LA May Ban Camping

AP and Observer Staff

7/1/21: The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance today making it illegal to pitch tents on most sidewalks, beneath overpasses and near parks, elementary schools, day care centers and libraries. However, the consensus item must still be approved by all 15 members of the Council.

Sponsor Joel Buscaino described the measure as a humane way to get people off streets and restore access to public spaces. It includes no penalties or enforcement mechanism.

Homelessness has become a crisis of "epic proportions,” the measure says.

Recall elections of City Councilman Mike Bonin, Gov. Gavin Newsom and DA George Gascon have focused on the homeless crisis. Bonin was one of two council members to vote against the measure.

“I can’t think of any reason why we would not unite in support of what the people of Los Angeles want us to do," said Councilman Paul Krekorian, coauthor of the measure. "Restore order to our streets, while also uplifting and providing services to those in need.”

Among other limits, the ordinance that passed 13-2 would ban sitting, lying, sleeping or storing personal property on sidewalks that block handicap access, near driveways and within 500 feet of schools, day care centers, libraries or parks.

Cities such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Malibu already have camping ordinances, which are enforced here.

The measure, which won't take effect until a second vote next month, replaces a more punitive anti-camping proposal that had stalled in a committee. Police would only get involved if there's a crime, and people who resist leaving would be cited for an infraction instead of getting arrested for a misdemeanor.

The majority of callers during a limited public comment period spoke in support of the measure, describing homeless encounters that included assaults, break-ins and one explaining how children walking to school are forced into a busy street to avoid tents that crowd sidewalks.

People who opposed the measure, including a couple who used profanity, said it lacked compassion and would criminalize a problem the city has failed to solve.

An advocate for the homeless said the measure is loosely written to allow broad interpretation for enforcement and will make most of the city off-limits to people living on the street.

“Draconian is definitely the correct word,” said Pete White of the LA Community Action Network. “I think it’s impossible to comply.”

White said that an ordinance that limited where people could park RVs and sleep in cars overnight left little more than 5% of streets available for parking.

Homelessness remains near the top of political agendas across California.


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