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Housing and Homelessness

How Culver City’s Dealing With An Unhoused Camp Blocking A Walkway

Various street signs, including one pointing to the 405 South, another reading Freeway Entrance. Several black cars are seen in the background, as well as what appear to be apartment buildings. There are orange construction markers in the foreground.
File: A sign for the Intersate 405 freeway on-ramp at the Sunset Blvd. overpass in Los Angeles on July 14, 2011.
(Robyn Beck
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AFP via Getty Images)
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Culver City officials are responding to an encampment of unhoused people that has expanded into a pedestrian walkway by giving pedestrians more space.

Legal precedent prevents the city from forcing unhoused people off the street without having adequate shelter space available, according to officials. A temporary extension will be added to the sidewalk beside the encampment on Washington Boulevard under the 405, allowing for those in wheelchairs and on foot to pass through. There has been concern that tents and shelters could make it more difficult for pedestrians to use the sidewalk.

Sweeping people off the street hurts more than it helps, Culver City Mayor Daniel Lee added.

“Our Council basically agreed that we do not want to engage in the type of sweeps that Los Angeles city has done, because they are disruptive to the lives of unhoused residents,” Lee said. “And they often set them back on some of their goals for months, if not years.”

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The encampment has expanded into the walkway as more people experience homelessness and are now living there. Reasons for this include the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing regional housing pressures, according to the city. The temporary sidewalk extension will occupy approximately 15 parking spaces.

The Culver City Council is working to expedite outreach services to unhoused people living in the city’s encampments, Lee said.

"Some of our other residents would like us to take a more punitive approach and basically arrest anyone who's camping on the street. I do not believe in that,” Lee said.

Lee himself received a doctorate in social work.

“I know that there are incredibly good reasons for people not wanting to go to a shelter, where they will be victim to physical assault and sexual assault, or at least massively condescended to and given curfews,” Lee said. “And I know also, that it's incredibly reasonable for unhoused people to be skeptical of aid workers or service workers that they encounter because of past bad experiences."

The city received $26.6 million from the state of California’s Project Homekey funds, which it plans to use to convert two hotels into interim and permanent supportive housing. The conversion is planned to create 39 interim housing units and 37 permanent ones for people experiencing chronic homelessness.

Lee expects the sidewalk extension to cost between $100,000 and $200,000. It’s set to be completed by late July.

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