A federal appeals court last year struck down the city's existing ban as unconstitutionally vague. In a March 26 report, City Atty. Mike Feuer proposed a new ordinance with a tighter definition of living in a vehicle that he said would pass court muster.
In addition to a new ordinance, Feuer said the city could set up a limited permit process that would allow car camping on non-residential streets. Feuer said this "novel approach" would "strive to meet the City Council's goal to protect neighborhoods in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of the homeless."
Nearly 5,000 residents live in more than 3,000 vehicles parked along city streets and alleys, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The lawsuit that overturned the old ban stemmed from a 2010 LAPD enforcement effort in Venice, where residents had complained that people living in vehicles throw garbage, have fights and relieve themselves on their lawns.
Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, who challenged the old ban on behalf of a group of homeless people, called the new approach "a vast improvement" but said that the city already is struggling to get housing for veterans and chronically homeless people, who receive top priority.
Most of the car dwellers are formerly middle-class people who lost jobs and homes in the recession, or fell ill or disabled and must wait two years or more for subsidized housing, she said.
"There is a problem with putting people in jail for performing life-sustaining functions when there is no other place to do it," Sobel said.