Homeless camps will remain for now as City Council delays vote on ban

Activists in L.A. protest a proposal to remove homeless encampments
Outside L.A. City Hall, activists Ayman Ahmed, from left, Davon Brown and Pete White protest a proposal to remove homeless encampments in the city.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A divided Los Angeles City Council backed off Wednesday from voting on a proposal that would have allowed the removal of homeless encampments anywhere in the city — if shelter is first offered to those living in them.

Facing intense opposition from the public and some of their colleagues, the seven council members who pressed for the amendments to the city’s anti-camping ordinance were unable to muster a majority to move it to a quick adoption.

After a four-hour hearing, when it was clear the council planned to refer the proposal to a committee, Council President Nury Martinez continued the vote to Nov. 24 before the whole council. She said the issue was too important to be shunted to a committee.


A man who goes by the name of General Dogon protests a plan to remove homeless  encampments in L.A.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The proposed ordinance, prepared by City Attorney Mike Feuer in less than a week after several council members requested it, would also allow the city to remove homeless camps under freeway underpasses and near homeless shelters without the condition of offering shelter.

The proposal divided public speakers between those who opposed a ban, with more than one comparing it to Nazi Germany, and those who pleaded for relief from homeless camps near their homes.

Even though the meeting was held remotely, about 40 opponents gathered outside City Hall to protest.

“Where will we go?” asked Ayman Ahmed, who said he is homeless in Echo Park. “The math doesn’t even add up to go into shelters. There aren’t enough. This lacks common sense.”

Other opponents participated in the council meeting remotely.

Activists outside L.A. City Hall protest a plan to remove homeless encampments.
Activists outside L.A. City Hall protest a plan to remove homeless encampments.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“Nurses want to send a very clear message. In middle of a global pandemic and possible eviction of 365,000 people, the priority needs to be to protect public health and housing first,” said Pilar Schiavo, who called in as a representative of the California Nursing Association.

Members had two primary concerns with the legislation.

Several council members said they supported the spirit of the proposal but wanted more clarity on how the law would be enforced and what protocols would be followed in offering shelter.

Acknowledging that, Councilman Bob Blumenfield had introduced a motion to strike the broadest clause within the amended ordinance. It would effectively prohibit anyone from camping in public anywhere in the city if authorities offer shelter as an alternative.

That would have left intact the two other sections dealing with shelters and freeway underpasses.

For Councilman Mike Bonin, that wasn’t enough. He argued that the city needed to have sufficient shelter available before it tried to ban camping.

“My problem with the ordinances before us... [is] they assume the existence of the alternative resources,” he said. “They’re frankly not there yet.”

Blumenfield said that it was essential to update the ordinances so that the freeway underpasses in his district, which have been cleared at the urging of U.S. District Judge David Carter, don’t refill with homeless people. Over the last two weeks, outreach workers have gotten 60 people from the underpasses into shelter.