Yesterday the City Council voted unanimously to extend LA Municipal Code 85.02, the law that guides where people can live in their vehicles and prohibits doing so in a residential zone. This law had been in effect for the past few years, but it has to be extended every six months. Unfortunately, it had lapsed for a few weeks during the Council recess because it wasn’t scheduled for its extension vote prior to the recess.
The law itself, 85.02, was a necessity given by a court ruling that vacated the City’s prohibition about dwelling anywhere in the city in one’s vehicle. A few years ago the courts ruled against the city in Desertain v. City of Los Angeles. In response, the Council was forced to draft an ordinance (85.02) to allow people living in vehicles some legal places to go. This was the only way to maintain a prohibition in residential areas. It was meant to be a temporary fix until either enough housing was available to legally allow the city to reinstall its citywide prohibition against vehicle living or until another solution could be found.
According to the most recent LAHSA Homeless Count, there are over 16,000 people across LA County living in their vehicles, many of whom have jobs and are struggling to maintain a sliver of stability. 85.02 isn’t about criminalizing homelessness, it is about making sure that our communities have some basic health and safety protections. Living in one’s vehicle should never be normalized — people need housing and our streets shouldn't be campgrounds. Though the West Valley has fewer homeless people when compared to other communities in the City, my staff and I receive calls about encampments, RV dumped waste, and problematic issues related to people living in vehicles. We also see real people struggling without viable alternatives other than living in their vehicles.
One humane alternative is Safe Parking. It is not a substitute for housing, nor an acceptable solution for someone experiencing homelessness. But, it is better than living in one’s vehicle on the street. I am a strong advocate of the Safe Parking LA program which offers safety, bathrooms, and services. A few weeks ago we opened up Safe Parking in my District Office/Library parking lot. I implore my colleagues, local business owners and anyone who owns a parking lot to learn more about how you can help by providing this minimal service that directly improves lives. We desperately need more spots throughout the city and it’s a simple, but crucial way to help the homelessness emergency. To see a video I made about safe parking, go to http://blumenfield.lacity.org/safe_parking_la.
The most important ways we are going to really reduce homelessness involve supportive housing and mental health and addiction care. Measure HHH and other large funding initiatives are helping fuel the needed housing, but we must get creative to truly incentive all of the types of necessary housing and it’s vital for every community to participate. Locally, I have been pushing building Bridge Housing in Canoga Park, fighting for inclusionary housing in Warner Center, creating an innovating drug treatment program in conjunction with Providence Hospitals and the Tarzana Treatment Center, looking at the feasibility of housing on public properties and much more. Please go to my website to read about these and other initiatives (http://blumenfield.lacity.org/facing_homelessness). The renewal of 85.02 is a short term, but important, measure to protect our residential communities and constitutionally comply with court decisions — it is not a way to prevent homelessness.