California city home to Hollywood studios bans homeless tent encampments on the streets

A Los Angeles city has voted to ban “camping” in public places, including, among other locations, at public parks, public streets, sidewalks, near schools, and on city-owned properties.

Known as the “Heart of Screenland,” councilmembers in Culver City voted 3 to 2 on Monday to approve the ordinance, which will not be enforced until the city, which is home to such Hollywood studios as Sony Pictures, designates a safe-camping site that offers supportive services, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Additionally, through California’s $1 billion Project Homekey program, 73 units must be converted into housing.

“Camping,” according to the new ordinance, is defined as erecting, maintaining, or occupying “a camp facility for the purpose of living accommodations.”

As programs for neither the safe-camping spot nor the 73 units have been finalized and no firm deadline for launching them has been provided by city officials, it is unclear when the ordinance will be enforced.

Until then, the council voted to “temporarily hold off giving fines or citations to those who violate the ordinance,” The Times reports.

Culver City Councilman Dan O’Brien, who voted for the ban along with Mayor Albert Vera and Göran Eriksson, said the city had to amp up its approach to the homeless crisis after Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, on her first day in office, declared a state of emergency on homelessness.

In early January, Culver City followed her lead and declared its own emergency.

“A fear of mine is if we don’t have all the tools in place to help our own unhoused and Los Angeles already have the enforcement along our borders, then those who refuse housing will just cross the street into Culver City, and then further strain our resources,” O’Brien told The Times.

Should unhoused campers refuse housing or other services, police can now legally tell them they can’t pitch a tent in the city’s public spaces.

“The desire on our part is that this ordinance will help give them that little extra push to accept the housing and services that we are offering,” O’Brien said, adding that the ban is a “care-based process of helping people.”

But according to Culver City’s mutual aid organizer, Matthew Katz, the ordinance is confusing.

“It’s a weird kind of doublespeak, where the city said we’re doing this to help people but I just don’t really understand how they work through this logic where this is going to help anyone,” he said. “I do not see how the specter of force is going to make anyone more likely to go into a motel.”

The morning after the vote, former Culver City Mayor Alex Fisch told The Times that robbing the homeless of their tents will be deadly.

“There will be a body count with taking away people’s tents,” he said.

More housing and safe-camping sites “should be the focus,” he added, “not making it illegal to be poor.”

Councilman Freddy Puza voted against the ban and said the vote marked a “sad day” in his city.

‘It’s a sad day in Culver City,” he tweeted. “The anti-camping (aka anti-homeless) ordinance passed by a 2-3 vote last night. It’s a decision that caused more division in our city, but it didn’t have to be this way.”

“Since the election,” he continued, “the new Council majority chose to spend staff and Council time and money on fast-tracking an ordinance that tells people where they can’t go but not where they can go and a way to punish them for being poor.”


Melissa Fine


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