LA reinstates ban on sleeping overnight in cars

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The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 today to reinstate a temporary ordinance that went into effect in early 2017, making it illegal to sleep in a car or RV in residential areas or near schools, daycares, and parks.

Dozens of residents, many of whom work or volunteer with groups that serve LA’s growing homeless population or are affiliated with local Democratic clubs, urged the council not to extend the ordinance, calling it “brutal,” “cruel,” and “draconian.” After the vote, they burst into chants of “shame on you.”

“Several families at my children’s school are struggling with homelessness and are living in their cars and getting their kids to school and doing the best they can,” said Erika Feresten, a mother of two and a member of the Pacific Palisades Democratic Club. “It’s unconscionable that they would be criminalized for doing the best that they can.”

The law is in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on residential streets and at any time within 500 feet of a park, licensed school, preschool, or daycare facility.

The penalty for violating the law, which had lapsed for a few weeks, is a $25 infraction. The amount doubles on a second violation and tops out at $75 for subsequent violations. It is now set to expire in January.

When they adopted the ordinance in 2017, city leaders, who have fielded complaints that the campers and rigs are a blight and nuisance, said they were trying to help car- and RV-dwellers find appropriate places to post up.

Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who represents the Harbor communities, told CBS2 that “we have to keep in mind that there are property owners that are freaking out when you have people living in their cars in front of their home.”

But unhoused LA residents don’t have many options. The City Council has added hundreds of streets to the list of places where spending the night in a vehicle is prohibited.

Shayla Myers, an attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said the ban on vehicles, known as 85.02, “validates a harmful stereotype” that homeless residents are dangerous. That stereotype, she said, is making it difficult for city leaders to put up sorely needed homeless shelters.

The council’s vote was taken without comment. But the motion to extend to the ordinance was introduced by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the Hollywood area.

In his motion, O’Farrell noted the city has expanded a pilot program to set up designated areas for homeless residents to park overnight. The “Safe Parking” areas are usually run by nonprofits and are equipped with security officers, as well as services.

There are 130 safe parking spaces right now in the city of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. That number is expected to increase to 314 on October 1.

It’s estimated that 16,528 people live in cars, vans, or RVs or in the county of Los Angeles.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents much of the Westside, and councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents the west San Fernando Valley, were not present for today’s vote.

In a statement, Bonin said he would have voted against reinstating the measure, but was absent due to a medical issue.

“When the council revised 85.02 a few years ago, it was a temporary measure with a sunset provision, outlining where people could reside In their vehicles and where they couldn’t, while the city crafted a safe parking program,” Bonin said. “We have repeatedly extended the sunset while the city and LAHSA have lagged in creating safe parking for the thousands of people living in their cars.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated16,528 people live in cars, vans, or RVs or in the city of Los Angeles. That figure is countywide. It also incorrectly identified the councilmember who introduced the motion to reinstate 85.02. It was Mitch O’Farrell, not Mike Bonin.

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