City report questions effectiveness of anti-camping law

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — In three years of an anti-camping law being in effect in Los Angeles, which cost more than $3 million to implement, only two unhoused individuals were placed into permanent housing, according to a city memo released May 31.

The city’s anti-camping policy, also known as 41.18 for the section of the Municipal Code it created, became law on Sept. 3, 2021. The law regulates where people can sit, lie, sleep or maintain personal property on or around specific public spaces.

The L.A. City Council approved the policy in an attempt to prevent obstruction of public spaces, address safety concerns and reduce homeless encampments across the city.

Over the course of three years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and other service providers have engaged 174 encampments with a total of 1,856 unhoused individuals. Of the people engaged, 313 were placed in temporary housing and two found permanent housing — a placement rate of approximately 17%.

The homeless services authority reported that 81% of encampment sites were repopulated, but analysis of individual-level data showed that the average repopulation return across all 174 encampments was 39%, indicating that approximately 4 in 10 individuals returned to their original encampment within 14 days that 41.18 signs were posted by the city.

“Our office estimates that the city spent approximately $3 million on ordinance implementation between September 2021 and December 2023,” Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst, wrote in her memo.

“The $3 million figure represents a minimum estimate because multiple departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, were unable to disaggregate their labor costs associated with 41.18-specific expenditures from their departmental expenditures.”

The report also notes that LAPD issued 3,183 citations to people for violating the city’s anti-camping law between January 2021 to December 2023 — with about 75% coming out of the Devonshire, West Los Angeles and Rampart divisions.

“Areas with a greater number of citations are due to increased training on the proper policy and procedure for enforcement of [Los Angeles Municipal Code] Section 41.18, responding to crime trends within their area, and a commitment to addressing community concerns,” the report said.

LAPD officials said the policy has had an “overwhelmingly positive” impact on public safety, helping reduce the number of encampments where chronic violence and crime had occurred.

The City Council’s Housing and Homeless Committee is expected to review the report later.

City Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky introduced a motion last year calling for a review of the anti-camping law’s effectiveness. It took more than eight months for the report to come out.

Tso noted that her office received Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority findings in November 2023, but staff identified some discrepancies that needed to be examined.

In March, LAist obtained the homeless authority’s findings, which was to be part of Tso’s report. At the time, the information had sparked some backlash from City Council members.

Housing and homeless advocates have long criticized the anti-camping law for what they have described as a policy meant to criminalize homeless individuals. There were also concerns that law was a waste of money and would not be an effective approach to reduce homelessness.

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