At a special L.A. City Council meeting today (July 1) at City Hall, council members renewed the debate that had started on Tuesday that would allow residents and the handicapped equal access, with the homeless, to public space.
A draft ordinance requires a unanimous vote to be adopted on its first consideration. Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman voted no, which meant the motion was tabled until July 28, when the City Council returns from vacation.
The anti-camping motion had languished in the Homelessness and Poverty committee since November, but Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and John Lee used a procedural law, Rule #54, to bring the motion directly to the 15-member council on Tuesday. The council voted 13-2 to bring the motion out of the committee, but instead of voting on the motion, they directed City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office to draft a new motion.
At the time, Buscaino, who voted against the motion to draft a motion, said he doubted the city attorney would have the ordinance by Thursday and wanted to vote on the one that was available, now. Bonin and Raman also voted no.
If the motion, drafted by the city attorney, had passed today, homeless encampments would be banned from blocking the public right of way on sidewalks and doorways, and within 500 feet of sensitive locations like schools, parks, shelters and libraries.
The previous anti-camping laws that prohibited tents during daytime hours, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., would be enforced. Buffer zones around communities, such as bridge housing, would be enforced.
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: 1) death or serious bodily injury of any person at the location due to a hazardous condition; 2) repeated serious or violent crimes or threats of serious or violent crimes, including human trafficking; and 3) fires at the location.
Council President Nury Martinez gave an impassioned plea for members to vote in favor of the motion.
“I have been on this council for eight years and we continue to have the same conversation,” she said. “It’s time to take ownership of what’s on the streets. Let’s talk about when we’re going to get the mental health dollars, the detox dollars.”
She wondered why there was no outrage about that, and then continued, “What about the immigrants who come to this country with absolutely nothing, and bust their asses working to lift their families?” she asked. “Why don’t they have a right to a safe park? Why don’t they have a right to a safe library? Why can’t they enjoy a day in their neighborhoods if they don’t have the money to go to Disneyland?”
Councilman Bonin explained his objection to requiring homeless to share public space. “I know that my ‘no’ vote is unpopular but when I go home, I know where I can sleep. Everyone in Los Angeles deserves to know that—I’m a no vote.” (City Council hearings are televised and Bonin’s 10-minute speech on the subject is about at 2 hours, six minutes. One can listen to each Councilmember voice his/her thoughts on the subject during the nearly three-hour session.)
The other no vote, Nithya Raman, objected because she said, “We have to go through a deliberate process, but this was not it.”
Perhaps equally as interesting during the hearing were the public comments. Although some people are vulgar, and others appear to be “constant” callers to the City, others are thoughtful and present situations that the council might find illuminating.
But, during public comment, many councilmembers are not in chamber or appear to be chatting with aides or other city workers and not listening to the public. Most likely they may have missed some of these comments today.
“You keep talking about keeping the homeless safe. How about keeping the residents safe?” a woman said, noting that she had been assaulted by a homeless person.
“We have tried to get people off the streets. They don’t want to help. I’m a businessman and a RiteAid–on Sunset–they’re going to close because of the theft. Here’s a business that wants to be in Hollywood but can’t because of the thefts from the homeless.”
“I’ve walked into a McDonalds bathroom and seen a woman naked from the waist down cleaning herself in the sink. It’s not fair to frontline minimum wage workers to have to clean up after the homeless.”
“We must regulate public space. . . .You need to be sensible. Nonprofits have received billions with no metrics for success for helping the homeless.”
“This motion is pure criminalization. Meager housing offered is like prison conditions. What choice is it between jail and jail-like housing? To the anti-poor bigots on the line– children should understand poverty—sweeping poverty out of site only punishes brown, black and queer people and denies children the chance of learning empathy.”