Last week the Los Angeles City Council voted in a 13-1 decision to amend last year's homeless encampment ordinance by setting the amount of personal property a homeless person may keep with them to whatever can fit in a 60-gallon bin. This is a revision of LAMC 56.11, passed in June 2015, which denied homeless people property possession beyond what they can carry. The original ordinance was so contested that Mayor Garcetti promised to defer any enforcement of it until City Council came up with a reformed plan.
The rationale for the decision, which has garnered praise from local pro-development groups like the Central City Association (CCA), is that it will help keep Los Angeles’ streets safe, clean, and healthy, and allow pedestrians to walk obstacle-free sidewalks. But the 60-gallon limit is roughly the size of garbage can, suggesting that our city’s legislative body equates the personal belongings of the most vulnerable Angelenos to trash.
Reactions to the vote are marked by varying definitions of “clean and safe streets”: to Carol Schatz of the CCA, clean and safe streets are those that best support opportunities for business and real estate development. To LAPD Officer Deon Joseph, clean and safe means seeing and stopping crime more easily. To homeless advocacy groups like the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), pushing for clean and safe streets is a veiled way to dehumanize the homeless.
But regardless of what definition of “clean and safe streets” you subscribe to, the fact remains that City Council has made a decision that will result in the City regulating its homeless residents instead of supporting them. It surprised us to read in the LA Times that some council members voted 'yes' reluctantly; Councilmember Mike Bonin said he was still "not happy" with the new measure. Why are the Council members voting for things they are not happy with? City Council is making decisions that penalize homeless residents when it still has not paved the way for sufficient housing, storage, public restrooms or trash cans. These are basic amenities that, if present, would truly help keep the streets cleaner and safer. •
By Ian Gabriel