Los Angeles Bans Encampments Near Schools

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In a highly contested move, Los Angeles this week significantly expanded restrictions on where homeless people can sleep as the city, the nation’s second largest, grapples with its housing crisis.

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Tuesday to prohibit homeless people from setting up tents within 500 feet of public and private schools and day care centers, during a contentious meeting that demonstrators halted for nearly an hour and that resulted in injuries to two police officers and one arrest.

The Council’s decision reflects how severe the region’s housing crisis has become, experts say.

“We are in that really tragic position of having to talk about balancing where people who are unhoused are sleeping,” said Gary Dean Painter, a professor at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. “We shouldn’t be making that choice.”

Before passing the restrictions on an 11-3 vote, Los Angeles officials had approved a few dozen places where people were banned from sitting, sleeping, lying or storing property. But the City Council introduced the latest measure after Alberto M. Carvalho, the Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent, raised concerns, saying young students were being traumatized by what they saw on their way to class.

“Those who have argued that this doesn’t solve homelessness, doesn’t move us forward in this area, are absolutely right — but not on point,” said Councilman Gil Cedillo, who voted for the new rules. “The point of this measure is not to solve homelessness at all. The point of this measure is to protect safe passage to schools.”

The impacts of the policy remain unclear, but they are expected to be sweeping. One councilman estimated that it would bump the number of banned sites to 2,000 from 200.

Kenneth Mejia, who is running for Los Angeles city controller, calculated that the rules would make 20 percent of the city off-limits to encampments. In some corners of the city, that figure could be as high as 48 percent, he estimated.

Steve Diaz, who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting against the new rules, said the restrictions were a way to “create redlining across the city of L.A.” under the auspices of improving children’s well-being.

“If it was really about children’s safety,” Diaz told the Council, “you would be investing more money in permanent supportive housing, wraparound services and ensuring that people were able to access housing as needed, and not into increased policing.”

Officials in California and the West have been restricted from banning encampments after a 2018 court decision determined that criminalizing homelessness violated the U.S. Constitution. In the decision, Martin v. Boise, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prosecuting people for sleeping in public amounted to cruel and unusual punishment when no shelter beds are available.

But, as more people begin living on the streets, “liberal cities are doing everything in their power to get around Martin v. Boise,” said Ananya Roy, a professor and housing justice advocate for U.C.L.A. “It’s not an effort to alleviate poverty, it’s an effort to manage visible poverty and get it out of sight.”

Jason Ward, associate director of the RAND Center on Housing and Homelessness in Los Angeles, said that enforcing the city’s new law would most likely be complicated and costly. And he said the city needed to focus on increasing the housing stock if it didn’t want its homelessness problem to worsen.

“We’re creating new people that will be camping on the streets every day,” Ward told me. “A lot of people look at this problem in isolation, but I see it as inextricably linked to the fact that we don’t have enough housing in this region.”

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What you get

For $4 million: A Spanish-style retreat in Santa Barbara, a grand 1933 home in the Hollywood Hills and a Mediterranean-style house in Long Beach.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Leslie McLean, who lives in Sonoma. Leslie recommends a trip to Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco:

“We walk along the beach, savoring the cooler weather. We eat delicious clam chowder at Sam’s Chowder House. And we always visit all the many nurseries, ranging from carnivorous plants to orchids to lavender to California natives to succulents to our favorite, large mom-and-pop nursery called Half Moon Bay Nursery. They blast opera on their speakers and we fill our truck with gorgeous plants every time we visit. It is a mecca of vegetative beauty.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

Near the end of their set at Outside Lands on Saturday, Green Day invited an audience member onstage.

“Who knows how to play guitar?” the band’s frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong, called to the crowd.

Armstrong chose a 10-year-old boy to play with them, and threw a guitar around the young performer. The boy then played the chords for “Knowledge,” a cover of a song by Operation Ivy, which, like Green Day, is a rock band from Berkeley.

This is how the rest of the boy’s performance went down, from SFGate:

“The boy kept going — and the crowd roared far louder than any other moment in the show. One woman standing behind me was sobbing and screaming at the same time.

When Armstrong asked the boy his name, he replied it was Montgomery. Armstrong told the boy he’d call him Monty — and the crowd started chanting his new rock star name.

‘Oh, and you can keep the guitar,’ Armstrong said.”

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