Using a controversial law passed this summer which limits where people can sit, lie down or sleep in the city, the Los Angeles City Council banned those activities at 54 locations in three districts with a 12-2 vote Wednesday.
While the prohibition against sitting, sleeping or storing property near fire hydrants, building entrances, driveways, libraries, parks, elementary schools and other spots is intended to ease the homeless crisis, the council members who voted against it—John Bonin and Nithya Raman—believe the city lacks the resources to properly enforce the rule.
“I am certain that a lot of work has been done, but it still isn’t to the level of what we committed to as a body,” Bonin tells the Los Angeles Times.
For instance, once signs are posted informing people where they may not sit or lie, there will be a 14-day period in which “outreach teams will continue to engage anyone remaining on the site,” according to a city report. But those signs haven’t been printed yet, thanks in part to staffing issues and material shortages, and it’s unclear when they will be. What is clear, however, is that the signage will cost L.A. about $2 million, according to city documents, and the 54 banned spots represent fewer than half of those under consideration.
Also, those proposed outreach teams have yet to be hired.
“Why did we set up this whole system if we were just going to authorize the posting of signs before we’ve done all the work?” Bonin asked the Times.
However, members who support the move, like Councilmen Paul Krekorian, Joe Buscaino and Bob Blumenfield, contend that the ban would limit the role of law enforcement and that the 14-day notice will give homeless people ample time to comply voluntarily.
Blumenfield said Wednesday that he would like to see more areas in his west San Fernando Valley district—which he acknowledges has the fewest homeless people in L.A.—made off-limits. Nearly all of the spots where Blumenfield wants to ban homeless camps are underpasses beneath the 101 Freeway, which he says provide the only routes between residential areas and streets with restaurants and shopping.
“I have fewer homeless people in my district than anyone here, but it’s still the No. 1 issue,” he told the Times. “We’re trying to do everything we can to get folks served, to get them housed but also to keep our communities safe and clean and to make sure that dangerous and critical corridors are… not subject to encampments.”
When the ordinance was passed, homeless advocates worried that council members would use it to create “mini-fiefdoms” in their districts. Its author, now-suspended Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, said at the time, “By no means was this intended to allow a wholesale prohibition of the homeless from residing near all sensitive areas. And I will not be supportive of a process that facilitates this.”