LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- In a sometimes-raucous meeting that was repeatedly interrupted by shouting from the audience, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday tentatively approved an ordinance banning homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and day care centers.
The council approved the move on a 10-1 vote, with Councilman Mike Bonin dissenting. Since the vote was not unanimous, the matter will return to the council for a second vote on July 27, following the council's summer recess.
The ordinance is an amendment to the city's sweeping law regulating the location of homeless encampments. Municipal Code 41.18 prohibits sitting, sleeping, lying or otherwise obstructing the public right of way in several areas of the city.
Those areas include within 2 feet of any fire hydrant or fire plug; within 5 feet of any operational or utilizable entrance or exit; within 10 feet of a loading dock or driveway; in a manner that interferes with any activity for which the city has issued a permit or restricts accessible passage as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act; or anywhere within a street, including bike paths.
The law already protects the public right of way within 500 feet of "sensitive" facilities such as schools, day care facilities, parks and libraries -- but only if each specific location is designated by the council for enforcement.
The amendment given tentative approval Friday, and approved last week by the council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee, is a blanket ban on encampments within 500 feet of all schools.
Numerous speakers appeared at the council meeting to speak on both sides of the issue, with opponents blasting the move as a criminalization of homelessness. One speaker called it an example the city's "cruelty" against the homeless population.
"This isn't about fixing homelessness, it's about aesthetics," one opponent said.
Others called it a vast expansion of an already restrictive ordinance restricting the movements of a homeless population in need of services and housing.
But supporters of the ordinance, including some parents and school workers, said the issue is a matter of safety for children who must walk by encampments on their way to classes. One parent and school worker told the council it "will help reduce the risk that my students, their families and my colleagues face on a daily basis because of the criminal activity that has been happening."
A school principal told the council the encampments expose students to "unsafe, unsanitary conditions."
The city ordinance already in place also prohibits encampments and sleeping within:
-- up to 500 feet of a designated overpass, underpass, freeway ramp, tunnel, bridge, pedestrian bridge, subway, wash or spreading ground, railroad track or where lodging unsheltered or in tents is unhealthy, unsafe and incompatible with safe passage; and
-- up to 1,000 feet of a facility opened after Jan. 1, 2018, that provides shelter, safe sleeping, safe parking or navigation centers for persons experiencing homelessness. The ordinance also allows the city to prevent encampments for a period of no longer than one year in areas that are deemed an ongoing threat to public health or safety, including due to:
-- death or serious bodily injury of any person at the location due to a hazardous condition;
-- repeated serious or violent crimes or threats of serious or violent crimes, including human trafficking; and
-- fires at the location. People who violate the ordinance face an infraction or citation, but "a person who willfully resists, delays or obstructs a city employee from enforcing this section or who willfully refuses to comply after being requested to do so by an authorized city employee" can face higher fines and a misdemeanor charge, according to the ordinance.