Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino called for a ban on homeless encampments from within 500 feet of schools, but his press conference on Aug. 16 was cut short when activists disrupted the announcement.
Earlier this month, Mayor Eric Garcetti restored a ban on homeless encampments in public areas. The ordinance also gives city council members the ability to ban encampments in parts of their districts.
From Larchmont Charter School in Hollywood, Buscaino announced he wanted to use the ordinance to ban encampments from sidewalks within 500 feet of public schools.
“Hundreds of thousands of students are going back to school for the first time in 18-months,” Buscaino said. “During the pandemic encampments formed and grew around school campuses as they did in Venice Beach. We must address public safety issues—especially simple access to sidewalks.”
Buscaino called schools a “sensitive-use” area, saying “the most sensitive areas are those where our kids spend their days.”
“That is why I am proposing a no-camping zone around every public school in the City of Los Angeles,” Buscaino said.
The city’s new anti-camping ordinance, which goes into effect on Sept. 3, permits the city council to adopt resolutions to establish no-camping zones around specific locations, like homeless shelters, parks, and schools.
Buscaino, who is also running for mayor, has frequently spoken about addressing homelessness in Los Angeles. He supported the ordinance banning the homeless from “sitting, lying, or sleeping or storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property” in the public right-of-way; this includes spaces within 500 feet of schools, parks and libraries, 500 feet from an overpass, freeway ramp, tunnel, bridge, or subway, and 5 feet from building entrances. However, it also does not allow enforcement of the ban to take place unless the council votes in favor of the enforcement.
Buscaino said if his proposal is adopted first by the Public Works Committee, then the full council, intensive outreach will be conducted at any school with an encampment, bringing resources and housing to the unhoused. Signage will be installed, and enforcement will begin 14-days after the signs go up.
“As hundreds of thousands of kids start their first day of school today, I want to send a clear signal to them and their families that I am on your side, and I am here fighting for you,” Buscaino said. “And I will not stop there. I am also looking at introducing other proposals that would also restrict camping at other sensitive use sites like beaches, and parks.”
Some in opposition to the ban argue that the ordinance is criminalizing poverty and homelessness. Members of activist organizations, including Street Watch Los Angeles, gathered around the press conference in protest of the ban, raising signs and chanting “homes not zones” behind Buscaino.
According to several videos on Twitter that captured the encounter, Buscaino press manager Branimir Kvartuc grabbed one of the demonstrator’s signs, which came near Buscaino’s face.
The demonstrator allegedly tried to stop him, and others stepped in and shoved Kvartuc into the lectern. Demonstrators continued shouting until the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) escorted Kvartuc out. Buscaino’s team shut down the press conference shortly after.
In June, Buscaino’s team also had to shut down a press conference in Venice Beach after a homeless woman wielding a knife was arrested.
Street Watch Los Angeles and Services Not Sweeps Coalition did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.