The Los Angeles City Council gave a final approval for a sweeping homeless encampment ban on Wednesday nearly a month after initially being approved by the Council.
The now-approved ordinance bans lying, sitting, sleeping, and storing personal property on public land that blocks sidewalks, streets, and bike lanes, driveways, freeway overpasses, and on-ramps. Homeless encampments will also not be allowed within 500 feet of a “sensitive facility” such daycare centers, driveways, fire hydrants, homeless shelters, libraries, schools, libraries, and parks.
Since the last ordinance approval meeting on July 1st, the punishment for breaking the ordinance was also decided on, with the homeless not to be arrested but fined only after they are given two weeks notice and offered shelter.
The ordinance managed to push through on Wednesday due to the high amount of support from council members. While a 13-2 vote on July 1st had pushed the ordinance to another vote on Wednesday, the ordinance only needed 8 votes to pass on its second vote, easily being approved the second time around.
Opponents to the ordinance decried its passage on Wednesday and have urged outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti not to sign it. Many claim that the ordinance only criminalizes homelessness rather than ending it.
“This ordinance just pushes homeless people out of the some last remaining areas that they can camp, and on public land no less,” explained Los Angeles homeless outreach coordinator Dina Trafford to the Globe on Wednesday. “Where are they supposed to go now if the city isn’t building more housing for them?”
Others, such as Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who has now twice voted against the ordinance, said that the ordinance will only make it more competitive for districts to move homeless people out and that it ignores longer-term cures such as housing and outreach.
“Politics has an unhealthy influence on homelessness policy in LA. This ordinance will make it worse,” tweeted Raman on Wednesday. “Addressing homelessness requires a consistent, citywide approach to setting rules and sharing resources. But we don’t have that in LA. Homelessness policy is totally different depending on what council district you’re in — even what block you’re on. That’s because of politics.”
Today, City Council will vote again on an ordinance limiting where people who are homeless can sit, lie, or sleep.
I'm voting no, and I want to highlight one reason why.
Politics has an unhealthy influence on homelessness policy in LA. This ordinance will make it worse.(thread)
— Nithya Raman (@nithyavraman) July 28, 2021
“There is no citywide system for sanitation, services, enforcement, or anything else related to homelessness. Each Councilmember has been given almost complete control over homelessness policy in their district. It’s a disjointed approach — and it has produced disastrous results. Because we set homelessness policy in our own districts, Councilmembers end up competing for scarce resources, implementing redundant services, and shuffling encampments from place to place. Today’s ordinance will entrench that dysfunctional dynamic.”
“This ordinance gives CMs the ability to ban camping in large parts of their districts. CMs who get more complaints will feel pressure to make homelessness illegal in as much of their own turf as possible — which will lead people to move elsewhere — potentially other districts. Real solutions — housing, outreach, and services — take time and money. None of it is easy to do. But that’s exactly what we *need* to be doing, not enacting harmful and illusory quick fixes.”
Ordinance proponents celebrate final passage
However, proponents have praised the ordinance, with many noting that the unchecked homeless population has damaged and destroyed many places where large encampments were built, including in Echo Park where the homeless were expelled in a massive sweep in April.
“Notice the wording only listed public or city lands,” LA parks activist Lawton Colfax, who has helped lead signature campaigns to remove the homeless from city parks in the past, told the Globe on Wednesday. “They are being criminalized and they aren’t being told they can’t go to other areas. These are just areas where they are either in danger or would block others from utilizing those areas. A lot of us tend to think of it this way. You reserve a city tennis court or use a park basketball hoop for an hour or two. You don’t just stay there and hog the area for days or weeks or months on end. It’s everyone’s to use. This law just helps enforce that.”
Councilman Paul Krekorian, who helped lead the charge to pass the ordinance, also said that the ordinance doesn’t criminalize homelessness and actually helps them by offering them shelter.
“This ordinance does not make homelessness illegal,” explained Krekorian on Wednesday. “It does not criminalize homelessness. It does not make any conduct that is fundamental to being human illegal. What it does do is it guarantees that we will reestablish passable sidewalks. It protects the users of our public infrastructure and the unhoused residents of our city from being put into positions of interaction with automobiles, around loading docks, driveways and so forth. It guarantees access to our fire hydrants, entrances to buildings.”
The ordinance is expected to be signed into city law by Mayor Garcetti in the coming weeks. Once signed, the new law will go into effect after 30 days.
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