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LA Council Tries to Stop Outside Cities from Dumping Homeless into LA Neighborhoods

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino took action today to stop neighboring cities from pushing people experiencing homelessness into Los Angeles neighborhoods.


In a motion submitted today, the two councilmembers are asking the Los Angeles City Attorney to report to the council on what legal steps Los Angeles can take to compel other municipalities in the region to comply with court rulings regarding the enforcement of anti-camping laws. The enforcement of unconstitutional laws by neighboring cities is commonly used to push people experiencing homelessness out of a town and across the border into Los Angeles.

“It is maddening to hear reports from unhoused neighbors about how they are forbidden by police in neighboring cities from sleeping on sidewalks there and are directed to Los Angeles sidewalks,” said Bonin. “This is unfair and unjust and results in neighbors in LA being asked to bear the burden of solving homelessness for the entire region. Homelessness is not a problem that can be solved by pushing people into another neighborhood. We need to be on the same page as our neighbors and working collaboratively and collectively toward sustainable solutions to this urgent crisis.”

"As an LAPD officer for 15 years, I know first-hand that we cannot arrest our way out of homelessness,” said Buscaino. “Yet, for too many of our neighboring cities, this is not only their primary response to homelessness but their only response. The court was unequivocal - cities that enforce anti-camping ordinances without providing alternative shelter are violating the Constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment. If we're going to end this crisis once and for all, all cities need to step up and do their part to provide housing and services for their most vulnerable residents, not just push them out."

In its 2018 Martin v. City of Boise decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that local ordinances banning camping in public spaces are unconstitutional when a city doesn't otherwise provide adequate shelter to house its homeless population. This ruling applies not just to the City of Los Angeles, but to the entire 9th Circuit jurisdiction which includes every municipality in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The court’s decision was reiterated earlier this month when a majority of 9th Circuit judges rejected the City of Boise’s request that the full 9th Circuit reconsiders the case.

“For years, City of Los Angeles residents have asked why there are encampments on their sidewalks, but not the sidewalks of neighboring cities,” Bonin and Buscaino wrote in the legislation submitted to the city council today. “They understandably have felt that if sidewalk encampments were legal in Los Angeles but not in neighboring cities, people experiencing homelessness would naturally gravitate to Los Angeles neighborhoods, increasing the obligation on Los Angeles to house a growing unhoused population, and making it virtually impossible to provide sufficient housing or shelter.”

Due to the 2006 Jones v. City of Los Angeles case, and the resulting settlement agreement approved by the City Council more than a decade ago, people experiencing homelessness have been allowed to sleep or camp on Los Angeles sidewalks between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless and until sufficient housing and shelter are available. In response, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition HHH to build supportive housing, and the city has begun implementing A Bridge Home to provide temporary housing, funded Rapid Rehousing vouchers, open Safe Parking programs, in addition to coordinating with the Los Angeles County on the provision of services.

The Bonin-Buscaino legislation will be heard by the city’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee in the coming weeks.

(David Graham-Caso is Deputy Chief of Staff for Councilmember Mike Bonin who represents LA’s 11th District.)

-cw