L.A.’s New Rules On Encampments Limit Role Of Law Enforcement, Seek Voluntary Compliance From Homeless
A homeless woman pushes her belongings past a row of tents on the streets of Los Angeles, California on February 1, 2021.
Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The Los Angeles City Council approved a new ordinance on Thursday that replaces existing rules “to specify the particular times and locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep, or to store, use, maintain, or place personal property in the public right-of-way.”

The move comes after L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized local elected officials for failing to adjust strategies to address homelessness and began to institute his incremental plan to clear camps lining the famous Venice Beach boardwalk last month. According to Villanueva, city leaders have “handcuffed” the LAPD, which patrols the area, with lax policies that have prevented officers from enforcing the law.

The Los Angeles Times reports council members voted 13-2 to pass anti-camping restrictions that prohibit people from pitching tents “near homeless shelters, daycare centers, and an array of other public facilities,” including freeways, libraries, and parks.

Additionally, the ordinance bans occupying space within ten feet of a driveway, five feet of a building entrance or exit, or two feet of any fire hydrant.

Opponents said the process lacked transparency, as councilmembers had abruptly decided on Tuesday to have the city’s lawyers quickly draft the new law.

According to the Times, “Backers of the ordinance said it would restore access to public spaces in a way that is compassionate, limiting the involvement of law enforcement and labeling most violations as infractions that would result in fines, not jail time.”

The outlet reported it would also “require 14 days notice that camping is barred in a particular location and seek to have homeless people comply voluntarily.”

On Wednesday, Sheriff Villanueva mocked the proposal during an Instagram Live broadcast.

“We’ve seen ten years of people complying voluntarily,” he said. “How is that working out for you?”

Villanueva pointed out that the ordinance called for “a trauma-informed approach” that requires “a Street Engagement Strategy.” He read passages from an L.A. Times article that reported, “the proposal would eliminate language prohibiting people from sitting, sleeping or lying on a public sidewalk if they have already been offered shelter.”

Homeless advocacy organizations and a coalition of progressive activist groups rallied against the ordinance in front of City Hall before Thursday’s vote, including Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, the Democratic Socialists of America’s L.A. chapter, and People’s City Council-L.A.

They called the proposal “the criminalization ordinance,” accusing the council of implementing a confusing procedural rule “preventing public scrutiny or comment on the motion prior to the vote.”

“This was a quick and hasty process, and it was done behind closed doors,” said Councilmember Nithya Raman, a socialist who voted against the ordinance. She was served with a recall notice three weeks ago.

According to the Times, “The anti-camping ordinance cannot go into effect until council members cast a second vote, which is expected to take place at the end of the month.” In addition, the outlet notes, “It would also need Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signature and several weeks of procedural tasks to occur.”

Garcetti reportedly supports the ordinance.

Related: L.A. Sheriff Calls Progressives In Charge Of L.A.’s Homeless Policies ‘The Architects of Failure’

Related: L.A. Sheriff Says ‘Paid Activists’ Are Behind Opposition To Cleaning Up Homeless Encampments

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