LA City Council Votes to Ban Homeless Encampments Near Schools – Los Angeles

The Los Angeles City Council approved Friday’s ordinance banning homeless encampments less than 500 feet from schools and daycare centers. It was a noisy meeting that was frequently interrupted by shouting from the crowd.

The council approved the motion on a 10-1 vote with Mike Bonin disapproving. After the council’s summer recess, the matter will be re-voted by the council on July 27.

This ordinance amends the city’s broad law that regulates the location of homeless encampments. Municipal Code 41.18 states that it is against the law to sit, lie, or block the public right-of-way in many areas of the city.

These areas include the area within 2 feet from any fire hydrant, fire plug, or operational entrance or exit; the area within 10 feet or less of a loading dock, driveway; and any other location within a street or bike path.

The law protects the public right-of-way within 500 feet of “sensitive” facilities like schools, daycare facilities, parks, and libraries. However, the council must be notified of each location for enforcement.

The tentative Friday approval of the amendment, which was approved by the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee last week, includes a blanket ban on encampments less than 500 feet from all schools.

Many speakers spoke at the council meeting, on both sides of this issue. Opponents blasted the move as criminalizing homelessness. One speaker described it as an example of the city’s “cruelty” against the homeless population.

“This isn’t about fixing homelessness. One opponent stated that it was about aesthetics.

Others criticized it as an expansion of an already restrictive ordinance that restricted the movement of homeless people in need of housing and services.

Supporters of the ordinance, which include some parents and school workers said it is a safety issue for children who have to walk past encampments while walking to class. The council was told by a parent and a school worker that it would “help reduce the risk that my students and their families face every day because of the criminal activities that have been occurring.”

The school principal informed the council that students are exposed to unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the encampments.

Bonin, who opposed the measure, suggested that it would just move the homeless around. He also said, “Making the homeless less visible doesn’t make them disappear.”

“In some ways we actually make it worse,” he said. “People are actually disconnected from housing and other services when they are displaced.

Paul Krekorian (Councilman) and Mitch O’Farrell (Councilman) voted in favor of the ordinance. This was despite opposition claims that the council is trying to cover up homelessness and not address it through housing and other services.

Numerous opponents to the measure started shouting in the audience while the councilmen spoke. Council President Nury Martinez issued warnings, and ordered that at least three people be expelled from the council chamber. Krekorian and O’Farrell, both visibly angry, stated that the conduct was indicative of the “bullying” tactics employed by some organizations.

O’Farrell accused them both of spreading “disinformation.”

“You can protest all you want, but it doesn’t change the truth,” O’Farrell said. “The truth is that housing people is what the city does. It is our main focus.

Krekorian said, “These bullies that want to disrupt our company do not want us to acknowledge that kind success.”

“We need to move forward with common-sense solutions,” he said. “With this change, we are not criminalizing homelessness in any way. “We are taking the necessary steps to restore some sanity and civility on our streets while at the same time protecting the young people in this city.”

Joe Buscaino, Councilman, suggested the idea of an “encampment ban” near schools last school year. But it never gained momentum. This issue was revived this year partly due to the efforts of Alberto Carvalho (Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent), who stated that teachers, principals, and parents expressed concern about homeless encampments close to campuses.

“I’ve seen elementary schools where conditions are unacceptable for children. Carvalho stated that individuals suffering from mental illness, some completely unclothed, were shouting obscenities in the ears of children.

Buscaino is on the Homelessness and Poverty Committee. He stated last week that approval of the amendment will “ensure our most sacred places, our playgrounds and schools are safe.”

The existing city ordinance also prohibits sleeping in the city.

  • You can stay up to 500ft from a designated underpass, overpass, freeway ramp or tunnel.
  • Up to 1,000 feet from a facility which provides shelter, safe sleeping or safe parking for people experiencing homelessness, after January 1, 2018.

The ordinance allows the city’s to ban encampments for no more than a year in areas deemed to be a threat to public health and safety.

  • A hazardous condition can lead to the death or serious bodily harm of anyone who visits that location.
  • Multiple serious or serious crimes, or threats of such crimes, including human traficking;
  • Place fires.

Violations of the ordinance can result in a citation or infraction. But, “a person who willfully resists or delays or obstructs any city employee from enforcing that section or who willfully refuses comply after being asked to do so by an authorized employee of the city” could face increased fines and a misdemeanor offense, according to the ordinance.

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