Los Angeles is cracking down on its sprawling homeless encampments with a new ordinance banning camping under freeways, parks or near schools, and can’t take over sidewalks.
The motion, which was passed by 12 votes to three by Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, would also seek to ban tents from blocking sidewalks.
It aims to allow regular LA citizens to reclaim their city which has been taken over by the tent cities during the past five years when homelessness has doubled to around 15,000.
‘(Residents) want to be able to use their parks and their sidewalks and their libraries,’ Councilman Paul Krekorian, who coauthored the proposal, told the LA Times.
‘They want to be able to go into the entrance of their business. They want to be able to know that when they pull into a parking lot, they don’t have to worry about running someone over when they’re going through the driveway.’
However critics slammed the move as ‘reckless’, and demanded to know where the homeless people were expected to go after they were moved on from their current camps.
Councilmembers voted Tuesday to instruct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that is expected to face another vote on Thursday.
Encampments would be banned within specific distances from areas such as schools, parks, libraries, freeways, homeless shelters and other locations
According to figures from the Los Angeles Police Department provided to the Venice Neighborhood Council, the violent robberies in Venice Beach are up 177% from last year
It would limit people from camping on sidewalks in ways that prevent wheelchairs users from traveling on them – a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. It will also prevent sleeping, lying or storing possessions near public areas such as schools, parks, libraries, freeways, and homeless shelters.
The ordinance is considered to be a more balanced approach than an unpopular motion, introduced by Councilmember Joe Buscaino in November, which suggested a city-wide ban on all homeless camps.
The new motion only bans camps in certain areas, and limits the involvement of law enforcement. It will also require a 14 day notice that camping is barred in a particular location and seek to have homeless people comply voluntarily.
The substitute motion, co-introduced by Councilman Paul Krekorian, (pictured) is being looked at as a more humane alternative to an anti-camping ordinance proposed by Councilmember Joe Buscaino in November
Official figures suggest there are about 15,000 chronically homeless people in L.A. County
A sheriff deputy from the Homeless Outreach Services Teams, encourages someone to leave the homeless encampment along the Venice Boardwalk in Los Angeles on June 8
A homeless camp under the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. Freeways would be one of the areas camps are banned from under the ordinance
L.A City Council districts include Hollywood, Venice, Echo Park, Sherman Oaks and Skid Row, one of the most famously troubled neighborhoods in all of America.
Homelessness has DOUBLED in LA in past five years as the city struggles to combat the humanitarian crisis
Los Angeles has been ravaged by its homeless crisis for the last decade, with the number of homeless people rising steadily from around 40,000 in 2011.
In the last year, homelessness increased by 12.7 per cent in LA County because there aren’t enough homes people can afford, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
More than 63,000 people are homeless in LA County, the authority reports.
The issue is most visible in downtown LA, where hundreds of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row.
Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall and encampments are increasingly found in suburban areas under freeway overpasses.
In 2015, City Council members and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that they would declare an emergency locally.
However the proposal was abandoned because the mayor wanted a statewide declaration from then California Governor Jerry Brown, who refused the request.
Four years ago, LA voters then approved a tax hike and $1.2 billion housing bond to channel investments into helping solve the homeless crisis.
That bond money has so far been used to build more than half of the 10,000 new housing units planned countywide over 10 years – but housing is still in short supply.
In 2018, LA declared a shelter crisis, which reduced construction hurdles around developing emergency beds on public land.
Then in 2019, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Joe Buscaino put forward a proposal calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency over the crisis – a call that never materialized.
Three council members-Mike Bonin, Nithya Raman and Joe Buscaino, who is running for L.A mayor- voted against the measure, saying they wanted a map to know where they city’s 20,000 homeless would actually go.
‘This is not compassionate or progressive, it’s reckless. In fact, some of the most progressive cities in the state of California have a form of anti-camping ordinance,’ Buscaino said of the substitute motion.
‘This is a law that impacts every resident of this city and right now. I feel like I’m making a decision on this law without the information I need to understand the impacts of this law,’ Councilwoman Raman said.
‘If we don’t have the 20,000 beds where are people left to go?’ Councilman Bonin asked.
Councilman Ridley-Thomas said the city’s homeless population needs public housing alternatives before they are restricted from occupying public property.
Under the measure, officials will be instructed to develop a strategy that would include offering overnight shelter, interim housing or permanent housing to people who had been staying in areas where camping will be restricted, KTLA reported.
Ridley-Thomas said the measure would ensure that city officials craft a ‘street engagement strategy’ within 30 days that would limit interactions between law enforcement and homeless people, except in cases when a major crime is being committed.
‘If we truly want to make a significant impact in addressing the moral crisis of our time that is homelessness, the solution does not lie in criminalizing our unhoused neighbors for occupying public spaces, it lies in scaling up sustainable solutions to transition Angelenos safely indoors, while also ensuring that our streets remain clean and accessible -and this first begins with a ‘Right to Housing,” Ridley-Thomas said in a written statement.
A report released earlier this year by the University of California in Los Angeles found homeless rates had increased by 50% in five years.
It found the economic fallout of the pandemic has left many more low-income residents on the brink of housing insecurity.
Official figures suggest there are about 15,000 chronically homeless people in L.A. County.
When ‘couch surfers’ and others who bounce in and out of homelessness, are included, that figure balloons to 66,000.
Dan Flaming, president of the Economic Roundtable, has projected that figure will nearly double in the next four years.
‘That would be catastrophic for us,’ Flaming told ABC7 in January.
According to figures from the Los Angeles Police Department provided to the Venice Neighborhood Council, the violent robberies in the Venice Beach neighborhood are up 177% from last year.
The same period has also seen a 162% increase in cases of assault with a deadly weapon involving a homeless person.
‘Violent and property crime have increased in neighborhoods surrounding these dangerous encampments, and yet we continue to delay action on this common-sense ordinance while the city literally burns around us,’ Councilman Buscaino said.