regulation signs, such as those calling out time limit restrictions, no parking for street sweeping and “no nighttime parking except by permit” signs. The new design will have the days of the week and hours of enforcement in larger type. The signs also will be in red and green, so they will be noticed from further away.
The Council also unanimously approved a test program for slowing down traffic in residential areas. Traffic circles will be added to the intersections of Sherwood Drive between Westbourne Drive and West Knoll Drive and Rosewood Avenue between Huntly Drive and Westbourne Drive.
Meanwhile “speed lumps” will be tested on the 600-700 block of Huntley Drive, the 800-900 block of West Knoll Drive, the 1100-1200 block of Ogden Drive and the 1100-1200 block of Olive Drive. Speed lumps are like speed bumps, but have gaps in the middle to allow the tires of emergency vehicles to remain at road level and thus have less impact on their response time.
Bicycle Parking and Extended Noticing
The Council also unanimously approved a plan requiring new residential buildings to provide one bicycle parking space or storage locker for every two residential units in the building. In addition, new or expanding commercial buildings must provide one bicycle parking space or storage locker for each 7,500 square feet of floor space for employee use and a minimum of two bicycle parking spaces for customer use.
On a 3-2 vote, the Council approved a plan to extend the public noticing period from 10 to 28 days for smaller projects that do not come before the Planning Commission for final approval. Since these projects are approved at the staff level by the Director of the Planning and Developmental Services Department, the concern was the public may overlook them and need the extra time to respond. Mayor John Duran and Councilmember John D’Amico voted against the plan, believing the extended noticing was not needed.