This week the LA City Council formally adopted my resolution to establish sensible, constitutional and much needed ‘no encampment’ buffer zones around certain sensitive sites.
This will specifically make the areas within 500 feet from all 14 of the 101 freeway under and overpasses in my district (ie. Corbin and Bowlero) and the locations within 1000 feet from any of the new homelessness intervention sites in my district (ie the Reseda and Tarzana Cabin Communities) off-limits to encampments.
This does not “criminalize being homeless” as some critics contend, it merely makes some important corridors ‘off-limits’ to encampments. In fact, this resolution was designed to be applied only to specific areas where extensive outreach has been done and access to the public right of way is particularly critical.
I went out this past weekend with outreach workers to make sure that the remaining folks who were at these locations were being offered services and shelter, and the next few weeks will involve intensive outreach to these same folks.
When will it take effect?
My staff and I, along with local service providers, have been doing constant outreach at these locations for over a year. Now that the resolution passed, signage is going up and, once posted, there will be two more weeks of intensive outreach before these areas become officially off limits. I am pushing to get the signs up ASAP.
Recently, the City Council passed the new law (LAMC 41.18) which I co-authored, that set the stage for these specific resolutions. A Street Engagement Strategy guaranteeing that outreach would be conducted had to be adopted before the site specific resolutions were heard. Once that had been approved, I made sure that my resolution designating local sites was among the first batch heard by the Council.
But the most critical reason why this is now happening is that Councilmembers like myself have joined to create thousands of transitional and permanent housing units throughout the City to provide a safe alternative to life on the streets and sidewalks. With Bridge Housing, Cabin Communities, Safe Parking, and Project Roomkey/Homekey we now have more available beds in LA than ever before. We’ve been able to create so many more new beds in my district that we passed the mark of having more beds than the number of unsheltered folks according to the 2020 Homeless Count. Much of the previous litigation hinged on the City’s inability to house enough people and with the new interim beds, these sorts of limited laws can now stand up in court.
I’ll continue to work towards getting more services and housing for those who need it most, but it’s beyond time to have sensible laws that help ensure our most critical public rights of way are clear. While the City relies on the County to provide much needed drug and mental health services, I am also pushing to find creative ways to get more of this in the district because I know that drug addiction and mental health are a big part of the problem. This week the Council also passed my motion to spend an additional $420,000 on a new partnership with the SFV Community Mental Health Center to provide outreach teams specifically for my district.
As I’ve written before, my view is one of balance, rooted in the belief that we must strive to get everyone off the sidewalks and into appropriate housing but we cannot punish people who do not have legitimate places to go. We need to be compassionate, but we must also insist on compliance with rules and regulations — people have a right to a roof over their head, but they don’t have a right to every park bench or to occupy every critical corridor. The reality is that due to many federal court cases, if the City isn’t extremely careful and meticulous in how it restricts encampments, even these limited new tools could easily be taken away by another lawsuit.
I’ll continue to share as more progress is made but I wanted to share this update will you. If you have any questions, please reach out to me or my staff by calling 818.774.4330 or by sending us an email at email@example.com.
By Councilman Bob Blumenfield