Council Weighs Giving Teeth to Evictions Near Homeless Freeway Encampments

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council is expected to take up the question of whether to legally keep homeless people from camping under freeway overpasses once they've been evicted, a process that was supposed to have taken place by today.

As the result of a closely watched lawsuit dealing with the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, notices posted around several west San Fernando Valley freeway underpasses indicate that mandatory relocations from all areas within 500 feet of the 101 Freeway between Lindley Avenue and Valley Circle Boulevard would be required by Tuesday.

The anti-camping notices posted by outreach workers refer explicitly to the homelessness lawsuit. They also state that representatives from Los Angeles federal court are overseeing the evictions. However, the judge overseeing the suit vacated his May order forcing the relocation of those living near overpasses, off-ramps and on-ramps.

Notices throughout Council District 3 state that effective Tuesday, “anyone sitting, lying or lodging within 500 feet of the 101 freeway between Lindley and Valley Circle will be required to relocate,'' and indicated that city municipal codes would be enforced to keep people away from underpasses.

However, according to plaintiffs the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, the City Council at its virtual meeting Wednesday will vote on amending Los Angeles municipal code 41.18 -- known as the “sit-lie'' law -- to allow the city to enforce a ban against sitting, sleeping or lying down within 500 feet of freeways, ramps and tunnels; within 500 feet of any facility opened after January 2018 that provides housing, shelter, services, safe parking or storage to unhoused people; and would ban the storage of property in those areas. The law would be enforced by local police.

A second, separate issue facing the council is the question of bringing back the comprehensive cleanup of sidewalk encampments.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the 15th Council District, introduced the motions and succeeded in convincing his fellow councilmembers to get them to a vote immediately, according to the L.A. Alliance, a coalition of non-profits, service providers, small business owners, residents and community leaders that has sought to compel city and county-led efforts to address the homelessness crisis.

The suit was filed in March and, prompted by U.S. District Judge David Carter, gained momentum as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

As a result of the suit, the city and county reached a joint agreement to provide 6,000 beds for persons experiencing homelessness by April 2021 and an additional 700 beds in the months thereafter. However, the per-unit cost of temporary housing remains controversial.

In a recent court filing, the city reported that hundreds of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles have left the streets and entered housing since June and shelter has been provided for at least 20 people previously located within 500 feet of a freeway.

Councilman Bob Blumenfield said last month that homeless people living under two West Valley underpasses will be moved into available rapid rehousing units by Nov. 16, thanks to a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority pilot program to help transients who live under the Winnekta Avenue and Corbin Avenue underpasses.

Blumenfield said the goal is to house people in accordance with Carter's determination that it is unsafe to live under the freeways, and to “make sure that these underpasses remain off-limits to future encampments.''

Blumenfield said many of the 33 homeless people identified as living within or near the underpasses are known to frequently move back any forth between the two encampments.

Photo: Getty Images

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