Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday night he will direct all city departments to defer enforcement of a recently adopted ordinance allowing faster dismantlement of homeless encampments until the City Council can amend it.
“I strongly support the enactment of laws that enable the city to ensure that its public areas are clean and safe,” Garcetti said. “However, the city must balance the need to maintain its sidewalks with the rights of the people who have no other choice but to live on them. In my view, the ordinance passed by the City Council to revise Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 56.11 does not adequately achieve the proper balance.
“At the time of passage, the City Council asked the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness to consider amendments that would enable smarter law enforcement, more compassionate treatment of homeless Angelenos, and strengthen the city’s ability to withstand legal challenge. To date, neither the Committee nor the full Council has had an opportunity to consider and vote on amendments to accomplish those purposes.
“Accordingly, I am returning the ordinance without signature to council. While it will become law, I will direct all city departments to defer enforcement of the ordinance until the committee and City Council consider the pending amendments and adopt changes to the ordinance. In the interim, all city departments shall continue to use existing citywide protocols for the removal of personal property.”
The ordinance approved by the City Council last Tuesday shortened the noticing period before removing personal items from parks and sidewalks from 72 hours to 24 hours. No notice will be needed for the removal of bulky items from sidewalks and parks.
The city would be required to store any non-bulky belongings for 90 days. If the items are not claimed, the property may be discarded.
The ordinance was adopted as city officials worked to reach a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the city by several homeless people. The case led to an injunction preventing the city from removing the belongings of the homeless.
During the debate over the ordinance, Councilman Jose Huizar acknowledged there were flaws in it, but said the city has “court requirements, settlement discussions that are happening, so we have to move forward with something.”
The ordinance would allow officials to remove personal items that remain at city parks — including beaches — past closing time and when there is already a sign at the park stating that leaving behind items is prohibited.
If there is no sign, the city would need to give 24 hours notice before items are removed.
The ordinance also banned tents on sidewalks from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. but allows the homeless to set up tents to use as shelter at night.
If the city does not have enough space to store the items left on sidewalks, officials would not be allowed to remove them, city attorneys said.
Any item that is a health or safety risk — such as something that could spread disease, contains vermin, or is a dangerous weapon — would be discarded without any advance notice. Items considered contraband or evidence of a crime could also be removed by the city without notice.
— City News Service
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