LA Council Panel Supports Ban on Homeless Camps Near Schools – NBC Los Angeles

A Los Angeles City Council committee today approved an amendment to the city’s sweeping law governing the locations of homeless camps that would block them within 150 feet of all schools.

The amendment, which still needs full council approval, would update municipal code 41.18, which prohibits sitting, sleeping, lying or otherwise obstructing public passage in various parts of the city.

Those areas include within two feet of a fire hydrant or fire plug; within five feet of an operational or usable entrance or exit; within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway; in a manner that interferes with any activity licensed by the city or restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act; or anywhere on a street, including bike paths.

The law already protects public passage within 150 meters of a “sensitive” facility such as schools, nurseries, parks and libraries, but only if each specific location is designated by the municipality for enforcement.

The amendment approved Thursday by the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee would be a blanket ban on camps within 150 feet of all schools.

Councilor Joe Buscaino suggested such a move last year but never got 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 camps near campuses.

“I have seen primary schools with conditions that none of us as parents would find acceptable for children. Persons with mental illness, some of them absolutely unclothed, shouting swear words into the listening ear of children,” Carvalho previously told the municipality.

He added that he was concerned about the “trauma” and the “long-term, short-term consequences (and) impact on the psychological, cognitive development of children.”

Buscaino, who is a member of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said passing the amendment will ensure that the most sacred of us, our playground and schools, are safe.

“To me the choice is clear, and you shouldn’t be surprised based on
about where I’m from, because I called for this almost a year ago,” he
said: “…Let’s move forward with this and get this done and protect our students, our
faculty and their parents.”

The committee passed the amendment by 3-1 votes, with councilor
Nithya Raman against.

Raman, who also opposed the original anti-camping measure last year, said she doesn’t believe the change will effectively advance the city’s fight against homelessness, noting that there is a shortage of shelter beds for people being evicted from camps. who will be the target of the law. She also pointed to the city’s “scarce” resources to tackle homelessness and enforce such regulations, and said the commission and council as a whole should focus on more overarching solutions to the problem of homelessness.

The city ordinance already in force also prohibits encampments and sleeping inside:

  • up to 150 feet from a designated overpass, underpass, highway ramp, tunnel, bridge, pedestrian bridge, subway, wash or distribution area, railroad track or where unhealthy, unsafe and incompatible with safe passage is unhealthy, unsafe and incompatible with unsheltered accommodation or in tents ; and
  • to 300 meters from a facility opened after January 1, 2018 that provides shelter, safe sleeping, safe parking or navigation centers for the homeless.
  • The ordinance also allows the city to prevent camps for a period of no more than a year in areas considered to be an ongoing threat to public health or safety, including due to:
  • death or serious injury to a person at the site due to a hazardous situation
  • repeated serious or violent crimes or threats of serious or violent crimes, including human trafficking; and
  • burning at the location

People who violate the ordinance will face an offense or citation, but a “person who intentionally opposes, delays or hinders a city employee from enforcing this section or who intentionally refuses to comply after being requested to do so by an authorized city employee could face higher fines and a felony charge, according to the ordinance.

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