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Culver City Votes to Ban Public Camping, Targeting Street Encampments

A homeless encampment along a sidewalk, with tarps strung together.
An encampment alongside the Penmar golf course in Venice.
(Chava Sanchez
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The Culver City Council voted Monday night to approve an ordinance that would ban camping on public streets.

A controversial move

The ban would require city officials to look for safe camping sites as alternatives, but remains controversial.

When the ordinance first came up for a vote earlier this year, housing activists expressed concern over the city's approach to focus first on enforcement, rather than providing services or finishing housing projects.

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"If we don't have places for people to go, then this is not going to provide any solutions,” said Councilmember Freddy Puza, who opposes the ordinance. “It's going to be a Band-Aid, and what it’s going to do is just push people out of the city."

The vote

In a council majority, the vote passed 3 to 2, where councilmembers Puza and Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin opposed the ordinance from the moment it was introduced.

Councilmember Dan O'Brien, who is in favor of the ban, said it's about getting people off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing.

"No one will be asked to remove their possessions from a public space until we have those living arrangements available," he said.

Concern about LA's state of emergency

O'Brien added that when L.A. Mayor Karen Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness, he became concerned that people without consistent shelter would simply relocate to Culver City.

"If L.A. is going to be focusing on going to encampments that are bordering Culver City and offering housing while saying, 'We're offering you housing so you can't have your encampment here anymore,' I had a concern personally that those who refused would just move across the street to Culver City, and then it would become our responsibility at that point to address their needs," he said.

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At a council meeting in January, activists for the unhoused and others who oppose the ban spoke for hours during the public comment at the meeting, according to multiple sources.

Currently, Culver City is working to finish adding 73 housing units through Project Homekey, and O'Brien is confident the construction will be done in March.

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Updated February 14, 2023 at 9:08 AM PST
This story was updated to add the city council's decision made Monday night.
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