The solution emerged in the metro – but it isn’t new.
If you’ve been to Los Angeles recently, chances are you’ve noticed the city’s growing wealth disparity.
As of 2022, Los Angeles had the highest homeless population at 65,111 people, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
LA Tries to Solve Its Growing Homeless Crisis
During covid, LA officials tried to relocate its growing homeless population to places like safe houses and hotels in order to prevent the spread of infection. Now that the pandemic has waned, however, unhoused individuals are back on the streets and seeking shelter in places like local metro stops.
Now, as fewer LA residents opt to take the metro due to mounting crime and overdoses underground, the city is trying to clean up its stations.
Take, for example, the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro, which has been blasting classical music at elevated volumes in an attempt to drive out its homeless squatters. Reports that the station is also using bright floodlights inside the station (ostensibly to prevent sleeping and other shady activities) have also emerged.
The measures may seem cruel; some may say they’re too drastic or even a roundabout way to solve an issue law enforcement should be permitted to handle. But the LA Times calls the measure a “pilot program that L.A. Metro operations and security, in cooperation with law enforcement,” have been testing since January.
Many critics say the solution is hardly one, and does little to actually solve the underlying problem.
LA Classical Music Gets Pushback
Metro told the LA Daily News that its program is intended “to create an atmosphere that is comfortable for spending short amounts of time transiting through our station, but not conducive to hours-long loitering.”
But some people aren’t buying it, arguing it’s torturous and inhumane.
“You’re trying to attract and make certain people feel comfortable based on the associations with classical music,” musicologist Lily Hirsch told the LA Times, saying LA was creating “hierarchies of sound.”
“And you see that in fancy cheese shops that play classical music because they hope people will feel like they’re a part of some elite upscale world and then they’ll spend more money,” Hirsch continued, noting, “It’s like a bird marking its territory where you hear the signal and you go, ‘OK, this is not for me. This is for the older money crowd.'”
LA’s so-called classical music solution isn’t new to the city. The city has been reportedly implementing the same tactics outside of local 7/11 convenience stores since 2019 (pre-pandemic), ostensibly to prevent the same issues with little to no results.
The number of unsheltered homeless people has increased by 6% since the beginning of the pandemic. In some areas of LA, the number of unhoused individuals has gone up or down by as much as 24% month-to-month during the pandemic due to cleanup efforts, but officials note the numbers routinely swell.