LOS ANGELES—The City of Los Angeles extended its COVID-19 state of emergency for another 30 days, while community members expressed concerns over the simultaneous extension of eviction protections and of the moratorium on parking enforcement—which some claimed to have encouraged homeless vehicle encampments.
On Feb. 1, the Los Angeles City Council voted 11–2 to extend Mayor Eric Garcetti’s declaration of local emergency—enacted on March 4, 2020, and extended by the council every 30 business days ever since—with Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and John Lee dissenting. Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Kevin de Leon, Curren Price, and Mike Bonin were absent.
Some Angelenos called in to the meeting to oppose the extension, while some also advocated for an end to the various policies tied to the emergency declaration.
One of the policies that are contingent on the city’s emergency declaration is a moratorium on parking enforcement for recreational vehicles (RVs) that are camped out in public and residential areas.
Calling in on behalf of “a coalition of residents” in Westchester and Playa Del Rey, a resident said that the mayor’s emergency declaration resulted in about 50 RVs and other vehicles occupied by homeless people parked in her neighborhood.
“[The area] is now a crime hotspot with homicides, meth labs … and all manner of other crimes,” she said. “This is not safe for people who are homeless.”
She called on the council to restart parking enforcement for vehicle dwellings and to order city staff to find appropriate parking spaces for people living in their cars and RVs.
The city’s eviction moratorium—another policy that ties to the emergency declaration—will be in effect until at least February 7, 2023, and will be extended as long as the state of emergency is extended. LA renters have 12 months after the emergency declaration ends to pay past-due rent related to the pandemic’s economic impact.
Fred Sutton of the California Apartment Association called for an end to the emergency declaration and the city’s emergency housing orders, which, he said, are “no longer justified in any way.”
“[An] improving public health environment, the availability of vaccines, the lack of any shelter in place orders and the much-improved economy calls for an ending to the city of LA eviction moratorium and rent freeze,” Sutton said.
Some city councilmembers signaled the local state of emergency may soon end due to the high vaccination rate nationwide whereas those in opposition to the extension argued that the emergency declaration is becoming irrelevant and detrimental and thus should not be extended.
Buscaino argued against the extension, saying “so much has changed” in the past two years.
He cited the nation’s high vaccination rate, as well as the reopening of schools, businesses, and entertainment venues as evidence that the state of local emergency is no longer needed.
“As elected officials, we try to strike the right balance in our decision-making. But I can tell you that the balance is off on this item and the extension of this order,” Buscaino said. “By continuing the emergency order for nearly two years, we have been hurting the same people, mom-and-pop landlords, for a very long period of time.”
Back in November, Buscaino introduced a motion that requires a report on every policy contingent upon the emergency declaration. During the Feb. 1 meeting, he said he will continue to vote “no” on the emergency declaration’s extension until the report comes in.
“There will hopefully be an opportunity to see the full scope of things tied to the emergency order,” he said, adding that some policies could likely remain in place while others are removed, though he did not specify which policies.
Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian— both voted for the extension—agreed that the emergency declaration should be re-evaluated based on the current situation, but each said they wanted to wait a bit longer and look at the report before making a final decision.
While opening to re-evaluation, Koretz said it’s “premature” to end the state of emergency, citing the city’s COVID-19 positivity rates and the upcoming Superbowl LVI, which he said will likely cause the number of infections to spike.
“I think we’re close to getting past this but I think it would be irresponsible of me to vote any way other than ‘yes’ to continue [the emergency order],” Koretz said.
Krekorian—who seconded Buscaino’s November motion asking for a policy evaluation report—agreed, saying “we’re far from past the COVID emergency era,” though he added that Feb. 1 may be the last time he votes in favor of extension if the report isn’t brought before the council soon.
The city council is set to vote on the emergency declaration again in 30 business days.
Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Joe Buscaino, and Paul Koretz did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.