VENICE- For eight months, Seattle artist Sean Tyrell has resided in a makeshift, two-story structure at the end of Thatcher Avenue, in front of the entrance to a maintenance yard destined to be the site of a permanent supportive housing project.
While other encampments around him were vacated into Project Roomkey and Homekey rooms and replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping installed by Oxford Triangle residents, Tyrell refused to move. In a March, 2021 interview on Facebook, he explained that, “When I moved to LA, I knew I needed a break. I needed to make money somehow and I hoped Covid would end within a month or two but it didn't. I was just glad I lived in a place where the weather was better than most places. If you’re homeless that really helps.”
The infamous now deceased #Thatcher “house” Thank you @LAPDHQ @LAPDPacific @LAPDOutreach @LAPDTransit @MayorOfLA @LACity @LACityCouncil for doing what @mikebonin should have done 10 months ago. Sorry but anyone can’t just build anything wherever they want. Next stop #venicebeach pic.twitter.com/tr9GFM761u— VENICEXIST (@VENICEXIST) April 21, 2021
After an unsuccessful month in a local Pod Share, Sean drove his custom-painted BMW into the Oxford Triangle and commenced building what he called his "artist studio", which ultimately evolved into a two-story wooden structure complete with an indoor stove and refrigerator (powered by cables to his car battery). "I’m legally here and I've obviously spent a lot of time investing in the structure," he stated, despite the fact that he was residing on a city-owned lot. At one point, he called the LAPD to report a break-in.
Another time, he blocked LAFD access to the lot with his car when their engines arrived for routine exercises. When the BMW was finally ticketed (the stretch of Thatcher Avenue south of Princeton has one hour parking during the day), he put a note on the windshield informing Parking Enforcement that he'd lost his keys and therefore the car (still powering his shack with its battery) could not be moved.
Meanwhile, the L.A.F.D. informed the city that the wooden structure, whose roof nearly reached electric lines above it, was a definite fire hazard. They were told multiple times that nothing could be done about the situation. Neighbors who called a variety of city agencies -- from LA Homeless Services Authority to Building and Safety -- were shuffled from one number to another, with the ultimate message also that nothing could be done about it. Even employees from Thomas Safran and Associates -- the developer of the soon-to-be Thatcher Yard Affordable Housing development -- contacted authorities to try to get Mr. Tyrell to move on.
Finally, 30 days ago, LAHSA told Sean Tyrell that his days in the shack were numbered. They offered him a room at a local hotel and gave him a month to leave. Last night, the BMW was towed away and Sean took off on a bicycle toward Washington Blvd., leaving behind his artwork and everything else in the shack. When LAPD and Sanitation arrived, news about the removal got out quickly in the tightly-knit Oxford Triangle, and a small crowd gathered to watch what they were starting to think might never happen, happen. At one point, an especially "woke" neighbor yelled at the crowd that they should be ashamed at themselves for this "illegal eviction", given that there is still moratorium against evictions in place (despite the fact that Mr. Tyrell wasn't actually paying rent). Heads shook; eyes rolled.
While the shack was systematically dismantled with a backhoe, Sean's artwork was carefully stacked against a fence, to be stored (as is required by law). Sean, however, was nowhere to be seen.