It appears that L.A. City officials are starting to realize that the homeless encampments located under freeway overpasses, on sidewalks impeding the public right away and in hillside brush in outlying areas, need to be dealt with. There are an estimated 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County.
The latest development in this crisis involves an anti-camping ordinance written by City Attorney Mike Feuer and proposed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield and considered by the Los Angeles City Council on October 28. The ordinance would bar people from sitting, lying down or bunking near schools, parks or daycare centers. (Visit Section 41.18 (https://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2020/20-1376_ord_draft_10-26-2020.pdf to read the full draft of the ordinance.)
Tents could not be set up near shelters or other facilities serving homeless people that have opened in recent years.
Those sleeping on the streets would have to keep clear from right-of-ways such as driveways and loading docks and leave enough room for wheelchair users to pass (as per the Americans with Disabilities Act).
Additionally, authorities would be able to remove homeless camps if the transients are first offered shelter as an alternative to sleeping on the street.
Councilman Mike Bonin was quick to suggest this would not work and offered an alternative. In a November 7 email to his constituents, he wrote: “The way to get people off the streets is through housing, shelter and services, not legislative fiats that delay progress, drain resources and make the problem worse.”
Los Angeles had a law since 1968 that regulated sleeping on the sidewalks, but it was negated by a 2018 federal appeals court ruling that said people cannot be cited for camping on sidewalks unless there is adequate shelter space for them.
When Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked about the issue (during a recent Covid briefing), he said he would have to look at the measure carefully before deciding to support it or veto the Blumenfield/Feuer proposal.
Blumenfield said that any citywide ban would go into effect once there is a system to track shelter availability.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Blumenfield said: “We have to have a system that says, ‘We have the beds, and here’s where they are. Down the road we can say to the people on the streets, ‘Here’s an alternative to sleeping on concrete tonight.’”
The AP reported that more than 40 homeless advocates, who strongly opposed the measure, protested outside City Hall during the meeting.
In Bonin’s email (“Taking on the Status Quo”), he wrote: “We absolutely must break through the cycle of failed policies. I am going to continue to push for the smart resources we need to offer housing to those living on the street. We have shown time and again that when we offer unhoused people an alternative to life on the street, they are eager to take that opportunity.”
That is not exactly true. The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness has found that people who are down on their luck or suffering economic hardship are generally willing to take the offer of services.
Those with mental issues in Pacific Palisades, such as Timmy (now deceased), Ruby or Margaret, refuse services and housing and elect to stay on the streets.
Many of the transients with substance abuse, when asked if they would like services, elect to leave the Palisades area, where they are not tracked by social workers offering help.
The final vote on this proposed change to the city code has been delayed until November 24.
(Editor’s note: The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness will host a community Zoom meeting on November 16. The topic is “A Conundrum: Helping Mentally Ill Homeless People.” To register for the 7 p.m. meeting, visit: pptfh.org.)