LA City Slows Buscaino’s Motion to Enforce Encampment Bans in District 15

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
December 1, 2021 Updated: December 2, 2021

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s plan to clean up homeless encampments in his district was slowed by the city council and sent to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee Dec. 1.

An ordinance passed earlier this year banned homeless encampments in the public right-of-way; however, a city council vote is required before the ban can be enforced.

Last month, Buscaino introduced three motions—seconded by Councilman John Lee—to enforce the ban in 161 locations in his district.

However, on Dec. 1, the city council sent Buscaino’s motions to its Homelessness and Poverty Committee instead of voting to approve them.

Buscaino’s motions would enforce the prohibition of “sitting, lying, sleeping, or storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property” within 500 feet of 161 locations—more than 100 of which are schools and daycare centers, and dozens are parks and libraries.

On Nov. 30, Lee’s motion to enforce the encampment ban in seven areas in his district was passed 10–2, with dissent from Councilmembers Nithya Raman and Mike Bonin.

Several councilmembers expressed concerns over the large number of enforcement sites listed by Buscaino, while others argued that their colleagues generally know what is best for their own districts.

Councilman Kevin de Leon, who chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said the committee would work with Buscaino and his staff on the resolutions before transferring them back to the city council.

In response to his colleagues’ concerns, Buscaino said, “Nothing in [the anti-camping law] prohibits us or limits us from identifying a number of sensitive sites. We were never told that you can only identify 10 sites, 20 sites, 30 sites.”

Councilman Gil Cedillo made a similar argument in favor of Buscaino’s resolutions and added that council members are best suited to make decisions for their own districts.

“He has put forth, as he is obligated to do, a number that at this moment he feels represents the best interests of his district. There’s a principle involved here. The principal is … who is best positioned to apply that policy to the facts of their district,” Cedillo said. “When you cast the vote, think about the principle that’s involved here, the underlying principle of surrendering your duty, your obligation to your district to a committee after we’ve made a collective policy direction.”

After the vote, Buscaino criticized his colleagues, saying they were not treating “our homelessness crisis as the emergency that it is.”

Buscaino, who is also running for mayor of Los Angeles, introduced a citywide motion last month that would ban homeless people from camping in public spaces if enough shelters are available and have been offered. If passed, the measure would be placed on the upcoming 2022 ballot.

However, the council voted 11–2 on Nov. 23 to send the measure to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, where the fate of the measure will be decided in the next several months.

Michael Trujillo, a spokesman for Buscaino’s campaign, said Nov. 23 they plan to collect signatures for the measure starting in January.

Buscaino criticized the council’s move to send the districtwide measure to the committee on Dec. 1.

“Today the City Council failed to protect 161 sensitive sites in my district, including schools, libraries, parks, and daycare centers from having dangerous encampments nearby,” Buscaino said after the vote.

“That’s why I’ve proposed a citywide ballot measure that will create a uniform rule that will require housing to be offered to anyone that is currently living on the streets and require people to accept that shelter. Camping would no longer be allowed in our public spaces. I believe that is the correct approach to solve street homelessness once and for all.”

This comes amid a growing homeless population in the city.

Los Angeles city has more than 41,000 homeless people in 2020—a 16.1 percent increase from 2019—according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Correction: A previous version of this article indicated the 2021 point-in-time homeless count will be made available. There will not be any 2021 data, as the homeless count in Los Angeles was canceled, due to the CCP virus pandemic.  The Epoch Times regrets the error.