Occupy L.A. cost city $2.3 million; most of that will boost budget deficit
Occupy L.A.’s two-month encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall cost taxpayers at least $2.3 million, most of which will have to be added to the growing deficit in the city's current year budget, according to a report issued Friday.
The Los Angeles Police Department, which raided the camp Nov. 30 and arrested nearly 300 people, spent $1.2 million on time-and-a-half overtime pay as a result of the extended protest, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who wrote the report. Meanwhile, the General Services Department’s police force, which patrols city parks and buildings, racked up $335,000 in overtime during the encampment.
Of the $2.3 million, more than $590,000 would have been spent regardless of whether there was an occupation, Santana said. That means the Occupy expenditures added $1.7 million to a $72-million budget shortfall projected for the current year, said Santana.
“In isolation, the cost is manageable. But in the context of a $72-million problem, it only made our challenge bigger,” said Santana, the city’s top budget analyst.
Carlos Marroquin, an Occupy L.A. representative, called the report's figures “outrageous” and said the city should have been setting aside money for protests and other special events all along. Marroquin said such an intense police response was unnecessary and accused city leaders of trying to scapegoat the protesters.
“This was a peaceful movement,” he said. “They’re the ones that decided to use that amount of police, that amount of force.”
The price tag released Friday was smaller than that for the 2009 Michael Jackson memorial at Staples Center, which lasted one day and cost $3.2 million, Santana said. But it was on a par with the 2009 Lakers parade, which cost $1.7 million.
Demonstrators with Occupy L.A. erected tents and other displays outside City Hall as a way of protesting an array of economic issues, including income inequality and the decision by banks to foreclose on people’s homes. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council allowed the protest to stay put, choosing to not enforce a ban on sleeping overnight in city parks.
Santana’s three-page cost analysis did not include projections for the repair and replacement of the lawn outside City Hall. Jon Mukri, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, has put that expense at roughly $400,000, a figure Santana described as an “early rough estimate.”
Councilman Mitchell Englander, who had requested the financial analysis, said he expects that the cost of the event will exceed $3 million once City Hall Park repairs and others are made.
“This is a direct hit to all residents throughout Los Angeles,” said Englander, a Republican. “I’m disappointed that a few people who wanted to make a statement ended up costing taxpayers so much money at a time when L.A. doesn’t have the cash. Hopefully, now some of the council members who supported these efforts will realize there’s a cost to residents before they make these decisions in the future.”
Since the raid took place, the lawn outside City Hall has been closed off and surrounded by an 8-foot fence.
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Sanitation worker Gino Ramirez starts the daunting task of cleaning the Occupy L.A. encampment at City Hall. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times