The City Council approved 12-3 to have the City Attorney pen a new anti-camping ordinance, that will be voted on Thursday.
Today’s meeting started with virtual public comment. During the half-hour allotted for comment, the majority of calls focused on the anti-camping ordinance.
During the pandemic, the City of Los Angeles suspended its camping ordinance, which prohibited tents on streets and sidewalks during daytime hours, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A stricter draft anti-camping ordinance went before the Homelessness and Poverty Committee last November 30, where it languished.
In response, on June 23, Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee invoked Rule #54, which took the proposed ordinance from the Committee and moved it to the Council agenda.
The first two callers noted that some sort of law needs to be on the books, and then a few people called in against any ordinances that regulated camping or banning locations where the homeless could camp.
One caller claimed that this motion was supported by those who don’t want to see homelessness in their neighborhood.
Another woman yielded her time to a homeless man, who said this motion brought him back to his youth, when he was also homeless and police were always telling him to move on. He said that now, “It’s either jails or shelters, which is not much of an option.”
A couple of men vented on individual councilmembers, before another public speaker pointed out this motion is needed because it will “Help get the resistant into housing.”
Another public comment, ended with the person calling the City Council “This is the L.A. sleazy council of corruption.”
A person who said their name was Maybe A Girl and who identified as she/her, they/them and said she was a member of the Silverlake Neighborhood Council, said this motion was “Illegal for the cruel and unusual punishment.”
After public comment ceased, the council took up the motion invoking Rule #54, that would take it out of committee and bring it before the full council.
Councilman Joe Busciano explained that there is an urgent need for Los Angeles to adopt new laws regulating the use of shared public spaces. “We are failing everyone, housed and unhoused,” he said. “We are failing in public safety. This is not compassionate, this is reckless.”
He said that cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Monica, Inglewood and Compton all have anti-camping ordinances.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is chair of the homeless committee, objected to this motion being pulled out of committee. Councilmember Kevin De Leon also said it should have stayed in committee because “process-wise this is poor form.”
The first vote was whether this should be before the Council and the vote was 13 aye and 2 no. (Eight votes were required to pull it out of the committee.)
Then, councilmembers were told that this amendment to the previous ordinance addressed the issues that would keep a buffer zone around schools and libraries, that homeless individuals would not be allowed to block sidewalks, loading docks, streets or businesses.
No encampments would be allowed outside of bridge housing. “A buffer zone around shelters is essential,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said, and then told his fellow councilmembers, “There are dangerous encampments in your districts, and they present a grave danger to those living there.”
Ridley-Thomas disagreed with enforcement. “Before the unhoused are removed, they should be thoughtfully engaged,” he said. “This is a vehicle to further marginalize those that are houseless. I believe the unhoused should have a right to housing.” He wanted the council to look at a substitute motion.
Councilman Mike Bonin agreed with Ridley-Thomas, saying that there were some elements he supported, such as no encampments by schools, but “I don’t understand the eagerness to jump into this. . . for me to consider it, I need to see a map of what is prohibited. I don’t want people living in parks, in bike lanes, but we need to know where they can go.” He also pointed out that “We are not enforcing ADA now.”
Councilmembers then passed a substitute motion (12-3) that instructed the city attorney to write an ordinance that would allow the City to “maintain passable sidewalks and access points by preventing sitting, sleeping, lying, storing personal property or otherwise obstructing the public right-of-way 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.”
Councilman Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman voted no.
Buscaino also voted against it, because he doubted the city attorney would have the ordinance by Thursday and wanted to vote on the one that was available, now. “If the thing comes before us on Thursday, I’ll be the first to vote yes, but I’m skeptical,” Buscaino said.
Bonin’s staff may be happy if there is a quick result. Today someone sent Circling the News an email from his Westchester office: