City of Los Angeles tightens restrictions on homeless encampments

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 Thursday to tentatively approve an ordinance to restrict sleeping and homeless encampments in certain areas of the city, but the ordinance’s adoption was delayed because it required unanimous approval upon first consideration.

Councilman Mike Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman voted against the ordinance.

“What is wrong with this ordinance today and why am I voting against it? Because what we’re doing today, even as improved, tells people who are unhoused and unsheltered and have no place to go where they cannot sleep, but it does not tell them where they can sleep. That’s what it comes down to for me … where can people go, where can people sleep when they do not have an alternative,” Bonin said.

Bonin shared with council members his own experience being unhoused, saying, “some of those nights I slept in the car, some of those nights, when my car was in the shop, I slept on the beach. I cannot tell you how much turmoil is in your heart when the sun is setting and you don’t know where to sleep. I cannot tell you how demoralizing and dehumanizing and defeating that experience is when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep.”

He added that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said Thursday that the city only has enough beds to shelter 39% of the city’s homeless population.

The ordinance would prohibit sitting, sleeping, lying, storing personal property or otherwise obstructing the public right-of-way in several areas of the city including within two feet of any fire hydrant or fire plug, or within five feet of any operational or utilizable entrance or exit, or within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway, or in a manner that interferes with any activity for which the city has issued a permit, or in a manner that restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or anywhere within a street, including bike paths.

It would also obstruct the public right-of-way within 500 feet of a “sensitive” facility, including schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries.

The ordinance would also restrict blocking the public right-of-way once the Los Angeles City Council passes a resolution to do so, posts signage and gives notice in the following areas:

— up to 500 feet of a designated overpass, underpass, freeway ramp, tunnel, bridge, pedestrian bridge, subway, wash or spreading ground, railroad track or where lodging unsheltered or in tents is unhealthy, unsafe and incompatible with safe passage; and

— up to 1,000 feet of a facility opened after Jan. 1, 2018 that provides shelter, safe sleeping, safe parking or navigation centers for persons experiencing homelessness.

The ordinance would also allow the city to prevent encampments for a period of no longer than one year in areas that are deemed an ongoing threat to public health or safety, including due to:

— death or serious bodily injury of any person at the location due to a hazardous condition;

— repeated serious or violent crimes or threats of serious or violent crimes, including human trafficking; and

— fires at the location.

The City Council on Tuesday, when passing a motion to request the city attorney draft the ordinance, also instructed the city administrative officer to develop and implement a Street Engagement Strategy within 30 days to offer people suitable and available overnight shelter, interim or permanent housing.

The motion also instructed all relevant city departments to minimize engagement between law enforcement and people experiencing homelessness by:

— ensuring that service providers lead the Street Engagement Strategy and that people are offered interim or permanent housing services, treatment programs or other available interventions;

— deploying available alternative-to-policing models, including interventionists and experts in conflict resolution; and

— limiting law enforcement engagement to only where there is criminal behavior or activity and circumstances with a serious threat to public health or safety.

Several people called into the City Council meeting to voice support and opposition for the ordinance.

Zachary Warma, legislative affairs manager for the Downtown Women’s Center, said “Implementing restrictions without first providing clarity as to how we are engaging unhoused residents and where they can ultimately go increases the odds of displacement, further traumatization, while putting housing and personal stability out of reach.”

He asked the City Council to amend the ordinance to be contingent on developing “a robust street engagement strategy.”

The Services Not Sweeps Coalition held a rally outside City Hall to oppose the ordinance.

“We reject this motion and demand that all processes involved in propelling it forward be halted immediately. We demand that the City Council and Mayor’s office instead invest their time and legislative power into programs that provide a healthy and safe living environment for our unhoused communities while they are on the streets, and focus on providing transitional/permanent housing opportunities that meet a high standard of living,” the coalition said in a statement.

“When has criminalizing homelessness ever solved the problem?” asked one woman who called in the City Council meeting and said she was at the rally outside City Hall.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, one of the leaders of the motion to request the ordinance, responded to people alleging that the ordinance would criminalize homelessness by saying:

“This ordinance first of all does not make homelessness illegal. It does not criminalize homelessness. It does not make any conduct that is fundamental to being human illegal. What it does do is it guarantees that we will reestablish passable sidewalks. It protects the users of our public infrastructure and the unhoused residents of our city from being put into positions of interaction with automobiles, around loading docks, driveways and so forth. It guarantees access to our fire hydrants, entrances to buildings.”

Others called into the City Council meeting to voice support for the ordinance, saying the street encampments have become out of control.

“It is unacceptable that city leaders allow such encampments so close to schools and other enriching locations in our city. The impression on young minds is lasting,” one caller said.

Nicole Mihalka, chair of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, called into the City Council meeting to call the encampments “untenable” for businesses and children, and asked the City Council to pass the ordinance and ensure strict enforcement.

Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas and Marqueece Harris-Dawson introduced an amendment, which was adopted, to request monthly reports from the police and fire departments, as well as the Bureau of Sanitation on race, gender, location and type of enforcement when any enforcement occurs in the city pursuant to the ordinance.

The motion to request the ordinance was introduced as a substitute motion to a stricter anti-camping draft ordinance that was stalled in the Homelessness and Poverty Committee since November. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor partly on an agenda to enforce the city’s anti-camping laws, invoked a rarely used rule last Wednesday to have the council pull the draft ordinance from committee.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who said that draft ordinance would allow a “draconian response” to homelessness, introduced the substitute motion to request the new ordinance with Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmen Ridley-Thomas, Mitch O’Farrell, Bob Blumenfield and Kevin de Leon.

The city’s current anti-camping ordinance, which has not been enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, prohibits tents during daytime hours, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. On June 9, Buscaino requested that the council amend the mayor’s Declaration of Local Emergency and resume enforcement of the current anti- camping ordinance.

The ordinance will be reviewed during City Council’s next working week, which will likely be when it returns from recess on July 27.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-07-01-2021 13:12

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WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
4 months ago

Tell the people on the Council to WALK Weho and LA for a month. See how it “feels” to be threatened and verbally and physically assaulted by mentally ill, alcohol, cannabis, drug addicted, and sick people who are on our walkways, parks, buses, and even in our driveways. My last assault was walking out of my driveway and thanks to a dog walking neighbor – I was not hurt by the person throwing something at me but was scared from the “out of no where” screaming at me. I called the WeHo Ambassadors for help as I ditched into my… Read more »

RJH
RJH
4 months ago

All the homeless people need assistance and the difficult part is all of them need unique and individualized assistance. This won’t be accomplished by leaving them on the streets and it is unfair to those of us who are residents in the area. I am willing to pay to house them and provide assistance. What I am not willing to do is allow them to live on our public sidewalks, parks and on our beaches and freeways! None of these should be options! It is either go into housing and mental and drug treatment programs or go to jail. Simple.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by RJH
Jamie Francis
Jamie Francis
5 months ago

What is troubling is that many of the homeless that have inundated this area of west hollywood/greater hollywood have been erratic, with violent fits due to their drugs and mental illness and as we see are directed at the community at large. 10 years ago exactly this month an erratic homeless white man threw a 12 inch rusted wrench at my head, luckily with peripheral vision I was able to move my head otherwise I would’ve had a severe head injury. 6 years ago a homeless erratic black man on the metro bus punched me in the face for sitting… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Jamie Francis
Jose
Jose
5 months ago

Sick to death of this Far Left San Francisco style spiral into a Third World slum. These pompous hypocrites live NO WHERE NEAR the sh*t and filth these druggies bring with them when they take over a street. This Far Left experiment has nothing to do with helping people. Democrats destroyed San Francisco, which has become a failed city, as is Portland, Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and LA as they become host to the largest illegal alien populations in the nation (aided by Super rich Democrat’s lust to steal House Seats based on total pop.) SPEAK UP for poor Americans… Read more »

Spencer
Spencer
5 months ago

What’s Weho’s plan to stop our new $150M park from becoming a homeless hangout?

Reality
Reality
5 months ago
Reply to  Spencer

It may become the Country Club for the MTA Parking Lot Ghetto, swimming pool and all.

JJ1
JJ1
5 months ago
Reply to  Reality

Yup.

JJ1
JJ1
5 months ago

We have made living on the streets an accepted alternate lifestyle. I like Ham’s idea below. The vast majority of “homeless“ are drug addicts, alcoholics, or people with mental illness. They are not in the position to except “bridge housing.” They need to get treatment to be on the path to be a productive part of society. They aren’t looking for an affordable house. They need treatment and we are not making sure they get the treatment they don’t even realize they need. Work to change the laws. Build treatment facilities. Enforce the law.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
5 months ago

The city of Los Angeles has a yearly budget of over $600 million to address the homeless crisis. On top of that, a a bond issuance brought in $1.2 billion to go toward constructing an estimated 10,000 housing units over the next decade. Year after year…..we see zero change in the situation. The answer is quite simple…..mandate that all hospitals in CA have Psych beds (Cedars Sinai has no psych beds). Enforce the law that sleeping in public is unlawful…..and force those doing so to receive treatment and in exchange for doing so receive basic housing and support to re-enter society.… Read more »

08mellie
08mellie
5 months ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Ham,
Support your comments completely, however, we are now threatened by opening up the MTA parking lot as a homeless camp. WHY? WHCC is not paying attention to residents. Mayor wants a BIG job at our expense.

JJ1
JJ1
5 months ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Good idea

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
5 months ago

The political establishment, and the citizenry at large have an unfortunate and immoral “head in their ass” approach to homelessness. The problem doesn’t go away by making it illegal, or pushing it elsewhere. There are zero profiles in courage when it comes to tackling this crisis of humanity.

Reality
Reality
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

This could possibly be construed as criminal negligence on the part of whatever singular an/or collective jurisdictions and they should be held accountable for allowing this to fester and expand exponentially.

In West Hollywood there is also an appearance of enabling present and potential drug/alcohol/cannabis abuse contributing to a never ending cycle. Money will not likely provide the solution as even though money may be available there are no critical thinkers that can implement solutions.

William Seegmiller
William Seegmiller
5 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Well put Alan, and the research data tends to confirm your point.

Evidence-based care and policies are being championed by people like Mike Bonin yet he faces recall and is blamed for the crisis by uninformed voters.

Housing first, harm reduction and compassion-centered services work. I’m not a woke liberal bleeding heart, just a public health professional paying attention.

Last edited 5 months ago by William Seegmiller
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