Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, under pressure to ease Venice's homeless problem, called Friday for tougher laws to ban overnight sleeping on the city's beaches.
Galanter--a liberal who has focused on social service efforts to address the homeless problem--said the law is needed because public beaches "are operated and maintained for the recreational use and enjoyment of the whole public."
The councilwoman, elected in June with overwhelming support from Venice's liberal community activists, also said the measure is in the "interest of public health and safety."
The proposed law, which is expected to be considered by the City Council next week, would make sleeping overnight on city beaches a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Although there are laws prohibiting overnight sleeping on beaches, the city attorney's office recommended that a new ordinance be drafted. Rich Ruiz, a spokesman for Galanter, said court rulings had clouded the enforcement of those laws.
Los Angeles police have not strictly enforced the existing law in recent months.
Galanter's proposal reflects a crisis of conscience in Venice, a community known for its tolerant attitudes. But the community's growing homeless population--estimated at 2,500 people--has tested the limits of that tolerance.
During the summer, hundreds slept on the beaches. About 100 people remain at a campground of tents near the Rose Avenue parking lot.
Ruiz emphasized that the proposed ordinance follows a continuing outreach effort that began Oct. 5 and includes setting up a 30-bed "transitional housing" center in Venice.
Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 23, Ruiz said, 219 men and 80 women had visited two social service trailers set up at the Venice Pavilion.