LA City Council approves measures to remove homeless encampments
This article was updated on June 28 at 8:12 pm.
The Los Angeles City Council approved two ordinances Tuesday that call to remove homeless individuals’ encampments from public areas, such as those in Westwood Park.
Both allow authorities to now impound homeless individuals’ belongings after a 24-hour notice, instead of a 72-hour notice. Authorities will not need to give a notice to remove bulky items.
The purpose of the second ordinance is to keep public areas sanitary and accessible, according to the ordinance, which states that the unauthorized use of public space for personal storage interferes with others’ rights to use the public space for its intended use.
City officials estimate about 26,000 homeless individuals currently live in Los Angeles, 12 percent more than in 2013. About 1,300 of these individuals live in L.A. City Council District 5, which includes Westwood Village.
Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, who opposed the measures, said he thinks the city council should make more efforts to help homeless individuals get off the streets rather than criminalize them.
Cedillo, on previous occasions, has pushed for more affordable housing to alleviate homelessness.
George Chen, a fourth-year physics student and co-president of the UCLA chapter of Swipes for the Homeless, said in an email he thinks homeless individuals should have a right to have encampments in public areas.
“These places are deemed public,” he said. “If certain people are being kicked out of them, are they really public?”
He added city officials should build shelters and offer homeless individuals more resources to get them on the right track.
The Westwood Village Improvement Association and several other business improvement districts throughout the city support the ordinances, said Andrew Thomas, executive director of the BID.
He said he thinks the ordinances passed will address public safety and sanitation issues, but there needs to be a long-term solution to improve the living situation of homeless individuals to make sure they get the services they need.
Despite the 12 percent increase of homeless individuals in the city, Thomas said Westwood Village has seen a decrease in its number of homeless individuals. Most of these individuals just pass through Westwood Village without settling there, he added.
Westwood Park on Veteran Avenue includes homeless individuals’ encampments that would be removed if the ordinances go into effect.
Greg Buck, a frequent visitor to the park, said the council’s measures are good for the community because he thinks they will prevent homeless people from creating unsanitary conditions in public spaces.
Buck said he thinks homeless individuals who live in the park can create an inappropriate environment for the families he thinks the park is intended to serve.
Others said city officials need to be more understanding to homeless individuals.
“Some people might believe homeless people aren’t safe, but that’s because we haven’t lived a day in their lives,” said UCLA alumna Deborah Novel, who said she visits the park regularly.
Novel said she understands why some people might feel uncomfortable in the presence of homeless people, but she doesn’t think they pose a real threat to families and children who visit the park during the day because they primarily sleep in the park at night.
She added she thinks it’s better to let people without homes sleep in the park instead of forcing them to sleep on the street, where they are vulnerable to the city’s activity.
The ordinances will go into effect after Mayor Eric Garcetti signs them.
Contributing reports by Emeizni Mandagi, Bruin contributor..