A law that regulates where people are allowed to live in their vehicles in Los Angeles is set to expire at the end of June, but the City Council Wednesday voted to extend it by six months as officials work to improve the regulations.
It was illegal for decades to live in a vehicle in the city until a 2014 federal court ruling struck down the ban. The City Council then drafted a law that made it illegal to live in a vehicle in residential neighborhoods or near sensitive locations such as parks and schools.
The City Council did not discuss the extension before the vote, but earlier this month during a meeting of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice where a high number of homeless people live, expressed frustration at the “essentially unenforceable” law but said he supported its extension.
“This is just an incredibly frustrating and really stupid situation. It’s through the looking glass. It’s a policy designed by the Mad Hatter,” Bonin said.
Bonin said problems with the law include the difficulty for police to prove that someone is living in their vehicle. He also said vehicle dwelling should be preferable to sleeping on the sidewalk, which is legal to do overnight, but the law essentially directs homeless people to get out of their car to sleep on the sidewalk.
The Homelessness and Poverty Committee and City Council ignored the pleas of some homeless advocates who asked the city to allow the law to expire because they believed it unnecessarily criminalizes homelessness, but while approving the extension the council also asked for a number of reports from city departments aimed at improving the law, including recommendations from the police department.
“It seems especially punitive to criminalize people sleeping in their cars during nighttime hours when outdoor sleeping is actually allowed,” Dawn Hicks of Venice Community Housing told the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.
The motion was approved by the City Council on a 13-0 vote, but needs to be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become official.