The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday decided not to request the creation of an ordinance that would govern where people — particularly those who are homeless — are allowed to sit, sleep or rest, saying they needed more time to deliberate.
Council President Nury Martinez directed the discussion on the matter to be continued to Nov. 24, after the council debated the item for nearly five hours.
“It’s kind of shocking because I’ve been waiting for the last seven years to get us moving in a direction where we can stop, for lack of a better word, the bleeding of people who are continuing to become homeless and living on our streets, and that has not happened,” Martinez said. “And I also think we need to have an honest conversation about enforcement.”
Martinez said discussions about enforcing laws regarding the homeless population can be controversial and met with rebuke by advocacy grounds, but she also said people are “tired” of waiting for their homeless neighbors to get services.
Public speakers who were opposed to the motion said during the council meeting that the enforcement proposals are “sadistic and cruel” and that it would only send more homeless people to the criminal justice system rather than mental health services.
“I want us to have a deep and honest discussion about what we’re going to do with this enforcement piece” regarding the city’s obligation to a court order to move homeless people from freeway underpasses, Martinez said.
The draft ordinance, as it’s currently written, would specify the times, locations and circumstances in which it’s unlawful to sit, lie or sleep on the street, by:
— requiring an offer of shelter be provided before enforcing the general rule against sleeping, lying or sleeping on the street;
— prohibiting blocking the passage required under the Americans With Disabilities Act, either personally or with one’s property;
— prohibiting blocking building entrances and driveways, either personally or with one’s property;
— authorizing the council to designate specific new homeless shelter and service locations within up to 500 feet of which it would be unlawful to sit, lie or sleep or store property; and
— authorize the council to designate specific freeway overpasses, underpasses and similar locations within up to 500 feet of which it would be unlawful to sit, lie or sleep or store property, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Councilman Mike Bonin made a motion that would have amended the ordinance to offer services for people who were found sleeping in places where vehicles frequently travel, but the enforcement clauses of the motion are hard to reconcile.
The decision of Martin v. Boise in 2018 in U.S. District Court dictated cities cannot remove homeless people from public property if they have nowhere to place them.