Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz files motion earlier this month
By Dolores Quintana
A Los Angeles lawmaker representing Century City and Westwood is calling for enforcement of anti-camping laws in Westwood.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz filed a motion on October 5, 2021, with the City Council, calling for enforcement of the recent anti-camping ordinance in his district, specifically in the area of Westwood, as reported by the Daily Bruin.
The motion names six areas of concern: Westwood Park at 10999 Rochester Avenue, Military Avenue and the 10 Freeway – Underpass, 8580 Burton Way (Burton Way median from S. Clark Drive to S. San Vicente Boulevard), Holt Avenue – from Burton Way to 3rd Street, 8216 Beverly Blvd (Southeast corner of Beverly and Harper, adjacent to LADWP Facility), and 2247 Pontius (between Tennessee Avenue and Olympic Boulevard) and after outreach from city services, calls for notices to be posted and for enforcement and eviction to begin after the notice period expires if the unhoused people living in the area have not left.
The ordinance bans sitting, sleeping, lying, or storing personal property in public areas which is a practice that many homeless people engage in at various sites around the city. The ordinance calls for city services to conduct outreach at the sites that are identified, but it is unknown what that outreach is actually composed of. If the unhoused don’t accept this outreach or don’t leave the area, they are subject to eviction from the space during a street sweep. In a report from the City Administration Officer, an engagement plan has been drawn up, but it is also unclear how many beds or other shelter options are available for the homeless people who will be displaced.
City Councilmember Koretz claims that he filed the motion to address emergency calls relating to fires, violence and drug use at the respective locations. He also claims that community members have been supportive of his outreach efforts, and his office will continue them prior to evicting individuals at Westwood Park as reported by the Daily Bruin.
“We are continuing to have the non-profits work with our unhoused offering services,” Koretz said in an emailed statement. “My office remains committed to serving our unhoused neighbors.” as quoted by the Daily Bruin.
However, the question remains where these people will go if they are not offered shelter and given help with the issues in their lives that lead to homelessness in the first place. Of note is the fact that this is not the first city ordinance to prohibit belongings of the unhoused being stored in public spaces. Section 56.11 of the Municipal Code states that storage of personal property in public spaces is prohibited, especially near or in parks, near driveways, on sidewalks, and near highways. The ordinance defines the objects as bulky, but that could easily be a description of some of the most common belongings of the unhoused like tents.
In a quote given to Daily Bruin, Jacob Wasserman said that Koretz’s motion was one of several similar motions filed to enforce the July City ordinance criminalizing homelessness. These previous motions used similar language to link enforcement of the ordinance to public health and safety.
Street sweeps are often done by crews that have police officers embedded in them. In a quote given to the Daily Bruin Gabriel Durkin-White, who is a UCLA law student and volunteer for Street Watch LA, said he believes this motion aims to criminalize homelessness in Westwood and around LA and that he believes the motion will pass at the city council but will not result in permanent housing solutions for Westwood Park’s residents experiencing homelessness. According to Durkin-White he regularly visited Westwood Park for years but failed to see the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness met, including showers and working restrooms.
“We just don’t support sweeps,” Durkin-White said. “There’s no amount of services that would make it OK to send cops to throw people’s stuff away.”