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Housing and Homelessness

LA City Encampment Ban Moves Closer To Adding 3500 Additional Sites

A group of people hold signs above their heads, rallying inside the Los Angeles City Council chambers. The masked men and women are protesting the expansion of the city's encampment ban ordinance.
Unhoused communities activists rally inside Los Angeles City Council Chambers ahead of a council vote to expand the city's encampment ordinance.
(Phoenix Tso
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In an 11 to three vote, the L.A. City Council voted to ban encampments within 500 feet of all schools and daycares, but because of a technicality, the ordinance will be up for a third vote next week.

Minutes ahead of the vote, activists packed council chamber, disrupting the meeting with booing aimed at Councilmember Joe Buscaino, then chanting “we won’t go” and “repeal 41.18” until Council President Nury Martinez called a recess.

Buscaino had supported the expansion and has introduced similar measures in the past, including a ballot measure last year that would ban all camping in public spaces.

Before clearing council chambers, activists shared their experiences with homelessness for about an hour.

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The city administrator’s office says encampments will be banned near 1906 schools and 1611 licensed daycares.

This is on top of the 225 sites where encampments were already banned after a previous version of the law went into effect last year.

Proponents include L.A. Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

“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,” Carvalho said. “But until then, we have a moral, a professional, a personal responsibility to protect our children.”

Activist Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network says that under the expansion, most of the city is now effectively off limits to unhoused people.

This ordinance, known as 41.18, goes back to the 1960's and at first banned sitting, lying or sleeping on public streets and sidewalks at all times in L.A.

In the 2000’s, the Ninth Circuit Court o Appeals ruled in a constitutional challenge to the ban, that L.A. was violating people’s 8th amendment rights.

L.A. then agreed to stop enforcing 41.18 at night as part of a settlement agreement.

In 2018, there was another challenge in Martin v. Boise where the Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruled again that 41.18 violated people’s eighth amendment rights.

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Last year, the City Council passed a new version of this law that allowed the ban of encampments at specific locations, requiring council members to submit potential sites for full council approval.

After today's vote and over 3700 locations off limits to the unhoused, Shayla Myers with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles says it’s up to the City Attorney’s office and the City Council to explain where can the unhoused people go.

“The answer isn't shelter beds. And it's definitely not housing,” she said, raising concerns that the city does not have enough of either for the unhoused people affected by the ordinance.

Some other advocates and elected officials, including councilmembers Mike Bonin and Nithya Raman, have raised similar concerns.

But other councilmembers including Martinez say they are building enough housing and conducting the outreach necessary to move people inside.

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