By T.A. Hendrickson
Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, the city councilmembers representing Northeast Los Angeles, voted with a majority on the City Council on Wednesday to prohibit homeless camping on public property near schools, day-care centers, parks, libraries, designated freeway underpasses and other locations.
The City Council also pledged to couple the ordinance with “street engagement” polices to connect homeless people to services and housing, a strategy intended to promote compliance with the ordinance.
The Boulevard Sentinel emailed Cedillo and De León to ask why they supported the ordinance and how its passage would affect Northeast L.A.
In an email response, Cedillo said that the vote in favor of the ordinance “leads with compassion to achieve compliance for safe and clean public right of ways that are completely obstructed,” adding, “To do nothing is not compassionate for anyone.” He said that the ordinance represents progress, not perfection. The goal, said Cedillo, is to offer services as part of the efforts to clear public property, not to punish homelessness.
Cedillo said that his District 1, which includes Highland Park and Glassell Park, will continue its successful efforts to combat homelessness. These include having the most built permanent supportive housing of any district in the city, daily mobile laundry and showers, two safe parking sites and several sites for housing the homeless under programs such as Project Roomkey and Homekey. He said that the anti-camping ordinance is “work we must do together to find a balance to make progress for all.”
De León did not respond to the Sentinel’s request for comment. On the floor of the City Council before the vote, De León said he supported the ordinance because its passage would be followed by a vote in the City Council in the week of Aug. 9 on his plan to provide 25,000 housing units by 2025, thereby linking the anti-camping ordinance to a housing component.
De León did not respond to a question from the Sentinel about how the anti-camping ordinance would dovetail with his plan to establish a pallet shelter community for the homeless on Figueroa Street in Eagle Rock. The ordinance prohibits camping within 1,000 feet of a homeless shelter, which implies that the current encampment under the 134 Freeway on Figueroa could be removed if it is still there once the pallet shelters are established. However, the ordinance requires that enforcement in any location can take place only if the City Council votes to take action, a provision that has raised questions about its impact. In Eagle Rock, a recurring question about the pallet shelters has been whether they will reduce the number of homeless encampments or add to the homeless population.
Councilmember Mike Bonin and Councilmember Nithya Raman voted against the anti-camping ordinance. Mayor Garcetti has said he will sign the ordinance.