Homeless tents
MyNewsLA photo by Clancy O'Dessky

The Los Angeles City Council is set to take a final vote Tuesday to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers, with protests both inside and outside the council chambers again anticipated.

Last Tuesday’s meeting, when the council voted 11-3 in favor of the measure, featured an hour-long disruption by opponents who interrupted the meeting with chants and shouts in the council chamber. Police officers cleared the chambers, leaving only members of the media to observe as the vote was taken.

This will be the third time that the council has voted on the ordinance, an amendment to the city’s sweeping law regulating the location of homeless encampments. Municipal Code 41.18 prohibits sitting, sleeping, lying or otherwise obstructing the public right of way in several areas of the city.

The council initially voted 10-1 in favor of the ordinance last month, with Councilman Mike Bonin dissenting. Since that initial vote was not unanimous, a second vote was taken last week with Bonin, Nithya Raman and Marqueece Harris-Dawson dissenting. Ordinarily, the second vote would mark final approval of the ordinance, however, due to a procedural issue involving the motion that was approved last week, the matter will return for one more vote, city officials said.

Services Not Sweeps, a local housing coalition, is expected to hold a news conference in front of City Hall at 8:30 a.m. ahead of the meeting.

At least one councilmember brought up the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in reference to last week’s disruption. Paul Koretz, who is running for city controller, posted a video of the protesters interrupting the meeting on his YouTube channel.

“The experience reminded him of the insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021,” the caption reads in part.

While the protesters temporarily kept the council from voting on the item, they mostly chanted and made speeches during the disruption, eventually dispersing peacefully at the order of police officers. Nobody was injured or killed, unlike during the Jan. 6 riots.

In a campaign email, Koretz also attacked Kenneth Mejia — his opponent in the November runoff for controller — for being in the room, and Mejia’s campaign manager, Jane Nguyen, for urging people to show up at City Hall.

Mejia, who placed first in the June primary, has been a vocal opponent of the 41.18 ordinance expansion, claiming based on his own mapping that the council would effectively be banning encampments on 20% of the city’s sidewalks and 48% of the entirety of District 1.

Councilwoman-elect Eunisses Hernandez, who will take over District 1 later this year after unseating Gil Cedillo in the primary, addressed Mejia’s statistics on Monday.

“Prohibiting homelessness will do absolutely nothing to address the crisis of homelessness,” Hernandez said on Twitter. “We solve this crisis by housing people and keeping people housed. Even the kids know this.”

The law already bans encampments in the public right of way within 500 feet of “sensitive” facilities such as schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries — but only if each specific location is designated by the council for enforcement.

The new amendment is a blanket ban on encampments within 500 feet of all schools.

Councilman Joe Buscaino originally proposed the idea last year, it never gained traction. But the issue was revived earlier this year, in part at the urging of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who said teachers, principals and parents have expressed concerns about homeless encampments near campuses.

“I’ve seen elementary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for children. Individuals with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting profanities in the listening ear of children,” Carvalho told the council previously.

People who violate the ordinance face an infraction or citation, but “a person who willfully resists, delays or obstructs a city employee from enforcing this section or who willfully refuses to comply after being requested to do so by an authorized city employee” can face higher fines and a misdemeanor charge, according to the ordinance.

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