LA City Council seeking new law to prevent encampments in public right-of-way

Citing the need for urgent action on the homelessness crisis, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to instruct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would restrict sleeping and homeless encampments in certain parts of the city.

The move comes after Councilmen Joe Buscaino and John Lee invoked a rarely used rule last Wednesday to have the council pull the ordinance from the committee, where it has been sitting since Nov. 30, 2020.

RELATED: LA Councilman Buscaino seeks to resume ban on sidewalk encampments during daytime

The motion was introduced as a substitute motion to a stricter anti-camping draft ordinance that was stalled in the Homelessness and Poverty Committee since November. Councilman Buscaino, who is running for mayor partly on an agenda to enforce the city's anti-camping laws, invoked a rarely used rule last Wednesday to have the council pull the draft ordinance from the committee.

The motion instructed the city attorney to prepare an ordinance that allows the city to "maintain passable sidewalks and access points by preventing sitting, sleeping, lying, storing personal property or otherwise obstructing the public right-of-way within two feet of any fire hydrant or fire plug, or within five feet of any operational or utilizable entrance or exit, or within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway, or in a manner that interferes with any activity for which the city has issued a permit, or in a manner that restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or anywhere within a street, including bike paths.'"

While enforcement for that could begin immediately, people would be restricted from blocking the public-right-of way in the following areas once the city posts signage and gives notice:

  • where it reduces the path of travel required by the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • within 10 feet of an operational or utilizable entrance, exit, driveway or loading dock;
  • within 500 feet of a facility that provides housing, shelter, supportive services, safe parking or storage to unhoused people;
  • within 500 feet of a designated freeway overpass, underpass, ramp, tunnel or pedestrian subway; and at all times and all locations if a person has been offered shelter.

The city's current anti-camping ordinance, which has not been enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, prohibits tents during daytime hours, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

On June 9, Buscaino requested the council amend the mayor's Declaration of Local Emergency and resume enforcement of the current anti-camping ordinance.