Buscaino may seek ballot measure on sidewalk camping

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he will propose adding a measure to the June 2022 election ballot to have voters decide if the city should prohibit unhoused people from camping and sleeping on streets and sidewalks if they have already been offered shelter.

Buscaino — who is running for mayor on that same June ballot — said that under his proposal, encampments would be banned in public areas, but the city would also provide substance abuse services, mental health services and enough emergency housing for everyone on the streets.

Anyone who needs a bed will get one, but a choice to refuse housing and services will result in an order to move on. It is the city’s policy that no one lives outdoors in public spaces,” Buscaino said.

The city currently only has enough shelter beds for 39% of the homeless population, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority told Councilman Mike Bonin in July. Buscaino’s office told City News Service that under the policy, transitional housing, and particularly tiny homes, would be prioritized to develop enough shelter citywide.

Enforcement alone, no matter how you dress it up, is never going to be sufficient to address this crisis,” City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas said regarding Buscaino’s proposal in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “What’s needed, and desperately so, is housing and services. And so my comment to Mr. Buscaino would be: Show me the housing, Joe. Show me the housing.”

Bonin said that Buscaino’s proposal “perpetuates the false and dangerous narrative the people want to be homeless. We can end this crisis, eliminate encampments and save lives if we focus on the proven solution — a real place to live and appropriate services.”

Buscaino said he will seek the public’s support for his proposal to pressure the City Council to put the measure on the ballot in June.

I have been talking to people across the city and am confident their voices will be heard and that the council will agree to put this on the ballot,” Buscaino said.

When voting to approve a sweeping ordinance restricting encampments in certain areas of the city on July 1, the City Council declined to add an amendment from Buscaino to prohibit camping by anyone who has already been offered shelter.

That ordinance, which took effect Sept. 3, modifies the city’s current anti-camping law in Municipal Code 41.18 to prohibit sitting, sleeping, lying, storing personal property or otherwise obstructing the public right of way in several areas of the city, including within two feet of any fire hydrant or fire plug; within five feet of any operational or utilizable entrance or exit; within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway; in a manner that interferes with any activity for which the city has issued a permit or restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act; or anywhere within a street, including bike paths.

It also will protect the public right of way within 500 feet of a “sensitive” facility (including schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries) once the council passes a resolution to designate a specific area for enforcement, posts signage and gives notice of the date that the ordinance will be enforced for the area.

Buscaino — who introduced a resolution on Aug. 17 to enforce the ordinance around every public school in Los Angeles — called the new ordinance “slow” and “bureaucratic” and said it “will not achieve the need of street camping.”

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