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City Of Los Angeles Sued Over Beach Curfew

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Venice Beach at night (Photo by spacelola via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The city of Los Angeles is now facing a lawsuit over the curfew on city beaches that is enforced from midnight to 5 a.m."An individual's right to unobstructed access to the ocean, beaches and waterways has been recognized since the ancient laws of the Roman Empire," reads the lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Venice activists. The entirety of the city's 11-mile coastline is subject to the curfew, but Venice Beach has become the main battleground in the fight. Although the curfew was enacted in the late-1980s, it wasn't well enforced until 2014, when residents began complaining about the homeless population in Venice. According to the L.A. Times, 1,265 people were ticketed for sleeping or smoking on Venice Beach or the boardwalk in 2014.

"The beaches are for the public," said Francesca de la Rosa, a local activist and a plaintiff in the suit. "The city can't make up their own rules where people are supposed to be." In April, activists and homeless advocates defied the curfew on Venice Beach—they were not cited by law enforcement.

The curfew was originally enacted in an effort to subdue gang violence, but now citations are being handed out for what John Raphling, a Venice attorney who offers legal aid to the homeless, called "tickets just for being homeless."

The curfew has also been challenged by the California Coastal Commission. Last year, the Commission told the city that it needed "credible evidence" there was an ongoing threat to public safety in order to keep the ban. In February, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was in negotiation with the Coastal Commission to allow limited 24-hour access to some city beaches—but not including Venice—but that appears to have gone nowhere. The City Council has yet to consider the idea.