If we build it, they will come. If we fund it, they will stay. If we tell them there shall be no rules about flammables, there will be five encampment fires a day.
We are four decades into abatement schemes and the more money we throw at the favela, the greater the number of tents we have, the larger the encampments. We have multi-story structures now, cobbled out of scrap wood and plastic, kitted out with big screen TVs and slash pools, generators and barbecue grills. We spend a billion dollars a year now in LA County, not including police and fire, to service the unhoused. Let’s call it what it is: a business, an industry, farming people like a crop.
Ugly metaphor? Perhaps. Inaccurate? You tell me.
Here is the Raymer Street pedestrian bridge, an ADA compliant right-0f-way for students atttending Fulton Middle School. This is what 11-year-olds have to walk through twice a day. At either end people smoke crack openly, within grabbing distance of passerby. This state of nature has been in place, uninterrupted, for over a year.
Would you let you kid walk here? Probably not. This is known as adverse possession. A public conveyance now belongs to the favela, managed by Homeless, Inc., the key participants whom feed off the giant tit known as the City of Los Angeles, then go home to sleep in the neat orderly satellite cities like Glendale, where no one is allowed to camp or park overnight.
Don’t look now, but change might be brewing in Los Angeles. In July the City Council quietly altered Municipal Code 41.18 as follows:
“The ordinance prohibits sitting, sleeping, and keeping belongings within ten feet of a driveway or loading dock, within two feet of a fire hydrant, or in a way that obstruct sidewalks or right-of-ways. It also gives council members the ability to flag encampments near sensitive sites in their districts—daycares, schools, parks, libraries, freeway underpasses and on ramps—without establishing a blanket ban on camping in those places. Enforcement in those locations can’t take place until the City Council has reviewed the location and voted to approve action being taken.”
A concern among homeless advocates is that the ordinance will be utilized differently by council members in various districts, creating “mini fiefdoms,” as Elizabeth Mitchell of the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights put it.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the ordinance, says it gives he and his counterparts the freedom to “take action as deemed appropriate” when a problematic encampment has been identified in a sensitive area.
Yay, fiefdoms! Mr. UpintheValley approves.
There are two interpretations of 41.18: it’s either A) Kabuki theater, unenforceable by design. What is the criteria for “obstruction”? If its statutory, why should each eviction require a vote? I see opportunity for the Council to masquerade as responding to public outrage while pretending their hands are tied by others.
Or B) Leverage. 41.18 has usable teeth and each council member will now have the ability to establish how much chaos will be tolerated in his/her district, and act accordingly. Nury Martinez, in theory, could turn Van Nuys into the Glendale of LA by enforcing anti-camping laws within her district. Mike Bonin can continue to hand over the beaches and parks to temporary™ housing solutions and answer to his voters. Performance discrepancies between districts will no longer be off-loaded to “systemic complexities” of the issue.
Self-responsibility is not a burden I see the council taking on willingly. So I suspect the answer was going to be A. Or would have until recently.
Now there is a wrinkle. A big one. The recall elections in District 4 and 11. Don’t know about Nithya Raman, but Bonin might be toast. I work his district every weekend and hear the loud talk of people determined to speak freely and to cast ballots in anger.
There are lots of angry homeowners in the Valley as well, but we are too busy subdividing amongst ourselves over Trump or BLM or personal grievances to organize. Besides, who would listen to us? Venice eats up all the good press.
Tellingly, the last non-machine candidate elected to the City Council was also from Venice, Ruth Galanter in 1987. Since then, the uniparty has gone approximately 120-0 in local races. With dominance comes disregard. The recalls might alter that calculus.
About thirty years ago a revolution took place in urban policing, beginning in New York. Precinct captains were required to stand in full dress before their peers and answer for the crime stats in the neighborhoods under their watch. No longer could one shrug: don’t blame me. It’s Snake Plissken country out there.
It’s time for each Councilmember to be made the sheriff of his district.
The most impactful structural changes come in under the radar. Has anything done more to increase housing supply within the zoning footprint of LA without distorting residential neighborhoods than the ADU law? It has added to the tax base, put additional equity onto homeowners balance sheets and didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.
If successful, the Recalls + 41.18 might, might, set in motion an era of accountability. What a delicious irony it would be if the first blow against the machine occurred as an expression of tribal solidarity by upscale white liberals.
*Historical photos courtesy of LA Herald-Examiner Collection