Here we reprint a letter from Margaret Molloy to LA City Council about actions by the Sheriff and the City.
Hello City Council members,
Please REJECT Council File 20-1376 – Item 55 on City Council Agenda on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 – for these reasons.
It is noticeable that former police officer Joe Busciano, a mayoral candidate from Council District 15, came to Venice in Council District 11 on June 7, 2021 to announce his run for mayor and his plan to clean up encampments….in Venice!
Why Venice? Is Mr. Busciano not proud of his own constituents? In fact, data on the CD 15 website shows there were 1,934 unhoused residents in CD 15 in 2020. It appears that Mr. Busciano should stay home and support his own constituents and their needs.
Additionally, statistics from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department between Jan 1, 2020 and Apr 15, 2021, appear to show a higher rate of crime in CD 15 than in Venice, and a high rate of Sheriff Department deputy-involved shootings in CD 15.
Now, Mr. Busciano and Council Member Lee, former chief-of-staff of imprisoned former council member Mitch Englander, have proposed Item 55 on the council agenda for Tuesday, June 29, 2021. Council File 20-1376 proposes amending Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) Section 41.18 to specify the “particular times at which and the particular locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property, and amending LAMC Section 56.11 to align with LAMC Section 41.18.
Sheriff Alex Villaneuva also came to Venice on June 7, 2021 to announce his intervention in Venice and plans to “clear encampments” on the Venice boardwalk by July 4, 2021. Venice is under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles Police Department. Days later Sheriff Villaneuva admitted: “The fact of the matter is, the LASD facilitates housing for people suffering from homelessness. We do not house.”
First, on December 16, 2019, the National Homelessness Law Center wrote regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Martin v Boise:
“This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by the city of Boise to review the case Martin v. Boise (formerly Bell v. Boise). This leaves in place earlier rulings by the 9th Circuit that homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives. People experiencing unsheltered homelessness—at least in the 9th Circuit—can sleep more safely without facing criminal punishment for simply trying to survive on the streets.
The Supreme Court’s decision, issued without comment, means the April 2019 ruling is binding in the 9th Circuit, covering nine states including most of the western states, and carries national influence. The ruling also means that homeless individuals who have received criminal citations under Boise’s policy can now proceed with their constitutional claims against the City. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (The Law Center), which filed the case in 2009 with co-counsel Idaho Legal Aid Services and Latham & Watkins LLP, hails this decision as being essential to encouraging cities to propose constructive alternatives to homelessness.”
All persons involved here in Council File 20-1376 understand that there is not shelter, never mind housing, available for the 80,000 unsheltered people in Los Angles City and County as required by Martin v Boise before enforcement of no camping laws or Council File 20-1376.
Secondly, coastal zone areas of Los Angeles include sections of Venice, San Pedro, and Pacific Palisades. In 1976, the Legislature approved the California Coastal Act to manage development and protect sensitive coastal resources in the coastal zone, an area of up to five miles inland of California’s 1,100 of coastline. The California Coastal Commission (Commission) was created as the government agency to oversee implementation of the Coastal Act. On March 8, 2019 the California Coastal Commission approved an Environmental Justice Policy that guarantees equitable access for all persons to the coast.
Coastal zone areas of CD 11 and CD 15 are also protected by the California Coastal Act and the Coastal Commission’s Environmental Justice Policy. As such, equitable access to the coast for all people is required.
The proposed effort to amend (LAMC) Section 41.18 to specify the “particular times at which and the particular locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property, and amending LAMC Section 56.11 to align with LAMC Section 41.18” does not comply with existing laws, the intent of the California Legislature, and the California Coastal Commission.
Thirdly, the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. This applies to all people, including and perhaps especially persons suffering from the circumstances of poverty and being unhoused, with many suffering with physical and /or mental disabilities.
It is cruel and unusual punishment to attempt to control the “particular times at which and the particular locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property.” All persons have a constitutional right to use and benefit from access to public property, and dire need must necessarily take precedence over leisure. If there is not a universal rule regulating the “particular times at which and the particular locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property” it cannot be approved. If the proposed law discriminates in any way as to who is identified for selective application of a law, it cannot be approved. Currently the constitution does not recognize people experiencing extreme poverty as a “suspect class.” The City and County cannot apply laws that would attempt to make a distinction or legalize discrimination based on an unconstitutional differentiation amongst people “who can sit, lie, or sleep upon public property.”
Finally, as the City considers a permanent extension of al fresco dining on public land throughout the city, with most restaurant expansions serving a full line of alcohol on public land without providing additional parking, while removing (affordable) public parking meters, and depriving all other retail businesses of curbside access and parking for their customers, the city should not also contemplate making it “unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property” when this proposal is discriminatory and targets a class of people. The expansion of al fresco dining on public property and the removal of street public meter parking is impactful on persons with disabilities making travel routes and parking more complicated. It is making parking more expensive for all residents and visitors and this is a denial of public access for persons of all incomes.
Ultimately, it is the City and County who should be sued in a class action suit for failing to provide for the most basic health and safety needs of the most vulnerable people in the City and County, including many people forced to survive on the streets with physical and mental disabilities.
There are no public drinking water fountains “in Venice” even though it is residential coastal community with a huge influx of visitors. There are no public drinking water fountains in most areas of the city. There are very few public bathrooms throughout the city and even fewer that are open 24hr.
There are no “public” showers except cold showers on the beach. There is a dire lack of housing options that do not under any piecemeal configuration offer temporary or permanent housing to the 80,000 unhoused people in City and County of Los Angeles. The Boise decision is considered critical in encouraging cities to propose constructive alternatives to homelessness, not to seek to adopt piecemeal discrimination in our public spaces.
Also, you cannot pass a retroactive law as proposed: “I FURTHER MOVE that the replacement for Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 41.18 allow the City Council, by Resolution and after the postage of signage, to ban sitting, sleeping, or lying within up to 500 feet of a facility opened after January 1, 2018, to provide housing, shelter, supportive services, safe parking or storage to homeless persons.”
For these reasons, please REJECT Council File 20-1376. It is discriminatory.
Appreciatively, Margaret Molloy