'The older folks . . . keep to themselves and try to stay away from the dope peddlers.'
--Resident John Davidson, 78
Peering from behind the mesh screen and iron bars that guard his den window, Warren Jason noticed a familiar figure across the street one hazy morning last week. Tall, slack-jawed and emaciated, with a pony tail protruding from his oversized baseball cap, the man simply stood there, hands thrust deep into the front pockets of faded denim jeans.
Jason recognized the man as one of his neighbors from the community of ramshackle bungalows and apartment buildings that surround DeLongpre Park on the east side of Hollywood.
Jason also recognized the man as a marijuana dealer.
"Get off the corner!" Jason screamed from the safety of his house. The man stared back silently for a moment, then shrugged and walked away.
"He's out there every day in broad daylight," Jason muttered, turning away from the window. "Him and all his dope-selling buddies. This neighborhood is just a marijuana supermarket."
The market is open long hours every day. The dealers rise early, taking to the street corners east of Highland Avenue and south of Sunset Boulevard by midmorning. Some come on foot and stay all day. Others roar through on motorcycles and in battered old cars, making a few sales before moving on. Twelve hours later, approaching midnight, the dealers are still going strong, whistling shrilly to each other outside Warren Jason's window, yelling out their prices whenever car-borne customers slow down to eye their foil-wrapped wares.
There are numerous other street corners in Hollywood known for their open-air narcotics traffic. But few have been as congested in recent years as the DeLongpre, where marijuana dealers rush out into the streets to hawk their merchandise, sometimes fighting each other to make a single sale.
And unlike most of Hollywood's other drug bazaars, the DeLongpre area may have a real chance to change. Despite its narcotics activity and a growing transient population, DeLongpre has been identified by the city's Community Redevelopment Agency as the last island of homeownership amid the densely packed tenant population of central Hollywood. City planners even talk of using tightened zoning and carefully applied government funding to shore up the area's dwindling number of single-family bungalows.
For now, though, the streets of DeLongpre belong to the marijuana dealers. Occasionally, their fiefdom is invaded by police sweeps, such as the highly publicized operation mounted May 3, when police suddenly set up wooden barricades and cordoned off a four-square-block area known among neighbors as "Drug Alley."
On the first night of the operation, dozens of policemen stood guard by the barricades, brandishing night sticks. Squinting in the glare of television cameras, they stopped and questioned anyone who entered. Suspected dealers were frisked and detained; at least 45 have been arrested since the blockade began.
But seven weeks later, the police guards are long gone. The barricades have been reduced to splinters, crushed and tossed aside by oncoming cars. And the marijuana dealers are returning.
Once again, nightly traffic jams build on the four streets that converge at "Drug Alley"--DeLongpre Avenue, McCadden Place, Leland Way and Las Palmas Avenue. Once again, teen-agers greet motorists with cries of "Dime bag! Dime bag!"
Once again, Warren Jason is screaming at his neighbors.
A black-bearded psychotherapist who maintains an office in his Las Palmas Avenue bungalow, Jason is precisely the sort of young, affluent homeowner city planners want to see flock into the DeLongpre area. But after spending seven years feuding with marijuana dealers and futilely pleading with police to take lasting action, Jason's patience has worn thin.
He has watched dealers hide bags of marijuana in his shrubbery. He has been kept up late at night, listening to them plot outside his window. He has heard one neighbor's tale of standing up to a dealer, only to end up stabbed in the back with a screwdriver.
"If I got the right kind of offer, I'd move out in a minute," he said. "I could probably live anywhere I wanted on the Westside, except maybe Beverly Hills. If someone offered a decent price, I'd take it. But who would be fool enough to want to buy my house?"
Vance Otis, a real estate broker who owns several houses in the DeLongpre area and has an office at DeLongpre and Highland Avenue, said that the continuing presence of marijuana dealers has frozen the area's housing market. "These homes just aren't salable," he said. "I'm obligated to tell potential customers about the situation here."
Warren Jason can contemplate moving out. But most of DeLongpre's other homeowners are either too old or too poor to uproot themselves. Like John and Flossie Davidson, who have lived in their McCadden Place bungalow for 38 years, most DeLongpre-area homeowners are anchored to their homes.