This week there were several critical motions that the City Council voted on or introduced that I want to share with you.
Properly Disposing of PPE and Making Sure Everyone Has Reusable Masks
One of the most affordable and efficient ways to help combat the spread of COVID-19 is by wearing a mask when in public. Though many Angelenos have been abiding by physical distancing guidelines and wearing masks, we continue to see and read reports that too many aren't. It seems like every day we learn of record high diagnoses throughout the City, despite public health officials continuing to promote the importance of masks.
The Council passed my motion to increase fines up to $250 and boost enforcement measures for people littering dangerous PPE on our streets and sidewalks. We’ve all seen masks and rubber gloves littered on our streets, sidewalks and throughout shared spaces like parking lots, sometimes even laying feet away from a trash can. So many people in our community are doing their part and encouraging others to curb the spread of this virus and act responsibly. Again, thank you to everyone who has been doing their share —more people need to follow your lead.
Also, for residents who don't have a mask, I have given away thousands of reusable masks so far in this pandemic and have thousands more to give. If you need one, please send me an email at C03.firstname.lastname@example.org or call my district office at 818.774.4330. My team and I have also been actively handing out masks to homeless people in the district, giving them to first responders as well as working hand in hand with service providers to continue this effort. I want to make sure there is no excuse for not wearing a mask.
Allowing ‘Take Out and Delivery’ Banners in LA
There was news last week that the Department of Building and Safety issued fines to local restaurants who hung banners on their property advertising takeout and delivery options. Though most un-permitted signage is illegal, right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to do everything we can to help keep all restaurants and businesses up and running. Being able to communicate clearly is critical to their survival and it’s important for the public trying to navigate food and services options during the crises. That is why I introduced legislation to allow these signs during the emergency and drop all fines associated with citations that had been issued.
Please, if you can afford to, continue to shop local and support neighborhood restaurants and stores. Many residents and businesses are struggling through this emergency and every dollar spent locally goes a long way.
Debate on Special Clean Up Zones
The Council debated a motion to resume “Care Plus” clean ups surrounding Bridge Housing sites. One of the issues that has arisen with the COVID 19 pandemic is that the CDC has guidelines to not clear encampments during this time of crisis for fear of spreading the virus, unless housing is available. The Care Plus clean ups do not ‘clear’ encampments, but they do require people living on the street to move temporarily (average 2 hours) while the street is sanitized and cleaned. The people are given between 24 - 72 hours notice before any care plus cleanups take place and are given at least 30 minutes once sanitation arrives before the actual clean-up begins.
When Councilmembers and advocates went to the community before the pandemic started, one of the most important items to earn the support of nearby neighbors was the promise of consistent Care plus clean ups surrounding bridge homes. Neighbors feared that the site would be a magnet for more encampments and potentially more trash and debris. The City promised not only that the bridge homes were meant to take in and prioritize the people who were living on the streets in close proximity to that location and therefore there would be less people living on those streets, but that the City would go the extra mile to keep those streets clean of trash and debris via Care Plus clean ups.
The motion that passed by a 10 to 4 vote ( I supported it) will not immediately impact the West Valley because our Bridge Housing site is not set to open until the end of the year. The Council was split on this motion and members of the public called in with legitimate concerns about whether or not it was safe given the pandemic to ask people to move, even if it was only for a few hours. I tried to address this concern by offering an amendment that would have enabled the Care Plus clean-ups only once we reached “stage 3” in the Governor’s pandemic response — basically saying that when it was safe to allow the general public to go inside of restaurants, it should be safe to ask homeless people to leave their location for several hours. My amendment did not receive a majority of votes, as some members wanted the Care Plus clean up right away (while we’re in Phase 2) and some simply don’t want Care Plus cleanups at all.
There were a number of public commenters who were concerned that Care Plus was the same as “sweeps” and would involve a heavy police presence. Sanitation officials responded by clarifying that it is not the same and that Police do not necessarily even have to be involved. The question of how the Police are involved or not involved in these Care Plus cleanups is still being worked out and has implications beyond Care Plus cleanups near bridge home locations.
This issue continues to highlight the need for more creative housing solutions like tiny homes/pallet shelters, congregate housing, modular homes, etc. To truly get people off the streets and eliminate encampments in our city we need someplace people can go and be connected with help. The Courts have made it clear in multiple court cases that we cannot enforce anti-camping laws unless and until there is shelter available. However, there is a pending federal court case being heard by US Judge David Carter that may actually help enable this outcome through a global, but district specific settlement agreement. To read my thoughts about this, click here.