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Housing and Homelessness

LA City Council Passes Ban On Homeless Encampments Near Schools And Daycares

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 Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycares.

The vote Tuesday was 11 to 3.

Before the vote, a group of advocates for the unhoused disrupted the meeting. One woman giving public comment climbed over a set of benches towards where the council members were seated and began shouting.

She was initially detained by LAPD officers, but members of the crowd got between her and the officers and she left the premises.

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Another person, identified Wednesday as Ricci Sergienko, was arrested for allegedly interfering with her detention and resisting arrest. He has since been released on bond.

The council recessed, during which time activists held their own public comment. The L.A. Police Department then called an unlawful assembly, at which point protesters left.

The measure, which will expand the city's existing anti-camping law, was first introduced to City Council in June. At that time, L.A. Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told council members that students at some schools were seeing and hearing things that no parent would find acceptable for kids.

“There is a fair balance that needs to be achieved in terms of long-term development of strategies and plans to deal with homelessness in our community,” he said.

The measure faced strong resistance from activists, but moved through City Council relatively easily.

Last week, activists took over the council chambers for about an hour, saying the ordinance would criminalize unhoused people in L.A.

Council President Nury Martinez defended the proposal, saying it will protect students.

"The least I can do for my community is to be able to clear the public right-of-way for them to send their kids to school every day and feel safe," she said.

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At Tuesday's meeting, public commenter Steve Diaz spoke out against the measure.

"If it was really about children's safety, you would be investing more money in permanent supportive housing, wraparound services and ensuring that people are able to access housing as needed," he said.

Nicolle Fefferman, part of an LAUSD parents’ group called Parents Supporting Teachers, said she's concerned it could fall on school communities to enforce the encampment ban.

"Who is going to be responsible for reporting and monitoring these situations?” she said. “If it's school administration, if it's teachers and families, then it doesn't sound like a good use of resources."

Fefferman said the city should also have a plan to offer services and move people into housing.

Some Council members said they are already doing so.

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